GASBOY, continued: Fuel for abuse of public funds

In May 2010 the Cayman Compass published a story about how the government’s “GASBOY” fuel monitoring system left open the possibility of widespread fraud and abuse, by civil servants or others, of the Cayman Islands government’s petrol depot on North Sound Road. Our report followed an audit that flagged hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fuel purchases as being potentially suspicious.

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.


  1. This is another good example of the type of leadership and management failure that many people have been talking about for some time. It is also a good example of why the government should not be allowed to introduce or increase fees and/or taxes until they have demonstrated that they have their business in order.

    I submit that if the government would focus on eliminating wasteful spending they would have no need for additional revenue measures and might even be able to help stimulate the economy by reducing the existing tax on fuel; which in turn would be a net benefit to the entire country.

    Another good example of the wasteful spending was evident in a recent article about the CCTV system purchased by the government a few years back. If the article is to be believed, the existing system does not have very good night vision capabilities and the placement of the cameras relative to good lighting is still very much a concern. One would have assumed that clear requirements regarding the required night vision capabilities of the cameras would have been documented and that the deployment plan for the system would have included any upgrades to lighting that might have been required for the system to function within the desired parameters.

    What we have here is simple incompetence. Nothing more.