By Lindsey Turnbull
A newly released report by the Office of the Auditor General called ‘Follow-up on past PAC recommendations’ concludes that government has been slow to implement the majority of the recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee, especially those focusing on the poorest and most vulnerable in Cayman.
The Auditor General, Sue Winspear, looked specifically at eight PAC reports: four tabled in the Legislative Assembly between March 2017 and March 2018, and four previously assessed by her in the summer of 2017 as having made “limited” or “some” progress.
The PAC considers reports made by the Auditor General and generally endorses the recommendations made by her in her report and make further recommendations of their own based on the witness hearings they hold at the time. Government is then required to formally respond to the PAC recommendations within three months of the PAC laying an Auditor General report in the House. This follow up report assesses how effectively the government has implemented recommendations made by the PAC in response to its hearings into reports from the OAG.
On the positive side, the OAG assessed government as having made “significant” progress with two reports: ‘Follow-Up on past PAC recommendations and Governance in Aviation Bodies (July 2017)’ and ‘National Land Development and Government Real Property (June 2015)’.
The not so good news was that the OAG had assessed government as making “some” progress on the majority of the reports issued, as follows:
• Ensuring Quality Health Care and a Healthy Population (January 2017)
• Review of the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority Financial Statements for 2015 and 2016
• Social Assistance Programs: Follow-Up on Past PAC Recommendations (July 2017)
• Financial and Performance reporting – Entire Public Sector; Statutory Authorities and Government Companies; and Ministries, Portfolios and Offices for the years ending 30 June 2013 and 2014 (September 2015)
• Collecting Government Revenues (September 2015)
The government had only made “limited” progress with one report: Government Programmes Supporting Those in Need (May 2015). With regard to this report, the AG noted that only limited progress had been made and no change at all had taken place since July 2017.
While the AG was pleased to report that there had been some progress made on the four new PAC reports tabled between March 2017 and 2018, what worried the AG with regard to the reports that she was assessing for a second time was that implementation dates had been rescheduled for the future.
She said: “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.”
As a result, her assessment had stayed the same for two of these reports and improved for two, underscoring the slow progress made (if any). The AG suggested that the government might want to hold hearings with senior civil servants to ask for further updates with the implementation of some recommendations.
Overall, Ms Winspear said that government’s progress with implementing recommendations made by the PAC was “mixed”.
“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.”
The AG did feel that some progress was being made, however:
“It is encouraging that government has committed to providing more timely and appropriate responses to PAC recommendations and has assigned responsibility to the Ministry of Finance for coordinating responses from across government,” Ms Winspear said. “The quality of management responses has improved since last year. However, overall progress with implementing the recommendations remains slow. This means that some important areas of public services remain waiting for recommended improvements to happen.”