“Around $1 billion of spending in two government ministries remains unaccounted for, the Auditor General’s Office states in a new report which questions the competency of some officials responsible for managing public money.”
“Widespread mismanagement in nearly a dozen government-owned companies and statutory authorities, which in some cases rose to the level of potential fraud or even theft, was identified by the Cayman Islands Auditor General’s Office in a report released Tuesday.”
One billion dollars … unaccounted for … widespread mismanagement … fraud … theft …
In nearly any reputable jurisdiction, such information would spark popular outrage, spur resignations and, quite possibly, form grounds for multiple criminal investigations. In Cayman, however, maybe not.
Confronted with the utter gravity of the auditor general’s findings, the magnitude of government’s continuing financial malpractice, and the apparent lack of concern from, if not most, then significant swaths of the Caymanian people — this Editorial Board finds itself, uncharacteristically, almost (but not quite) at a loss for words.
One word does come to mind: Governor!
Just over a year ago, Governor Helen Kilpatrick delivered her first Throne Speech in Cayman’s Legislative Assembly, emphasizing the utmost importance of ensuring that government spends taxpayer money wisely.
We were greatly impressed not only by her words, but also by her professional background – as Cayman’s first governor to be a chartered public accountant and former civil servant in the United Kingdom’s Home Office.
At the time, we wrote: “We echo, endorse and emphasize the astute observation of Governor Kilpatrick that, above all, the responsibility of government is to ensure that its actions constitute prudent investments of the Caymanian people’s resources.”
One year later, Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick has produced yet another set of incriminating reports, constituting the latest, and largest, revelations of Cayman’s officials running amok with impunity. Once again, Mr. Swarbrick has exposed all talk of “good governance,” “best practices” and “streamlining the civil service” from our elected and appointed leaders as just that, talk.
As any accountant knows (including, presumably, Governor Kilpatrick), “good governance” of a company – or a country – is not possible without reliable, accurate, timely and consistent financial reporting. Her enumerated powers as governor are few, but good governance is at the top of her list of responsibilities.
With every passing day since her eloquent Throne Speech, it has become increasingly obvious that Cayman needs a no-nonsense, action-oriented governor as our Queen’s representative. We know Governor Kilpatrick has the requisite abilities. What remains to be seen is whether she has the requisite toughness to take control of this fiscal mess that largely was ignored by her predecessors – but continues on her watch.
One of her direct subordinates, Auditor General Swarbrick, knows better than most the incompetence and ineptitude that permeate our public accounting apparatus. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson also knows the depth of the mismanagement, and going forward, Governor Kilpatrick should rely on him heavily (along with Police Commissioner David Baines and Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards).
Governor Kilpatrick will need the support of all segments of the Cayman community as she moves to excise this cancer of dysfunction corrupting our national core. She certainly will have ours.