A billion reasons for Governor Kilpatrick to step in

Consider this pair of opening statements from the front page of Wednesday’s Cayman Compass:

“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.”

And:

“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.

6 COMMENTS

  1. We need to be very careful when we make statements calling for the governor to step in.

    Governor Kilpatrick should rightfully be making enquiries about this issue and should be working closely with the Deputy Governor to ensure that the necessary controls are in place to prevent any further loss or mismanagement of public funds. That being said, she should not be seen to be taking over the running of the government, as that approach, while desirable to many, will only breed resentment and will not achieve any positive outcomes.

    What is needed at this stage is for the Deputy Governor himself to investigate the allegations of mismanagement, and if found to be true, for him to remove the individuals responsible. The Deputy Governor himself should conduct these investigations and not pass on this responsibility to anyone else.

  2. This amount represents more than the annual spending budget for the country. The government must show that it is able and willing to establish credible accounting of the public finances and that this situation is being taken seriously and being dealt with in a responsible and appropriate manner.

  3. Although I am in agreement with much that is said in this editorial. I believe it presumptuous of this paper to assume the support position likened to the Deputy Governor, public prosecutor, and commissioner of police I believe this paper assumes a lot. Firstly, a large majority of this papers comments are generated from non voting elements, also the Auditor General must have made his report up the chain. What position will the Governor now take after such a pointed address by this editorial. As for my position, I would like the Governor to lead, not be led, not even the perception of being led,except of course by the voting public. Talking about stealing a persons thunder.

  4. Where is the leverage? The leverage should be votes and the change driven by democratic forces. If voters are happy with zero accountability and/or corruption then there is no leverage. Perhaps our little island municipality is just too small and there are no honest and accountable alternatives. How long must we all feel hopeless about the thought of good government? Cayman needs leadership like never before. Speak up with your vote and if you are not confident with your government, have them removed. Make leadership accountable. This is a democracy and you have the right to demand it.

  5. Mack, that is certainly an interesting option.

    But is using the former head of a not exactly well-respected government department to investigate other senior civil servants credible? I don’t think so.

    This situation just begs for outside intervention because the longer it is left untouched the longer people will have an excuse to point accusing fingers at public servants who in many cases have done nothing wrong.

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