EDITORIAL – Auditing the CarePay audit

carepay cardIn the aftermath of months of courtroom testimony where people and paperwork attested to a near-complete absence of scrutiny in regard to Canover Watson’s manipulation of the Cayman Islands government’s CarePay contract, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has ordered the Internal Audit Unit to get to the bottom of things.

In order for this to be more than an ex post facto box-ticking exercise in the ascertaining of “best practices” — in other words, for it to have some practical value — we suggest the following first step: grab Police Commissioner David Baines and a fistful of badges, and deputize the internal auditors.

Well, maybe that’s a bit extreme. Despite the apparent lack of oversight in regard to government’s goings-on, we probably don’t have to resort to “Wild Wild West” measures.

Our point is, when identifying the factors for gross financial malfeasance, accountants are OK, but police officers are far better. The difference is that accountants carry calculators, while the police carry handcuffs.

We do not question the integrity of the Internal Audit Unit, nor the quality of its work. Indeed, over the years the team has produced in-depth, no-holds-barred inquiries into GASBOY, government IT systems, the Postal Service and airport parking — some of the finest government reports ever to be placed on shelves to gather dust.

From 2007 to 2012, the Internal Audit Unit produced 55 reports, making a total of 327 recommendations to dozens of public agencies, according to a follow-up review performed by the unit that the Compass wrote about in a news story published last April. About 24 percent of those recommendations were “fully implemented,” while no progress at all was made on more than half of those recommendations. (Put another way, they were ignored … an option not available when the police are involved.)

More recently, internal auditors looked into various administrative allegations made in 2014 against suspended Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans. Multiple government sources have told the Compass that one of the allegations is in relation into the award of Caymanian status, which in our opinion should be the purest and most sacrosanct function a chief immigration officer is entrusted with performing. As of this writing, Ms. Evans remains on paid suspension while the government mulls over its decision … and mulls … and mulls … and mulls.

No doubt, whatever report the Internal Audit Unit produces on the procurement of the CarePay contract will make for interesting reading, that is, whenever the public is finally allowed to read it. What we do doubt, however, is that any material consequences will ensue from the findings of the report, or that any civil servants will be held accountable for any misconduct, neglect or gross ineptitude.

Mr. Manderson has made a point of emphasizing that the internal audit is not a criminal probe. That’s the problem. This isn’t a job for the civil service — it’s a job for law enforcement.

Police, by the way, don’t appear to be through with their CarePay investigation just yet. If internal auditors are going to conduct their own probe, they should make a duplicate of every document they unearth, and hand it over to police.

Powers of arrest trump powers of administrative sanction, every time.