The idea that good governance measures are too costly and require too much work for smaller entities is “complete rubbish”, according to Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick.
“If you’re running a small charity or a sports club, you want to give people assurances that the monies you raised are used for the purposes people have given it to you for,” Governor Kilpatrick told an audience gathered at the Westin Resort Friday afternoon for a government professional development conference.
“The proposition that good governance is only for large entities is, of course, complete rubbish,” Ms Kilpatrick said.
The governor’s statements were made in response to a question asked during the conference by Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick, who said he had often heard, during his tenure in Cayman, that good governance is only suitable for larger countries.
“In one person’s view, it’s unadulterated bureaucratic harassment,” Mr. Swarbrick joked, referencing a comment made in 2012 by former Premier McKeeva Bush regarding the work of the audit office.
Mr. Bush’s comments were made in relation to various government projects his administration was trying to complete, which he felt were being blocked by the overbearing hand of the United Kingdom in certain instances.
Another government professional development conference presenter, Brian Miller with the U.S. Inspector General’s office, noted that almost all properly operating jurisdictions have an inherent conflict between something urgent that needs to be done and the government’s rules for getting that work done.
Mr. Miller said, in some cases, you have to break the rules. “When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, we suspended procurement rules to get goods and services right away,“ Mr. Miller said. “National security is another case [where procurement rules could be suspended].”
However, there were too many cases within the U.S. General Services Administration involving public contracts “where they were just trying to get it done, rather than do it right.”
“I don’t blame managers for wanting results,” he said. “But they should do it the right way.”
Governor Kilpatrick said it was important to consider whether the conditions under which good governance measures are set out, proper financial accounting, accountability for those in charge, public reporting and the like, were proportionate to the situation.
“We’re all used to the idea that, if you’re a very, very small organization, you don’t get your accounts audited by a professional set of accountants,” she said. “However, you still have to say what money you received and what money you dispersed.”
Cayman is currently revising its public sector financial governance law – the Public Management and Finance Law – to make budget reporting and analysis simpler and easier for the general public to understand.
Within that system, proper accountability measures can be adjusted, Governor Kilpatrick said.
“You can have a lighter touch in terms of regulation and governance, as long as it is in proportion to what you’re trying to do,” she said. “On a government scale, some organizations, because of their own internal control systems, can be more trusted by government than others.”
Ms Kilpatrick said she supports the idea of having “earned autonomy” for certain organizations within the government, but in the end the public trust still has to be there.
“The Cayman Islands economy depends heavily on financial services and international reputation,” she said. “If you’re going to put your money somewhere, you want to be sure the government is behind that.”