Accounts panel to get new chair in two months

Chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee will remain
vacant until May, Premier McKeeva Bush revealed last week.

Independent member of the Legislative Assembly for North
Side Ezzard Miller resigned on 11 March as chairman of the committee, which
reviews government audits, citing a lack of support from the other members of
the five-person committee.

Mr. Bush told members of the Legislative Assembly on
Thursday that his government intended to make changes to the committee and
would “probably add to the membership with a new chairman” in the budget
meeting, which begins in May.

An attempt by the Leader of the Opposition Alden
McLaughlin to hold a debate about Mr. Miller’s resignation as chairman of the
committee failed when the Standing Orders – or rules of the House – under which
Mr. McLaughlin brought a motion to adjourn that may have enabled such a debate
was voted down. He argued that a debate on the “critical” issue of the committee
continuing its work should have taken place before a vote was taken, but
government members and the Speaker disagreed.

Mr. Bush made his announcement that a new chairman for
the accounts committee would be chosen in May in a statement to the assembly in
which he said the government would not bring proceedings against chief officers
and chief financial officers of government departments for failing to submit
financial reports in accordance with the Public Management and Finance Law.

Mr. Miller, in his former capacity as chairman of the
Public Accounts Committee, had written to the Legal Department to find out
whether the committee had the authority to request the prosecution of chief
officers and chief financial officers in the Civil Service for failing to submit
their 2009/10 accounts.

Mr. Bush said the response from the Attorney General to
Mr. Miller’s query stated that the PAC did not appear to have a remit under the
Public Management and Finance Law to request such prosecutions. Instead, that
power rested with the Auditor General and, in other instances, the Minister of
Finance.

The premier, who is also Minister of Finance, said that,
in practical terms, he “cannot guarantee or ensure total
compliance with the PMFL”.

He added: “I nor any other minister of government do not
have administrative control over the Civil Service.” He said that chief
financial officers report to chief officers, and those chief officers report to
the Deputy Governor.

No prosecutions

The premier insisted that neither he nor his government
were in the business of bringing proceedings against chief officers or chief
financial officers, adding: “human beings generally do not perform well in an
environment of fear.” “Instead, my government believes in encouraging civil
servants – not tactics of intimidation and using Swords of Damocles – and we
believe in making sensible changes to the PMFL,” he said.

Mr. Bush added: “If the Member from North Side is of the
frame of mind of prosecuting civil servants, I have more constructive and less destructive
work to do.”

He pointed out that during his current term of office, 83
annual reports and financial statements from ministries, portfolios and public
authorities had been tabled in the Legislative Assembly – evidence, he said,
that public accountability was important to his government and that disclosure
of financial information to the legislature and the public was occurring.

The government is in the process of amending the Public
Management and Finance Law, including the suspension of the current requirement
for quarterly reporting, which has proved cumbersome for government finance
officers. Mr. Bush said a former consultant to the Foreign and Commonwealth
Officer, Keith Luck, who has been reviewing the Public Management and Finance
Law, was finalising his report and this would lead to an imminent amending bill
to the law.

He added that the government would also be securing the
services of a consultant from Jersey, to which Mr. Bush led a delegation in
February, because Jersey has a centralised accounting and human resources
system, which he intends to introduce to Cayman.

“I am absolutely convinced that the difficulty the Public
Service is experiencing with meeting the full requirements of the PMFL stems
from the fact that the regime was too sophisticated and complex for the size of
the public service that exists in the Cayman Islands. An analogy would be to
ask a 16-year-old first-time driver to drive a manual shift Ferrari sports car
as opposed to a more appropriate, automatic transmission Honda Civic,” he said.

The Legislative Assembly was adjourned Friday sine die,
meaning its next meeting will be at a date yet to be fixed.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Mr Miller as Chairman could not hold a legitimate meeting without a quorum, and the fact of successive non-meetings (that is, no quorum) must have made it clear to those members who repeatedly failed to turn up, that they are responsible. The members have a duty to turn up, and in failing to do so, owe us an explanation better than party duties. Duty to the LA and its Committees comes before party duties. If they cannot understand that, they are not worthy to be MLAs.
    It is the duty now of the Premier and the Leader of he Opposition to make it clear to us that they understand and accept their responsibilities in regard to making sure their members do their duties correctly.
    So now we face a period of 2 months while there is no Public Accounts Committee to carry out its task of supervising the spending of Cayman Islands funds. It does not seem to worry the Premier, and one must fear he will go on making his arrangements to borrow money at very expensive rates (and even then fail to get the contract properly arranged, and have to pay the price for that). No wonder the UK Government is worried stiff about its ultimate liability for Cayman National Debt.
    And I do think the media cannot fairly blame Mr Miller for resigning – is it not the duty of the media, on behalf of us all, to keep an eye on the doings and failings and inadequacies of the Assembly and its Committees?

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  2. Perhaps the Premier will let us know who introduced the Ferrari model PMFL, and why; and why yet another consultant is likely to produce a Honda model. Is a 16 year-old allowed to drive a Ferrari, anyway?

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