Sixteen of 42 Cayman Islands government agencies have been given unqualified audit opinions on their financial statements submitted for the 2013/14 budget year.
Another seven were given qualified opinions on those audits, according to information from the auditor general’s office reported in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday. The auditor’s office is still compiling information on 19 additional government agencies.
Finance Minister Marco Archer said the financial reporting standards in both central government and statutory authorities has improved greatly since just four years ago, when 25 percent of public agencies had their finances disclaimed – meaning auditors could not verify figures presented.
During 2010, just one in three Cayman Islands government agencies received unqualified audit opinions, Mr. Archer said.
“Compare that to where we were just four years ago, and I believe that [government] has achieved real progress,” Mr. Archer said.
Asked why he and Premier Alden McLaughlin did not report these results during a recent press conference that lauded the performance of three government ministries and portfolios on their audits, Mr. Archer said those reports had not been completed at that stage.
Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick has been cautious in his recent public statements about the financial statements audits.
Speaking at the Government Professional Development Week conference earlier this month, Mr. Swarbrick said it was premature to get the full picture of the latest financial statements, but noted it was clear that things have improved significantly.
Mr. Swarbrick said 2013/14 could be the first government financial year without any adverse opinions or disclaimers qualifying the audit of government’s finances.
There are still control issues, and more needs to be done to restore the public’s trust in the accountability of government entities and their spending, he said. Some of these issues were not just the timely submission of financial records to the auditor general’s office by the annual Aug. 31 deadline, but also the responsiveness to follow-up questions.
“You should be beating down my door to get issues resolved,” he told civil servants. “Until we have a consolidated financial statements, accountability will not be restored.”
The Cayman Islands has never put together an auditable set of consolidated financial statements in a government annual report since the advent of the Public Management and Finance Law in 2004. Attempts to do so for the 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11 fiscal years failed as entire public sector accounts were disclaimed.
Both Premier McLaughlin and Finance Minister Marco Archer acknowledged that the government would likely need a few more years to restore full financial accountability.
“The lack of proper accounts is something that has haunted three [government] administrations now,” Mr. McLaughlin said.