Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick has fully backed the territory’s auditor general who took a public verbal drubbing at the hands of Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush last week.
Mr. Bush, in statements before the Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, questioned Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick’s professionalism and accused his office of seeking to influence public opinion ahead of the opposition leader’s criminal trial last year.
Mr. Swarbrick did not respond to any of Mr. Bush’s statements during Wednesday’s committee hearing.
“I continue to have complete confidence in the auditor general, his staff and the professionalism of the reports produced by his office,” Ms. Kilpatrick said Friday. “It is critical that the auditor is able to undertake his important work independently and report publicly on what he finds.”
Mr. Bush was incensed Saturday after he was told the governor had backed Mr. Swarbrick in a public statement.
“I do not believe that [the auditor general] is independent,” Mr. Bush said. “The AG does not report to the governor, he’s not supposed to. He’s a creature of the constitution and of law that is supposed to report to the Legislative Assembly and Public Accounts Committee.
“He does not report to the newspapers and he does not report to the public.”
Mr. Bush, who appeared as a witness during the committee that reviewed Mr. Swarbrick’s report on travel and hospitality spending during the former United Democratic Party government’s administration, said a number of areas in the audit report were incorrect or misleading and that audit office staff had left certain things out to make his ministry and civil servants look bad.
The travel and hospitality audit looked at some $8.6 million in travel and hospitality expenses during the period to determine whether that spending produced value for money. In many cases, it found spending in those areas to be questionable or, at least, not managed properly.
Mr. Bush had criticized the auditor general for releasing the report without having first gone to the Public Accounts Committee to review the information. This has been the common practice of Cayman Islands Auditors General since 2006 and is supported by international best-practice standards, Mr. Swarbrick said. His office released a discussion paper of international audit practices concerning the issue of public release of government audits Friday to support its views.
“There has been continuing discussion in the public about how I report to the Legislative Assembly and whether it is an appropriate way for me to inform the Legislative Assembly and the people of the Cayman Islands,” said Mr. Swarbrick. “I believe it is a good time for me to provide information that would help everyone understand why my audit reports need to be released to the public on a timely basis.”
The position paper describes how the auditor general follows international audit standards to ensure the factual accuracy of his reports that include additional steps to obtain input from government officials in the preparation of the reports.
“I want the members of the Legislative Assembly and the public to know that they can rely on my reports to hold government to account,” he said. “Delaying the issuance of my reports as suggested by certain commentators since I have been the auditor general would regress the Cayman Islands governance framework and effectively weaken the democratic foundation of our society.”
Mr. Bush said the auditor’s comments were out of order and that no one in his political party was calling for less good governance. Mr. Bush cited examples that his previous administrations had created the Office of the Complaints Commissioner, as well as proposed public standards legislation.
“I am not against good governance. I am against politics and people with an agenda,” Mr. Bush said.