Ministry financial accounts lack data

Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick has been unable to verify three years of financial accounts from the Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing dating from 2005 to 2008.

These are among several financial reports from ministries and statutory authority submitted to the Legislative Assembly last week that the auditor general could not verify due to a lack of supporting documentation or incomplete information.

For the 2007/2008 financial year, the most recent year submitted from the Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing, which during the years in questions were run by the then Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts, the auditor general was unable to verify the completeness or accuracy of $14.1 million in accounts receivable because supporting documentation had not been presented.

Mr. Swarbrick said the three years of reports were “not robust enough to facilitate an accurate reporting on the performance of the Ministry as regards the quantity, quality, timeliness and cost reporting as shown on the Statement of Outputs Delivered”, and therefore he was unable to perform an audit on the output statements.

Among the items he was unable to verify was the amount spent on insecticides by the Mosquito Research and Control Unit over the years due to a lack of supporting documentation for the purchase of insecticides totalling $1.19 million in 2005/2006; $4.8 million that included insecticides expenses and utility charges in 2006/2007; and $2.3 million for insecticide expenses in 2008/2009 because of the “unreliability of the system for accounting for the use of insecticide”.

The accuracy of the ministry’s garage and stores inventory could not be verified for those years due to “inadequate record keeping and stocktaking at year end”, Mr. Swarbrick said in his report.

He was also unable to verify the value of the ministry’s property, plant and equipment, and their related depreciation, over the three years because management could not confirm ownership of the buildings recorded in the fixed asset register and uncertainly over who owned buildings not recorded in the fixed asset register, but maintained and used by the ministry. The assets had also not been revalued in the five years prior to the financial statements being made, contrary to the Financial Regulations. By 30 June, 2009, the ministry’s property, plant and equipment was valued at $13 million, according to the ministry’s financial statement.

The auditor general could also find no supporting evidence for employee entitlements of $339,000 in 2005/2006; $516,000 in 2006/2007; or $323,000 in 2007/2008.

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1 COMMENT

  1. So what the final paragraph says is that, in addition to the earlier accounting shortages, over 1million has simply vanished over a three-year period in staff handouts.

    As a former employee of both central and local government in the UK I find this very interesting because it raises fundamental questions about who is doing what with large amounts of public funding.

    Although not directly comparable (both in terms of numbers of staff employed and the amount of money spent per head of the population), in simple financial terms the total public sector expenditure of the Cayman Islands is similar to that of many local authorities in the UK. If any one of them tried to pass off accounts like these the proverbial would definitely hit the fan.

    The problem with the Cayman Islands seems to be two-fold. First, the country itself would rather not hear about things like this – remember the gas cards? Second, the last UK government seems to have turned a blind eye to what is, in many cases, not sloppy accounting but blatant fraud – that is going to change under the current leadership.

    I trained as an auditor and the comments quoted above are, in my opinion, nothing more than a polite way of saying that a lot of people are not doing their jobs and a lot of other people are be cashing in on that. It is rather more than the odd box of paper clips or biros going missing, we are potentially talking about substantial public assets disappearing.

    I worked for a city authority where one department failed to meet required accounting standards. The follow up including searches of employees bank accounts along with physical searches of their homes to try and determine where the money was going. No one involved thought they were doing anything wrong or that they would be caught – they were wrong on both counts.

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