Auditors: Gov’t financial reporting speedier, but not transparent

There is some light at the end of the tunnel for the Cayman Islands’ beleaguered public sector as it struggles to come back to financial accountability, according to a report released Thursday by the auditor general’s office.

But there’s a lot more work that still needs doing.

According to Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick, of the 265 financial statements required to be completed between the 2004/05 and 2010/11 government budget years, the audit office has “issued” (finalised and reported) 236 opinions on those records. Another five audits have been finalised and seven other statements were exempted from audits due to changes in the law.

“There remains only 17 audits to be completed for the period between 2004/05 and 2010/11,” Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick noted in his report.

However, Mr. Swarbrick also said the majority of the data from the backlogged years; particularly those issued by government ministries and portfolios – the central government service – are incomplete or useless for any public accountability function.

Also, while financial statements were turned in much more responsibly during 2010/11 and for last year, 2011/12, many of the older audits of financial statements which have been completed still have not been made public by lawmakers.

“The final step in ensuring the accountability and transparency of the public finances is through the tabling of the annual reports … in the Legislative Assembly,” Mr. Swarbrick wrote. “Accountability delayed is accountability denied.”

As of 30 September, 71 annual reports or financial statements completed up through the 2009/10 financial year still require a formal tabling – the process that makes them public – in the assembly. For the 2010/11 budget year, just five of the 27 completed financial statements have been made public in the Legislative Assembly, according to auditors.

“In some instances, the time since the financial statements were completed and signed off by all parties is close to two years and in many cases close to one year,” Mr. Swarbrick wrote.
The Public Management and Finance Law indicates that entities should table annual reports within two weeks of a mandated 31 October deadline or at the first subsequent sitting of the LA.

“I … continue to have a significant concern about the timeliness of the tabling of these reports as it diminishes the usefulness of the information for members of the Legislative Assembly and the wider public and ultimately undermines effective accountability,” the auditor general said.

Please see the full story in Friday’s Caymanian Compass.



Mr Swarbrick

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