Editorial for March 28, 2011: Blame and lame excuses

Some might argue the
Caymanian Compass has unfairly targeted the Ministry of Tourism for utterly
failing to keep adequate financial records during 2006-2008.

Sadly, there are many more
examples of these types of failures as auditors continue to go through the
tedious and probably futile process of trying to report financial statements
for the past several years. It is therefore true to say the issue extends far
beyond just one ministry or government department.

What rankles, however, are
the numerous responses we have received from individuals who are or were
involved in this process and who seek to put distance between themselves and
blame. Apparently, neither the current minister nor the previous minister, the
current civil servants or the previous civil servants, the current governor or
the previous governor, knew anything about anything that was going on with
regard to the financial records of government. 

And of course, no one is
stepping forward with the old mea culpa; instead they’re pointing the finger at
someone else or mumbling the standard reply that ‘it really doesn’t matter
whose fault it was, let’s just fix the problem’. 

Well, it does matter whose
fault it was/is, because until that is determined, there’s no way to create
safeguards preventing the problem from recurring. In addition, until someone in
a leadership position is held responsible for financial reporting matters, the
problems noted in the former Ministry of Tourism audit will undoubtedly

Governor Duncan Taylor and
Premier McKeeva Bush previously announced a review of Cayman’s current public
management system and have essentially stated that Cayman needs to implement a
simpler way of public accounting. A consultant from the UK has been brought in
to help with the task.

That sounds dandy, but it
overlooks a major problem government has stated in its own budget documents: a
lack of accounting skills.

If the people keeping the books
don’t know what they’re doing, and leadership responsible for reporting results
doesn’t exist, public accountability will fail no matter what system you use to
obtain it.