The Cayman Islands Auditor General’s office is spending about $200,000 extra per year on outside consulting firms to conduct value for money audits that its own staff simply doesn’t have the time or expertise to do.
Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick told the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee last week that his staff has been depleted to 17, although the office is attempting to hire two more auditors to keep up with the work.
In the meantime, value for money audits and even some audits of government financial statements are being done by local accounting firms or several foreign firms that were hired through a request for proposal process.
“They all work for me and are directed by Martin [Ruben, the office’s audit principal],” Mr. Swarbrick said. “Basically, we don’t have the resources, we’ve got a consultancy budget. It would be cheaper to have our own staff do it.”
The staffing issue at the auditor’s office was brought up by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, who was recently one of the subjects of a scathing audit on government travel expenses, asked Mr. Swarbrick during Finance Committee how many employees the office had, and how many were Caymanians. Mr. Swarbrick replied that of the 17 people employed in his office, four are Caymanian and four were permanent resident non-Caymanians.
The auditor general also discussed the request for proposal process used to select the consultants, proposals which were solicited from local accounting firms, as well as from those in the U.K., the U.S. and Canada. In the end, one local firm and four Canadian companies were chosen to do audit work in cases where the auditor general’s office staff could not.
Mr. Swarbrick told the Finance Committee that the auditor general’s office is the one exception in government where an agency is still allowed to charge another government entity for its services. The government did away with what was known as the “interagency charging system” a few years ago.
In addition to the value for money audits, some audits of government financial statements were handled by outsourcing, including those done for the Cayman Turtle Farm, the airports authority and Cayman Airways, among others, Mr. Swarbrick said. Also, the audit office intended to outsource audit work for certain aspects of the local courts system, the director of public prosecutions, the information commissioner and the complaints commissioner in the upcoming budget year.
In any case where an annual financial statement is done by an outside firm for a government entity, the local audit office must check the work before issuing an opinion, Mr. Swarbrick said.
“They can’t issue an opinion unless it’s my opinion, at the end of the day,” he said.
Mr. Swarbrick also noted that his internal staff does conduct value for money audits when staff is available.
“The travel audit, for example, was done completely internally and was done by my staff,” he said.