Archive for November 5th, 2009

Mac accuses AG of conspiracy

| 05/11/2009 | 90 Comments

(CNS): The leader of government business has accused the auditor general of being involved in a conspiracy to undermine the economic prosperity of the Cayman Islands because of his announced intentions to undertake an audit of the port tendering process once a contract has been signed. Although McKeeva Bush did not name those he believed Dan Duguay was conspiring with or being pushed by, he made it clear he believed it was a UK connection. He denied that the process was not transparent and described the AG as running amok.

Speaking to the media on Thursday morning as he announced that government had entered into a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with DECCO (Dart Enterprises constructionCompany), Bush launched an attack on the auditor general as a result of the declarations in the media that his office would be conducting an audit into the tendering process because of fears that the Central Tenders Committee had been bypassed.

Despite the fact that the select committee comprised four politicians and that the CTC had not been involved, Bush said the proper process had been followed. He pointed to the fact that it was a private finance initiative where government would not spend any money and, therefore, there was no need to go through the Central Tenders Committee, which he said would take too long.

However, Bush said that Duguay’s claims that he should do that were driven by a different agenda and that the AG did not care about the economic welfare of the Cayman Islands. “The auditor general is a key figure in any administration but this AG thinks he is not accountable to anyone and runs amok.”

He criticised his last report on the Royal Watler cruise terminal and said he didn’t understand these projects but had “created an awful stink” and “thinks he can ruin people’s lives”. Bush said he believed that Duguay was in “an effort with somebody else to pour cold water on development”.

Insisting that his government was going through the proper processes, he said the AG was hell bent on stopping the Cayman government from getting revenue into the country to make it non-compliant with the Public Management and Finance Law and therefore dependent on the UK on how finances were managed. Bush insisted the conspiracy was a fact and not an assumption. “They want us back where the FCO will tell me ‘no’ and put the crunch on us,” Bush added.

There was no need for the AG to be involved, Bush stated, as government was not spending anything or giving up anything. He said that, just like the previous administration, he was signing an MOU, but Bush accused the auditor general of seeing the projects differently.

Up until Monday, however, government representatives and the LoGB had referred to the forthcoming announcement as a contract. It was also made clear during today’s briefing that government intended to sign a contract as quickly as possible and that the details would not go to CTC. Moreover, DECCO itself released a statement on Thursday afternoon indicating that it believed it had been given the work.

“DECCO Ltd. is pleased have been selected as a partner by the government to develop the port project,” it stated, adding that it had assembled a team, led by Cameron Graham, of experienced professionals from here and abroad to do the project. It is understood that the MOU has been signed as a pre-runner to the actual contract signing to indicate to the cruise lines the CIG’s intended commitment to berthing facilities.

Bush also said he believed that DECCO was the right choice as it was heavily invested in the Island. The Dart Group has invested substantially in Camana Bay, as well as owning a considerable amount of property in downtown George Town.

“Nobody is going to push us down,” Bush said indicating he would take legal action against the governor, the UK and the AG if they cost the country money by conspiring to hold up the project. “This project has been negotiated at no cost to government. We are not talking about the reallocation of revenue streams, we are not taking from existing taxes. The cruise lines will pay for the facility with fees as they pay for tendering,” he said, adding that the feesthat would go to DECCO would be over and above the regular passenger taxes now collected, which the Port Authority depends on for its revenue.

Rolston Anglin, the Minister for Education, also took aim at the AG and accused him of acting recklessly by not coming to talk to government first. “This is a reckless use of his office,” he said. Under the PMFL, regulations relating to PFIs and the CTC was “a grey area”, Anglin said, which applied to this project, in which the Port Authority would be allowing one party to build a facility on its site and then allow a third party to pay for the use of the facility. “What he should have done is come to the people involved and find out the answers,” Anglin added. He thinks he has an unfettered right and the authority to do what he wants.”

Justifications regarding the short window of opportunity to get the cruise lines on board, the development of Cuba, the decline in cruise tourism revenue, the arrival of the mega ships and a perceived need to begin the project as soon possible were also offered as justification for choosing this route of selection with a selection committee rather than through CTC.  Bush confirmed, however, that the selection subcommittee had been instructed to meet with the auditor general to notify him on the processes and the steps that would be taken.

Dismissing the accusations of conspiracy, Duguay confirmed on Thursday that he would only conduct his audit once a contract was signed, but as he gathered information now, if he saw the process was transparent and clear value for money, it may not be necessary to conduct it at all. He pointed out again that by collecting information he was doing the job he was supposed to do, which was to monitor the financial arrangements of major government projects as set out in the law.

He also noted that the idea of tendering with a sole contractor was not unprecedented and that all that was required was for government to explain why DECCO would be the best choice and show value for money. As a result, the CTC process could be very short, he observed.

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