McKeeva Bush: Staffing issues foil government accounting efforts

Claiming the Cayman Islands auditor general had unfairly “smeared” civil servants working in his former ministry, Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said low staffing levels, not incompetence, led to failures in financial accountability. Mr. Bush’s comments were made Wednesday in a “personal statement” delivered to the Legislative Assembly.  

Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick reported on Oct. 21 that about $1 billion of spending in two government ministries remains unaccounted for, questioning the competency of some officials responsible for managing public money.  

That $1 billion figure spanned a period between 2004 and 2012, Mr. Swarbrick later clarified.  

The two large ministries, highlighted as the worst offenders, have been unable to provide a reliable account of how they have spent the people’s money for the past eight years, the auditor reported in an analysis of financial and performance reporting in all government ministries and portfolios for 2010 to 2012.  

One of the ministries referred to was Mr. Bush’s former Ministry of Financial Services, Tourism and Development.  

“The auditor general has sensationalized the communication to the media in his press briefing, with no regard to the impact on the ministry staff involved who worked very hard with the little resources they were given,“ Mr. Bush said, demanding that Public Accounts Committee chairman Roy McTaggart hold a hearing quickly on the report to give government workers a chance to “defend themselves.” A spokesperson for the audit office declined to comment on Mr. Bush’s statements.  

Mr. McTaggart asked Mr. Bush to resign from the committee earlier this year due to what the chairman called “conflict of interests” in some recent audit reports that focused on Mr. Bush.  

The former premier told the Legislative Assembly that when he took over responsibility for the areas of tourism, financial services and development, there were only three to four staff on the finance team for his entire ministry. He said other ministries had as many as 12 finance staff.  

“The ministry…was severely understaffed,” Mr. Bush said. “There was no capacity to ensure good oversight of both financial services and tourism with the number of staff in place.”  

Posts for additional accounting personnel in the ministry were made a part of initial budgets between 2009 and 2013, Mr. Bush said.  

“All the vacant posts for accounts staff were removed during budget cuts each year in order for government to meet its overall budget target to be approved by the U.K.,” he said.  

Further, a ministry staff reshuffle, following the ouster of Mr. Bush’s government in late 2012, left the ministry accounting staff with just two people, the opposition leader said. The ministry had full audits conducted on its 2010/11 and 2011/12 financial statements simultaneously in June 2013. “Much too late for the accounting management staff to make improvements in either financial year,” he said.  

“Clearly, there are no competency issues with finance staff of the ministry,” Mr. Bush said. “It is simply unfair for the auditor general to state so. There were capacity issues due to staff shortages.  

“It seems he’s hell-bent on making politicians and civil servants look as bad as possible.” 

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Mr. Bush

5 COMMENTS

  1. Within Shaw Miller it was pointed out to Mr. Bush that-

    1. Government personnel costs account for 47% of operating expenses, growing at a rate of 4x the growth in the economy

    2. Civil service is too large, consuming approx 30% of the island’s GDP

    3. Estimated that the Govt workforce is now 6000 or 15% of the work force

    4. In 2006 senior leadership of the Cayman islands awarded themselves 10-18% pay increases, the top 5 Govt grades in Cayman all have higher annual incomes than the British Prime Minister

  2. Cayman politicians need to exercise some caution when adding logs and fanning the fires of a burning bush.
    The auditors report is welcomed, but he has too many matches in one hand and needs to be careful that he do not burn down the country.

  3. So glad you welcome the Auditors report, damning as it is!
    Out of interest, when you refer to politicians fanning fires, and holding too many matches, presumably you are referring to Mr Bush? The Auditor is not, of course a politician, but it is his job to draw the attention of politicians to wrong doing, or waste of taxpayers money. He did so under considerable criticism from this particular politician, who now claims that the dreadful performance in his particular department was due to understaffing, something he of all people could have put right.
    No, in my opinion, the awful accounting in his departments was very particularly because the miscreants would fear no reproach from their leader, but while Bush was not alone in being lax in this respect, he was the most vociferous in his complaints against the good job the auditor, and indeed his predecessor, were doing. As ever, I ask WHY he was so opposed to this mans work?

  4. Mr Arthur, my suggestion is that you take some time to steer your boat before running aground on assumptions.
    I hate to believe you did not understand my comments when I said Politicians with an S. Which is directed at all Politicians.
    Beside I think you need to get used to our island lingo before you put handle to knife.
    If you do not understand, then my suggestion would be to kindly ask the writer to explain.

  5. Bottom line is, Mr Bush regularly harangued the Auditor, fired, sorry, didnt reappoint his predecessor, and is directly responsible in my opinion for the accounting mess in his departments, and now blames it all on lack of personnel.
    Thats not good enough from one who likes to considered Honourable!

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