And who would wonder why? For years, Auditor General Swarbrick has been on his own sounding off on inefficiencies, waste and risks of corruption in the public sector.
The reports issued by Mr. Swarbrick and his team are, as a rule, sound, thorough, well-researched and, all too often, ignored. Mr. Swarbrick, no doubt the most patient of men, frequently populates his reports with praise for progress made and recommendations for better performance moving forward.
Unfortunately for Mr. Swarbrick – and the Cayman Islands – too often his reports are treated more as fanning devices than serious reading material that need to be acted upon.
At last, however, Mr. Swarbrick seems to have caught the attention of two powerful figures in government, Premier Alden McLaughlin and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, with the publication of his latest report on problems in statutory authorities and government-owned companies.
Mr. McLaughlin has promised legislation that will attempt to give central government more control over those agencies, which have steadily grown in size while core government has shrunk.
The premier’s response contrasts starkly with the reaction, or lack thereof, that we have come to expect in response to the auditor general’s bombshell reports.
While some government entities embrace Mr. Swarbrick’s advice with alacrity, others barely appear to acknowledge the existence of auditors. Adherence to the auditor general’s findings, even when they concern possible infringements of the law, certainly seems to be at the discretion of the government units, with little-to-no pressure for change being exerted by lawmakers on the Public Accounts Committee.
Government’s continuing inability – or refusal – to submit clean financial statements is one of Cayman’s great national failures, dwelling in the same pantheon as the odoriferous George Town landfill and the money-bleeding Turtle Farm.
In theory, Mr. Swarbrick’s job as Cayman’s government auditor should be one of the cushiest in the world. After all, he resides in a lovely tropical locale that is overpopulated by talented brethren – some of the best accountants and auditors to be found anywhere. It borders on embarrassment that one of the world’s premier financial centers cannot track clearly how it is spending its money.
But there is hope.
For the first time, the Cayman Islands governor, who appoints the auditor general, is herself an accountant. The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is George Town MLA Roy McTaggart, a former managing partner of major accounting firm KPMG.
With Helen Kilpatrick as governor, Mr. Swarbrick as auditor general, and Mr. McTaggart heading the Public Accounts Committee, it appears that Cayman could have no better-qualified people occupying those three vital roles.
However, it’s not enough just to have the right people in the right positions. They must act.
Given her background and responsibility to ensure the good governance of the Cayman Islands, we urge Ms Kilpatrick to take a more prominent role in empowering the auditor general, to use her influence in a no-nonsense way with lawmakers and civil servants, and to engage the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service when potentially criminal matters are uncovered.
The Compass editorial board supports all efforts that make government more accountable, efficient and transparent. Any substantial victories, we suspect, will necessarily involve the talented triumvirate of accountants – Governor Kilpatrick, Mr. Swarbrick and Mr. McTaggart – and the chances of success will be that much greater so long as Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Manderson continue to champion the cause.