Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick has backed the prompt release of independent government audits once those are completed, following recent public comments that the process surrounding the release and evaluation of reports from the auditor general’s office may be changed.
“It is an important principle of the audit process that there is not a long delay between production of a report and its general publication,” Governor Kilpatrick said in a statement released Monday.
Governor Kilpatrick also said she continued to support the work of the independent government offices, including the auditor’s office.
The Cayman Compass reported last week that private discussions among members of the government’s Public Accounts Committee and the auditor’s office have been held on the subject of audit reports and that PAC committee chairman Ezzard Miller publicly expressed some displeasure about the current process. Mr. Miller’s comments in the committee did not specifically address the public release of the auditor general’s reports, but rather centered on what the civil service does with those reports after it receives them.
The issue of how, when and to whom government audits are released has been a thorny one among elected officials, who are currently involved in a wholesale review of parliamentary standing orders. Those orders, among many other things, set out how the Auditor General’s Office’s reports are to be made public.
Public Accounts Committee meetings are expected to continue this week, wrapping up a review of a number of reports completed by the auditor’s office in early to mid-2015.
“The ability to make reports public shortly after they are delivered to the Legislative Assembly is a fundamental element of an effective independent legislative auditor,” former Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick said in a 2015 position paper. “It is a key element for effective governance and accountability and delays in the public release of reports undermines their usefulness in holding government to account for their use of public resources.” A replacement for Mr. Swarbrick, who left the audit office in October 2015, is expected to be announced shortly.
Once they reach the Public Accounts Committee, audit reports typically have attached a “management response” from the civil service or relevant agency that was audited. That response usually states whether the government service agrees or disagrees with the audit findings and how and when they will implement changes based on the report.
Mr. Miller’s statements made recently in the Public Accounts Committee indicated his belief that the way these reports are being handled now essentially serves to sidestep the duties of the Public Accounts Committee. “It is my view that we are circumventing many of the responsibilities of the Public Accounts Committee,” Mr. Miller said.
“The ideal process would be that the auditor does his audit, has his findings, gives management … the opportunity to respond to those findings. That report is then given to the PAC which does its own investigation and determines the appropriateness, the correctness of the recommendations and the findings, and that – based on what the PAC finds in agreeing or disagreeing on the odd case it may happen with the auditor general – that the recommendations become real.”
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, who has said Mr. Miller’s comments were “an important point” that needed review, said earlier this year that his office would continue to support the audit work conducted by the independent office.
“I have made complying with the recommendations of our oversight bodies one of our key performance measures for the staff that report to me, so we want to make sure that we take the reports, especially those from the auditor general’s office seriously and that we implement their recommendations in a timely manner,” Mr. Manderson said. “[I] absolutely, 100 percent, support the work of the auditor general and his office.