Chuckie joins war of words

| 11/07/2009

(CNS):  The former tourism minister, Charles Clifford, has hit out at the financial secretary for the way he has presented spending on Cayman Airways by the former minister under the emergency funding provisions of the PMFL. He accused Kenneth Jefferson of deliberately misrepresenting and manipulating the facts, as he says the $3 million spent on CAL was not just for one route, as stated by the FS, but for the acquisition of an aircraft, the launch of the Washington and re-instatement of the Chicago routes, as well as new routes to Honduras and Panama.

In the continuing war of words between members of the previous PPM administration and the current Financial Secretary, Clifford has raised the stakes by accusing Jefferson of, “very obvious and overt political posturing in the Legislative Assembly” which he said was a clear breach of the Civil Service Code of Conduct, rules and regulations.

“What is the Governor proposing to do about the Financial Secretary’s conduct in this matter?” Clifford has asked adding that the country needs to know. He said that the FS is not entitled to practice politics from the Financial Secretary’s desk and is required by law to maintain neutrality and to present fair and accurate financials to the Cabinet, the Finance Committee, the Legislative Assembly and the country.

“Given his obvious propensity for politics and to go beyond his mandate as Financial Secretary, how are we to believe that his recent statements are anything other than political rhetoric from the UDP government designed to discredit the PPM Administration,” Clifford said. 

He stated that through the Financial Secretary’s political posturing he had, “divested himself of any semblance of neutrality”  and as a result any future government opposed to the UDP, be it the PPM or some other group or party, would find it very difficult to work with him.

“It follows that from this point forward this Financial Secretary will feel the need to say and do whatever is necessary to keep this UDP government in office,” Clifford said. “Which of the Financial Secretary’s statements are we to believe? What is the actual financial position of the Cayman Islands Government?  We still don’t know.”

He suggested that given the recent inconsistent statements from the Financial Secretary’s office an independent audit was required. “….it is unacceptable to leave these uncertainties out there and for our Financial Secretary’s conduct to go unchecked. Our current Governor claims to be the caretaker of “good governance” in this country so let us see whether he will sit idly by and do nothing on this issue too.”

Clifford claimed that Jefferson had misrepresented the $3 million expenditure from the exceptional circumstances allocation because he had described it as one “CAL route” where as Clifford said it was for a number of things for Cayman Airways: “Including but not limited to, the acquisition of the 4th Boeing 737-300 aircraft; the launch of the Washington DC route; the re-instatement of the Chicago route; and the launch of the La Ceiba, Honduras and Panama routes,” he said. “The launch of the La Ceiba route was deferred for 4 months due to unreasonable delays by the Honduran Civil Aviation Authority and was inaugurated in early June. At the time of the general elections on 20th May 2009 plans were being finalised for the launch of service to Panama.”

Clifford said the approval of the $3M was against the backdrop of a declining tourism industry worldwide and three hurricanes but notably that Cayman was uniquely placed to meet the challenges with its own national airline.

 He said in consultation with the private sector a decision was made to open two new Cayman Airways gateways in the United States and to begin to invest in the South American markets. Clifford said it was perfectly justifiable spending from the extraordinary provision and was based on sound research and data:  “….During the time that these decisions were taking place the world had just entered an economic crisis and governments around the world had to make decisions which required emergency funding to mitigate the impact of the crisis,” Cifford said. “The Cayman Islands was no exception and it is against this background that the PPM government used section 11(5) of the PMFL to approve the $3M for Cayman Airways which was subject to the subsequent approval of Finance Committee when the committee next met.”

See full statement here

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