In the story, titled, “Gov’t departments admit fuel abuse,” Police Commissioner David Baines (whose officers featured substantially in the auditors’ report) announced the beginning of a criminal investigation, and was quoted as saying about GASBOY, “The system functions, but it is easily overrun …. My fear is that we will repeat some of the failures that have occurred in the first place.”
Needless to say, the criminal investigation didn’t produce any substantial results, much less arrests. Five years later, the Department of Vehicle and Equipment Services, which manages the government’s fuel depot, is finally getting around to looking at, just maybe, getting rid of GASBOY.
Two thoughts arise, in the form of more-or-less rhetorical questions — 1) In the five years since GASBOY problems were publicly identified, how many other fuel “failures” has government committed (and how much money has that cost)?; and, 2) Is anyone really surprised by the government’s GASBOY inaction?
Some background: In spring 2010, then-Auditor General Dan Duguay publicized an internal audit report, and a related review by his office that flagged a full one-third of fuel purchases (amounting to about $500,000) made at the government’s depot between January 2008 and March 2009 as being potentially suspicious.
At the time, Mr. Duguay said, “I would hope the government is taking a serious look at the current fuel system.”
While Police Commissioner Baines (whose tenure began in June 2009, after the audit period) and other officials questioned the magnitude of the dollar amounts cited by auditors, they did agree the system, or the government’s implementation of it, was flawed.
In 2012, Mr. Duguay’s successor Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick produced a follow-up internal audit and review on GASBOY, stating that, while some individual departments (including the police) had made positive changes, the problems with the fuel monitoring system itself remained basically unchanged, along with the general risk of fraud and abuse.
Mr. Swarbrick quoted internal auditors as saying, “The overall control environment has not improved since the previous fuel card audit and the internal controls surrounding these processes still require significant improvements.”
Put another way, not only were no individual “foxes” ever arrested, charged or prosecuted for stealing from the taxpayers’ “henhouse” — nobody even bothered to padlock the chicken coop to keep them from coming back for more.
The GASBOY scandal represents more than just a few hundred thousand gallons of gasoline gone missing. It’s an obvious symptom of a far more serious malady entrenched in Cayman’s government (and our society, generally): Our high tolerance for low-level corruption.
The GASBOY thefts are Cayman’s “broken windows” — in the sense of the crime-fighting strategy embraced by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his Police Commissioner William J. Bratton.
Just as a vehicle or building with busted-out windows invites, even incites, passersby to commit additional deeds of greater destruction and violence, allowing people to get away scot-free with small abuses of public resources fosters the perpetration of larger abuses, and fossilizes the system where such actions are met with winks and tacit approval.