Archive for December 22nd, 2009

No sign of public accounts

| 22/12/2009 | 24 Comments

(CNS): Although the chair of the Public Accounts Committee had said he had wanted to see the government financial statements up to date by April 2010 that target date could be literally years off. Ezzard Miller, the independent MLA for North Side, says it is totally unacceptable that with more than six new auditors helping the CFOs even the 2005/06 set of accounts is not ready for his committee. He said government’s annual accounts, the report on how public money has been earned and spent, needed to be completed in order to better inform future budgets and above all the people.

Other sources have told CNS that it could be as much as three years before all of the government accounts are caught up. Miller said he had been pressing the point with the financial secretary and others but he said it seems that no one else wants to make the commitment to getting what are essentially important accounts up to date and allow the people to see in black and white where the money has gone.

“It’s not even been suggested to me that the 2005/06 are ready for the PAC,” Miller said. “Given that, the idea of having the other three (06/07, 07/08 and 08/09) ready by April is very unlikely. There is nothing I can do to force the issue except point out that this is an unacceptable situation. People have a right to know that those who are responsible for this and who are not doing it are breaking the law.”

Miller noted that given how much CFOs are being paid and the extra help they now have, if there was a commitment to getting it done he believed in could be done. He also expressed his disappointment that the governor, Stuart Jack had not made a single comment about the situation before he left. “You would have thought given his so called commitment to good governance that he might have asked for an update on this situation before he left,” he added.

The reason for the continued delay Miller suggested was that the amendments needed to the Public Management and Finance Law (PMFL) to allow the CFOs to set the quarterly reports and the draft output reports aside until the main accounts were up to date have not come before the Legislative Assembly. As a result he said that the CFOS were still trying to catch up on those detracting the focus from the bigger financial picture.

Although the government says it still knows how much money is being spent on what and how much revenue has been earned the people of the Cayman Islands have not seen an accurate account of how public money has been generated and expended for five years — since the PMFL was introduced.

The issue was first brought to light by the auditor general, Dan Duguay in his report The State of Financial Accountability Reporting, published in April 2008. Duguay pointed out the massive delays by some government departments and agencies. He wrote in the report that government had "lost control of the public purse" and the situation had to be dealt with immediately.

However, more than 18 months after the AG’s report was released government appears to be no closer to completeing the 2005/06 set of accounts than it was when Duguay first revealed the issue to the wider public.

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Traffic cops issue hundreds of tickets in clamp down

| 22/12/2009 | 49 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news(CNS): Despite warning the driving public that the traffic police would be out in force in the weeks leading up to the Christmas period, Inspector Adrian Barnett, head of the RCIPS Traffic Department, said his officers have still issued literally hundreds of tickets in the last six weeks. Sixty-six people are to appear in court for a total of 79 offences, ranging from driving under the influence to driving without insurance, as a result of the clamp down. However, Barnett said he was disappointed that hundreds of other drivers are committing offences.

Since the start of the campaign, 16 drivers have been charged with DUI, 551 have been detected speeding, 139 have been found not to be wearing seat belts, and  253 tickets have been issued, he said.

“It is almost inconceivable that so many people have chosen to ignore the warnings about the dangers of driving at speed, without seat belts and while under the influence,” Inspector Barnett said. “We said at the start of this campaign that we would be redoubling our efforts and that we would be coming after those who not only flout the law but put themselves and other road users at risk by their irresponsible actions. If you get behind the wheel of car after you’ve been drinking you are putting your own life at risk as well as the lives of innocent road users and pedestrians.”

Police will continue to be out in force during the holidays carrying out road blocks and stop checks on vehicles, as well as actively gathering intelligence about people who are drinking and then driving.

“Don’t forget, alcohol stays in your system for some considerable time – and it’s possible that you may still be over the limit the next day. That’s why we will also be targeting early morning drivers who might still be over the limit,” Inspector Barnett  warned.

Anyone who has information about people committing road traffic offences or drinking and driving should contact their local police office.

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Tax haven reviewer to reveal all at watchdog event

| 22/12/2009 | 96 Comments

(CNS): Well known to many in the Cayman Islands, Michael Foot, the author of the UK’s report on the state of its OT’s finances will be lifting the lid on his findings when he attends the OffshoreAlert conference in Miami next year. Only one of the interesting line-up  of ‘headline acts’ Foot, will join among others, best selling crime author Jeffrey Robinson and Allen Stanford’s former financial adviser  Charles Rawl. Organisers of the conference said that 2010 promised as ever to look at the good and the bad in the financial industry.

Former financial adviser for Allen Stanford’s $8 billion offshore banking group, Charles Rawl blew the whistle to US authorities, leading to the collapse of one of the biggest-ever offshore frauds. Jeffrey Robinson the best-selling author of books like ‘The Laundrymen’ and an expert on organized crime, fraud and money laundering will reveal his insight into the offshore world and Foot the man who conducted the UK’s review for Britain’s potential liabilities where its overseas territories were concerned promises to give a close up on his findings.

Returning speakers also include Martin Kenney and Ed Davis, who are two of the world’s foremost authorities on asset recovery – one of the few sectors of the global economy that is currently booming, and Bob Roach, who is Counsel & Chief Investigator to US Senator Carl Levin’s investigations committee.

The conference takes place 2-4 May at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach and David Marchant the publisher of offshore alert described it as the most credible event about Offshore Financial Centres because of the diversity and the quality of speakers and topics as well as its independence.

“Every other offshore-specific conference I know of comprises people in the industry getting up and telling each other how wonderful they are. What use is that to anyone? The OffshoreAlert Conference deals in reality, not fantasy. We look at the good and the bad,” Marchant stated.

 “Where else can you attend an event where, as in 2009,  you could have mingled with the person in charge of the IRS’ offshore programs and the UBS investigation, the head of tax at the OECD, US Senator Carl Levin’s chief investigator, attorneys who represent the best-known tax dodgers and professionals who set up and administer complex offshore financial structures? We had 275 registrants from 29 countries and the conference was covered by 19 reporters from seven countries, including reporters from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg, and Reuters, to name but a few.”

He said it was exactly the sort of independent event that offshore leaders needto participate in as part of their general effort to improve the image of OFCs to the wider world and meet those who oppose them. Marchant said there fore he was disappointed that for the second consecutive year, the chair of Cayman Finance, Anthony Travers turned down a speaking invitation to the event.

Marchant said that Travers had been given 11 months notice of the 2010 conference. “Why someone whose mandate to spread Cayman’s message across to the international community would turn down a speaking engagement at the leading offshore conference is a mystery to me. He really ought to get out of his comfort zone,” he said.

“When OffshoreAlert first burst onto the scene in 1997, Cayman’s establishment regarded the newsletter as ‘Public Enemy Number One’, apparently for no other reason than it was exposing financial crime. That was a truly pitiful situation that reflected very poorly on Cayman. However, the jurisdiction has matured significantly since then and OffshoreAlert is now widely respected on the island.”

 

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Real estate broker offers promise of brighter times

| 22/12/2009 | 5 Comments

Cayman Islands news, Cayman Islands business news, Grand Cayman real estate(CNS) Despite what he described as a tumultuous period, Kim Lund, one of Cayman’s most experience real estate brokers, says that things in his industry are looking a little more promising for the property market in 2010. “While we have endured a roller coaster ride of one shock after another, this decade, as we enter 2010, we are seeing signs of strong real estate activity and there is a renewed hope of better times ahead,” Lund said in his recent market report.

Never keen to admit the true extent of problems in their industry, Lund admitted in his latest review that the last 18 months of this decade will go into the record books as one of the most tumultuous times, ever.  “It is a fitting end to a difficult decade, which has challenged most of us in the Cayman Islands, starting from the year 2000,” he said. However, not surprisingly he was quick to predict a sunnier 2010 with a number of major development projects purportedly set to start next year this offered the promise of better things to come.

Lund said that WaterColours on the site of the old Beach Club on Seven Mile Beach is now under construction and that the long awaited Island Resort and Residences in Colliers (east side of Grand Cayman) will name their 5-star international hotel brand in the New Year and begin construction. Lund also welcomed the news regarding the US$150 million George Town cruise ship port and the promise of medical tourism with Dr Shetty’s 2,000 bed hospital and ancillary buildings by late 2010.

Camana Bay, he said, was considering expanding its town centre of 650,000 square feet of leased space by building across from it, while also moving forward with development of the residential component of residences, estate lots, and parks. The Ritz-Carlton is also constructing approximately 120 condominiums in Secret Harbour, working on their golf course and starting development of their 100 plus acre Dragon Bay site.

“From a real estate standpoint, there is now proof that real estate activity is beginning to rise up from the doldrums,” Lund said. “This is especially true for our resort markets of Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Kai, and the East End to Colliers areas.  These markets have finally bottomed out and arenow generating increased sales and showing improved demand.”

The real estate broker noted that during the first 6 months of 2009, there were a total of only 21 condominiums sold on Seven Mile Beach but in the second half of 2009, there were 33 Seven Mile Beach condominium sales – the equivalent of 83% more sales — compared to just 18 in 2008 and 25 in 2007.  “Our overseas purchasers have started coming back and the results indicate strong resort market sales from the summer of 2009 up to now and said December was shaping up to be one of our best months for real estate sales, in years.

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Young philanthropist gives birthday money to charity

| 22/12/2009 | 10 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Cayman local news, Humane Society(CNS): Jayda Simmonds told family and friends she didn’t want birthday presents this year. Instead, for her 8th birthday party in early December, she asked for donations for the Cayman Islands Humane Society. She collected $272 and presented it to the organization’s vice president, Pamela Hart (left with Jayda). “I asked my mom about the different charities on the island and we went on the internet and found the Cayman Islands Humane Society. This is the perfect charity because I do not like animal cruelty and I thought it would be really nice to be able to help the animals at Christmas,” said Jayda in her letter that accompanied her contribution.

“I had a really fun birthday and collected lots of money. I hope that you will be able to spend the money to take care of all of the animals who need homes this year and I pray that they all find good homes in the near future.”

Jayda, a second grader at Grace Christian Academy in West Bay, learned when she presented her donation that it qualified for the society’s ‘Sponsor a Cage’ program. Now one of the pet cages will be named for her.

“I hope other children will follow Jayda’s example,” says Hart. “In addition to monetary contributions wegratefully accept cat and dog food, toys, leashes and other needed items.”

The mission of the Cayman Islands Humane Society is to provide shelter, care and attention to all unwanted companion animals and seek out responsible and loving homes for them. It relies entirely on memberships, donations and fundraisers organized by volunteers. It is located at 153 North Sound Road, phone 949-1461 or visit online at www.caymanhumanesociety.com 

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North retains Challenge Cup

| 22/12/2009 | 0 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Cayman Islands Sports, Rugby(CNS): A truly bitter battle between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere rugby nations ended with a close 1 point win to the North and an overall draw in the Challenge Cup series, meaning that the North retains the Challenge Cup for 2010. The much fancied South team arrived at the game unchanged, having beaten their Northern counterparts by a convincing 10 points the previous Saturday, whilst the North chose to field a new younger team. With many young Caymanian players returning home for the holidays, there would be a boost of speed to contain the Southern back line which had time and time again plagued the North in the second test.

According to a release from the Cayman Rugby Football Union (CRFU), the North had the chance to open the scoring early on, but a missed penalty kick was shortly followed by South African fly half Josh Brown, who ran in under the posts virtually unscathed. Brown followed up his try and conversion only moments later with a 30 yard penalty kick to extend the lead to 10-0 to the South.

The North, who were slowly getting into their stride, were able to chip away at the South’s lead by kicking for points when given the opportunity, and by half time the South were clinging to a 1 point lead, having been unable to find the try line again after the opening exchanges.

Cayman Islands News, Cayman Sports, RugbyThe first half gave hints of where the game was heading, having seen 2 penalties for high tackles and 1 for a dangerous tackle, when Fijian Venassio Tokotokovanua escaped the sin bin for not using his arms when putting in a fierce tackle on his opposite number, Bryan Little of Canada.

The second half was marred with more penalties from the South and resulted in the eventual sending off for South African blind side flanker, Shaun Gerrard, for what was to be the last of 4 high tackles in the game. But regardless of the infringements around the pitch, the North kept plugging away and fighting for the lead in the game. The lead finally changed hands when Scotty Forrest, the north scrum half, who had come close to the line on numerous occasions in the game, finally broke free to score under the posts for a converted try to take the score line to 16-10.

Not to be outdone, the South responded with Vanassio Tokotokovanua finding a gap in the North defence to take the South to within 1 point but the missed conversion was to prove to be the South’s undoing, as the clock ticked down and tempers flared into scuffles forcing the referee to call time on the game with only 60 seconds remaining on the clock. The North, happy with the result, were only let down in terms of points on the board with 2 missed penalty kicks a missed drop goal and a disallowed try, which would have put the game well out of reach for the South.

The rugby continues at the South Sound Rugby pitch on Boxing Day with the annualPresidents vs. Captains select sides kicking off at 3pm. The Boxing Day game is an annual event which should prove to be a much more social game than the bitterly contested Challenge Cup.

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CAL expands reservations and ticket office hours

| 22/12/2009 | 5 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Cayman Business News, Cayman AirwaysCNS): Cayman Airways has extended the business hours for its Reservations Call Center and Ticket Office in George Town as part of its commitment to expanding and improving service to customers. Effective immediately, the Call Center for Cayman Airways Reservations is open from 7am-9pm daily, and the new hours for the Ticket Office on Owen Roberts Drive will be 8am-6pm Monday through Friday, and 8:30am to 4:30pm on Saturdays.

Eliminating the varied hours for weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays, customers can now reach a Cayman Airways reservations agent via telephone from 7am to 9pm every day of the week, according to a release from CAL. Additionally, the new Reservations Call Center hours adds an extra hour in the mornings and 3-4 hours in the evenings for customers to book flights or make changes to their existing reservations.

Similarly, the new ticket office hours gives customers an additional half hour in the morningsand an extra hour in the evenings on weekdays for walk-in ticket service. On Saturdays customers can now see ticket agents 30 minutes earlier in the mornings and 30 minutes later in the evenings. The ticket office will still be closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Cayman Airways Acting CEO Fabian Whorms said, “Cayman Airways is currently focused on improving all aspects of service delivery, and we are so very excited about these expanded hours of service which provide our customers more time and flexibility to make their travel arrangements.”

For more information or to book your next Cayman Airways flight, call Cayman Airways Reservations on 949-2311, visit www.caymanairways.com, or contact your travel agent.

The Grand Cayman and Sister Islands cargo operations will be open until 12pm on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve to coincide with the Customs Warehouse hours, and will be closed from 25 to 28 December. The Grand Cayman ticket office is closed on all public holidays.

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Gang trouble in North Side

| 22/12/2009 | 50 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Headline News(CNS): The usual peace and tranquillity of the district of North Side has been disturbed over the last few weeks as a result of gang rivalries between groups living in the Hutland area and those living in Old Man Bay. The disputes between the two sides have been spilling over into the wider community, and on Sunday what appeared to have been a car chase between the gangs resulted in one vehicle overturning near to North Side Primary School after another car was reportedly vandalized outside a local bar.

Ezzard Miller, the district’s independent MLA, told CNS that he has contacted the RCIPS area commander for the eastern districts and asked him to get to the bottom of the issues, which are disrupting the normally peaceful community. Miller said he was unsure of the reasons which had caused what he called the “rattling of sabres" between young men from the two areas of his district, but he said he hoped the police would sort out whatever it was and ensure those up to no good were dealt with and allow the good people of North Side to return to their tranquil lifestyle.

Police have confirmed that a car overturned near North Side Primary on Sunday afternoon (20 December) but said no arrests were made. Two men were hospitalised with head injuries after the Toyota flipped over around 1 pm, but police said they knew nothing of any car chases, contrary to local reports.

In another accident early Sunday evening (20 December), a woman was hit by a car while she was crossing West Bay Road. Police say she was struck by an oncoming vehicle outside Decker’s restaurant just after 6 pm and suffered injuries to her arm.

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