The Cayman Islands government was sharply criticised in a recent audit that noted a “weak” business case was made for the implementation of a public closed-circuit television system.
However, according to a response that was provided to the auditor general’s office in June, officials with the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, who had responsibility for the CCTV project, said “Cabinet did not require a business case” for the project.
“Due to the ever-increasing amount of crime … the [CCTV] committee has sought every possible way to ‘fast-track’ this project,” the 20 June response to auditors indicated. “The business case for the national CCTV programme was a case of being an ‘obvious response’ to an ever-growing problem.”
The $1.9 million dollar public surveillance initiative is expected to be in place and completed by next month, according to civil servants in charge of the project.
Portfolio officials said in June that a Cabinet paper was presented about the project some time ago, including an additional funding request of $2 million. Elected ministers and Cabinet members approved the concept and the project went ahead.
“It is the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs’ view that the information provided was sufficient at the time, thus approval to spend public funds on the initiative was given,” the response to auditors read. “Whilst a formal business case was not presented, sufficient information … was provided for Cabinet to approve significant funding.”
Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick took a different view in his report.
“The first step in a procurement process is the development of a comprehensive business case that considers different alternatives, and demonstrates how management would achieve best value for money,” the auditor’s report noted.
The Portfolio did not prepare such a business case and instead used an analysis by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service which, auditors later said, was never intended to be used as a business case when it was created.
The RCIPS analysis looked at implementation and operational issues with the CCTV programme, but did not look at cost options, auditors said.
“We expected that a project such as the CCTV programme would have a robust business case that included a complete review of options to address the business needs identified,” the auditor’s review stated. “We expected that the business case would include … the cost of ongoing operations.”
The cost of operating CCTV – aside from initial purchasing and installation – was estimated at $525,000 per year. However, auditors said information was not made available to lawmakers prior to the programme’s approval in the 2010/11 budget.
“By that time, it was too late to make a decision not to proceed with the national CCTV programme,” auditors said.
Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs managers told Cabinet members “very early on in the project” to expect a budget request for CCTV recurring expenditures, according to a response sent to auditors in June.
“Although the recurring costs of the [CCTV contractor] The Security Centre contract were available at the time of the contract signing, the costs for [Caribbean Utilities Company] fibre optic backhaul and telecommunications tower sharing were not available until April 2011,” the portfolio indicated.
A Cabinet paper outlining recurring costs was made available “at the earliest possible time” in May 2011, portfolio officials said.
“We expected that Cabinet would have been provided with more complete costing information in approving the $2 million budget for the programme in May 2010,” auditors said. “We found that the decision was made with unclear deliverables and more work needed to be done to determine how much the programme would cost.”
Auditors recommended that government entities should prepare detailed business cases in similar procurement cases in the future, in line with the financial regulations of the Public Management and Finance Law.