24 August deadline given
Though government hasn’t produced an actual budget for the current 2012/13 financial year, Cayman Islands public sector managers have been asked to turn in their accounts for the previous 2011/12 budget a week early.
According to meeting minutes released this week, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has asked government chief officers to submit accounts from ministries and portfolios for 2011/12 in advance of the legally required deadline of 31 August; preferably no later than 24 August.
“The goal is for accounts to be produced in a timelier manner and [that they are] of a higher quality,” Mr. Manderson noted in the chief officers’ meeting minutes. “Chief financial officers must be held accountable for the timeliness and quality of the accounts.”
Although the former issue – timeliness – did improve last year, Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick said quality of government’s financial statements has remained an issue.
“There is a will to move [public accountability reporting] forward,” Mr. Swarbrick said Thursday. “Timeliness is one thing, but equally important and probably even more important is the quality of the figures presented.”
After auditors receive government accounts they are given two additional months to review the documents and report back with the entire slate of public accounts and government financial statements scheduled to be completed by mid-December, according to local regulations.
The auditor general’s latest report on the state of government accountability reporting, from early December, showed that there was a continuing problem with the quality of the information government entities were submitting to the auditor’s office.
The progress update report from December stated that all ministries and portfolios had submitted their 2010-2011 financial statements to the Office of the Auditor General on time, but eight audits were still outstanding due to a backlog – down from 12 at 31 July, 2011 – and 12 statutory authority and government company financial statements remained outstanding – down from 18 at 31 July, 2011.
The auditor general opines on annual financial statements produced by government entities – including statutory authorities and government companies – that indicate if he considered the information provided in those statements to be accurate and reliable.
Of 60 annual financial statements on which Mr. Swarbrick or his predecessor, Dan Duguay, issued opinions between the financial years 2004/05 and 2009/2010, 21 were ‘qualified”, meaning a portion of the information was unreliable; eight were “adverse”, audit-speak for untrustworthy information within the financial statement; and 23 were “disclaimed”, which means the auditor general was not provided with enough information to even conduct an audit.
Mr. Swarbrick said in December that reliable information was necessary for the government to draw up its budget.
“I don’t audit the budget … [but] for budget setting, you need to have reliable financial information from the previous year to give you a clear view about where your budget is going and what resources you have to spend money on, so you can produce a budget every year,” he said.
The government actually has not produced a budget for the 2012/13 fiscal year, which started on 1 July. Rather, Premier McKeeva Bush, who is also the finance minister, proposed a two-month interim spending plan in order to give government time to draw up its full spending proposals. The new budget is expected to be presented to the Legislative Assembly for review in late July or early August.