Auditor: Gov’t delaying release of finance records

Cayman Islands public authorities are doing a better job of turning in required financial reports on time, but in many cases lawmakers and the general public are not getting to see those documents until years later.

“Without annual reports, it is almost impossible for stakeholders, legislators and citizens to understand how public resources have been used and to hold government and public bodies accountable,” Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick said this week.

Typically, financial statements and annual reports from government ministries and portfolios, as well as those from statutory authorities and government-owned companies, are made public via the act of lawmakers “tabling” them in the Legislative Assembly.

The annual reports, in addition to having financial statements, also contain discussion and evaluation from the entity about its current plans and future goals.

According to Mr. Swarbrick, for the government budget year ending June 30, 2012, reports for only 15 of the 24 statutory authorities and government companies evaluated by the auditor general’s office had been “tabled,” or made public, in the Legislative Assembly.

For fiscal year 2010/11, teight reports from the public authorities are still outstanding, he said.

Government ministries fared better, with just six financial statements/annual reports outstanding from the 2010/11 and 2011/12 government budget years.

However, in both cases – with central government and the outside authorities – the information made public is incomplete, Mr. Swarbrick said.

“In most cases where an annual report has been tabled for the 2011/12 and prior years, it is just the financial statements rather than the full annual report as required by [the law],” he said. “We found that the annual reports were, in most cases, tabled well after the financial statements were signed off, decreasing the value and usefulness of the information.

“The timely issuance of an annual report and its tabling in the LA is probably the most fundamental element in the accountability framework for a public sector entity.”

Another matter raised by the auditor general is the “challenging” nature of finding these financial statements and annual reports on government websites.

All the reports made public in the House should be available on the Legislative Assembly website, he said. However, each public sector entity – whether in central government or outside of it – should be making these reports accessible on their own websites and “through other appropriate mechanisms.”

“It should be a priority for entities to prepare annual reports that discuss their operational and financial performance, ensure these are tabled in Legislative Assembly … and [are] made easily accessible to all stakeholders,” Mr. Swarbrick said, “Until this is achieved, the Legislative Assembly will continue to remain in the dark about how [public entities] ultimately collect and spend public monies.”