MLAs ignore OCC reports

| 07/07/2009

(CNS): The Office of the Complaints Commissioner tabled five reports in the Legislative Assembly last week, including the office’s 2006/07 annual report. However, not one of the reports was debated in the Assembly despite the revelations in them that many government departments have inadequate complaints procedures in place; that government entities have no procedures for disposing of sensitive information; that the immigration department is failing to refund deposit to customers in a reasonable time frame and that the public service pensions board is failing to comply with its statutory obligations.

Since Cayman’s first Complaints Commissioner Dr John Epp laid his first report on the table of the Legislative Assembly in 2005, members of the House have rarely debated the content of any of the office’s special reports or own motion investigations.  The OCC has the power to instigate investigations where appropriate, and while the office has submitted a dozen Own Motion Reports and around eight Special Reports since it opened, Epp said he was disappointed with the response. Epp who steps down from the post next week, handing the reins to Nicola Williams, lamented the lack of attention by members of the LA to the work of his office during his five year tenure as ombudsman. He said recently that while he and his team have won many battles engaging the Legislative Assembly was not one of them.

“The Legislative Assembly has received the reports of investigations completed on my own initiative, which have resulted in some important changes within the relevant departments, but almost no debate has taken place about any of them,” Epp said. “I am disappointed and I encourage members of both sides of the House to debate the issues and points raised in the reports.”

Alongside the 2005/06 annual report the latest batch includes three own motion investigations and one special report detailing the failure of the immigration Department to follow OCC recommendations after a complaint was upheld against it. Based on a complaint filed in September 2007 by an employer who was waiting for the refund of his repatriation deposit of $2000 given to immigration for an expatriate worker who had since left the island of his own accord, the report found the Immigration Department had failed to comply with OCC recommendations made as a result of the complaint.

The OCC had carried out an investigation found in favour of the complainant and asked immigration to refund the money as quickly as possible but also advised the department to introduce a proper process for returning deposits and recommend that the department introduce a thirty day maximum period for the refunds. However, as the department had still not complied with this by the end of 2008, Epp, under powers bestowed on him by the Complaints Commissioner’s Law, undertook the special report which is now before the Assembly.

Two of the three Own Motion Reports highlight a number of significant concerns for all government entities and the third reveals serious shortcomings with the Public Service Pension Board which the OCC said amounted to maladministration. In Own Motion Investigation No #12 Epp found that not only had the board failed to produce timely reports, certaindirectors and trustees had failed to attend regular meetings of the board; there was inadequate training of trustees; administration of the plan was poor and members of the PSPB were spending a large proportion of their time chasing contributions form government entities and they had not revealed the failure of departments to contribute. Epp also found that having the Financial Secretary as Chair of the PSPB was a potential conflict of interest.

All of these reports are now public documents and the people of the Cayman Islands have the right to read for themselves the findings of the OCC and form their own opinions. Constituents also have the right to contact their MLA and enquire why they have opted not to debate the content of these and other past reports.

The OCC team is made up of Susan Duguay, Scott Swing, Barrie Quappe, Bridgette von Gerhardt and Claudine Williams-Simons and the office is located on the 2nd floor, 202 Piccadilly Centre, Georgetown, Grand Cayman, phone number (345) 943 2220. The website is


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  1. tellitasitis says:

    I suspect that when the new experienced Commissioner is appointed that her reports will be taken more seriously. Come on people what cases of malaministration did Epp really investigate? Alot of fluff but really no good work when on for years. But we really can’t blame Epp- he had no experience and should have stuck with teaching law.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The government also appears to be ignoring more than the OCC reports. The UK and France signalled a couple of days ago ahead of the next G8 meeting that they want the OECD to shift the goal posts yet again.

    We agree that the threshold of 12 tax information exchange agreements should be seen as a starting point in the move towards greater tax transparency. If progress stalls we will expect the threshold to rise above 12, bringing those who have not made further progress back into the “grey list”. We will work together through the G20 to ensure that proposals are developed by the time of the next G20 Summit to ensure that developing countries can benefit from the new cooperative tax environment, including through a new multilateral tax information exchange agreement. We also call on the OECD to look at country by country reporting and the benefits of this for tax transparency and reducing tax avoidance.



  3. Anonymous says:

    We need more people like EPP sorting out the MESS that is our government… I don’t care which set of crooks are in office, it ends up running like a circus without the proper checks in place…..

  4. Anonymous says:

    There seems to be a troubling theme within the country whereby laws that are inconvenient are ignored without penalty. At some point politicians will need to learn that the laws apply to everyone.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If anyone has ever read Dr. Epp’s reports you would know he is a sharp man. Without ever have met the man I can say he is most convincingly a diligent man at least on paper. He has made very solid recommendations on a host of issues that get straight to the core of Cayman’s back room-good ol’ boy culture that plagues most ministries and government offices. He tried his best, despite the fact that no one cared and had he been paid attention too, many things would run better in Cayman. And that’s the point, he took complaints and tried to offer solutions. And much of his work was done in the best interest of everyday Caymaians. Isn’t that where the MLA’s priorities are supposed to be too?

    On the face of things after looking at more than a hand full of his conclusions, it looks like the the government just never wanted to admit anything was wrong or if it was it cost too much money to fix. Epp’s recommendations as a body amount to a complete reboot of Cayman political culture. Not a likely event since that’s basically means putting to an end how business in government is done. The Ritz just can’t afford to lose that much business during lunch and dinner. Not in this recession anyways.

  6. Hatty Tudor says:

    The OCC needs more teeth and enforcement powers, especially given the massive democratic deficit in this territory.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with Hatty Tudor. Epp did an excellent job but it is pointless even having an OCC if his/her work is totally ignored.

      I wonder if FOI will turn out the same way.

      • Anonymous says:

        "…it is pointless even having an OCC if his/her work is totally ignored".

        Merely because the MLAs did not debate his report does not mean that the OCC’s work is pointless. It has met with successes simply by investigating these matters.