Three years after an audit report highlighted systemic flaws in the Cayman Islands welfare system, government has made little progress in rectifying the situation, according to an update from the auditor general.

A comprehensive report in 2015 found that Cayman’s various welfare programs had developed in an ad hoc manner over several decades, lacked an overall strategy, and in some cases lacked underpinning legislation. The report recommended government implement a proper, coordinated national strategy for spending on social assistance.

A progress report, published this week, covering various recent reports and recommendations made by the auditor general, suggests government has done little to implement the recommendations of the 2015 report on government programs that support those in need.

Among other concerns, the report highlighted how there were no measures to track the impacts of programs or reassess long-term recipients of government aid, and staff were left with significant personal discretion over poor relief payments. It warned that many people in need may be falling through the cracks while others were being paid unnecessarily, and recommended government develop a proper social assistance strategy for the $50 million it spends annually on welfare.

In a follow-up report last year, the auditors said little had been done to rectify the situation.

Now the situation has been highlighted again in a new report, called “Follow-up on past PAC recommendations,” which assesses how effectively the government has implemented the Public Accounts Committee’s recommendations, stemming from recent auditor general reports.

Progress on the recommendations from the May 2015 audit of government programs supporting those in need is rated as red, on a red-amber-green scale, meaning little has been done to implement the recommendations.

The report notes, “The Ministry of Community Affairs has started work to develop a social assistance strategy, although timescales are not yet confirmed. The implementation of most other recommendations is dependent on a strategy being put in place. This means that overall limited progress has been made – no change since July 2017.”

In its response to the auditor’s concerns, included in an appendix to the report, the Ministry of Community Affairs indicates it has now formed a working group and is reviewing data, statistics and research, including an “outline business case” from 2017, with a view to formulating a social assistance strategy.

“The ministry is of the view that the strategy needs to be developed first and that this will support the implementation of all of the other Office of the Auditor General recommendations.”

The auditor comments that this is a “sensible approach” but suggests the Public Accounts Committee seek progress updates, including timescales as the work continues.

Overall, Auditor General Sue Winspear notes that government’s record on implementing recommendations stemming from auditor general reports is “mixed.”

Of the eight reports analyzed, she said, “Almost all recommendations have been implemented for two reports, but the picture for the other six reports is less positive with only some progress made for five reports and limited progress made for the report dealing with social welfare programmes. I am also concerned that some of the original recommendations with limited or no progress to date, go back as far as May 2015 and that implementation dates for some recommendations continue to be rescheduled into the future.”

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