Archive for March 29th, 2011

PSPB makes no disclosure

| 29/03/2011 | 8 Comments

(CNS): With only ten days to go before the disclosure deadline on a freedom of Information request made by CNS, the Public Service Pension Board has still not supplied the documents relating to which current and former MLAs are claiming their pensions. The Information Commissioner’s Office has also confirmed that the board has made no indication that it intends to apply for a judicial review of the information commissioner’s decision. The 45 day deadline which is given to a public authority (PA) after the commissioner rules that an FOI request must be met is not designed to allow a PA to drag its feet over releasing the information but to give the government entity an opportunity to request the courts intervene. The PSPB now has until Friday 8 April to reveal the information or ask for the JR.

If the board does not hand over the documents before that date or ask the courts to review Jennifer Dilbert’s decision the ICO will themselves then apply to the courts to force the handover by the PA. If this happens it will be the first case of a government entity being forced by the courts to comply with an IC ruling under the freedom of information law.

So far only one government entity that was forced to release documents regarding an FOI request that had been refused has filed for a judicial review of the Information Commissioner’s decision. The Department of Agriculture attempted to deny access to a document regarding the husbandry of dolphins kept in captivity. However, before the case reached the courts the department reconsider its decision and released the documents to the applicant.

The DoA disclosed its intention to apply for a judicial review in the immediate aftermath of the ICO’s decision, but the office confirmed today that there has been no indication from the PSPB that it intends to go that route, though it is still within the authority’s rights to make that challengewithin the next nine days.

The request, which was originally made by CNS in June 2010, asked for a list of current and former MLAs who were receiving a pension as a result of their time in the Legislative Assembly and the length of time they had served, but the PSPB refused the request stating that it was personal information and exempt under the law. When it was revealed that an internal review could not be conducted because of the involvement of a chief officer, CNS requested a hearing. On the 22nd of February, Dilbert revealed her decision and ruled that the board should release the information.

However, the board has so far continued to sit on the information. Two serving members of the Legislative Assembly have already revealed that they are claiming their pensions but there are other members who are entitled under the law that are currently sitting as MLAs. One is Ezzard Miller, who said he was not taking his when he raised the issue in the Legislative Assembly last year and referred to the practice of MLAs drawing pensions while serving as "double dipping", which he said may not be illegal but was morally wrong.

While he said he did not know which members who were over 55 had made the decision to take their pension, he said he was aware some members were. “Although I may be entitled, I have no intentions of claiming my pension until I leave this House for good,” Miller told CNS. “I believe it is immoral and unethical and I will be bringing a private member’s motion to the House to change the law to prevent it happening in future.”

MLAs were first given access to their pensions while remaining in office in 2004, when a change to the law provided for MLAs to claim their pensions once they had served a single term and passed the age of 55, even if they continued to serve in the Legislative Assembly. In the past legislators had died while still in office and were never able to claim the pensions which they had earned through their years of service.

Unlike the civil service, there is no official retirement age for politicians, who can stand for election at any age, and since MLAs cannot be certain they will returned to the Assembly from parliament to parliament, the law was changed to give them access to their pensions before they retired in case they never did.

While Kurt Tibbetts and Anthony Eden have admitted drawing their entitlements, it is not yet known if the other two eligible MLAs, West Bay government backbencher Captain Eugene Ebanks and Premier McKeeva Bush, have opted to take their pensions as well. However, once the PSBP release the information as requested under the FOI and as decided by the commissioner, it will be.

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Rotarians sponsor character building read

| 29/03/2011 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The Rotary Sunrise Club of Grand Cayman has teamed up with local writer and artist, Nasaria Suckoo-Chollette, to create a book designed to help youngsters build character and to encourage literacy. All the Joy in the World which is a character development book, the service club said, is designed for children up to 12 years of age and depicts a young girl’s efforts to deal with tragedy by following the Rotarian 4-Way Test. This helps the young heroine work through the true meaning of joy by assessing each step of the test: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? The book was funded and published by the Rotary Sunrise Club of Grand Cayman to promote literacy as well as Rotarian values to children.

To add a Caribbean flair, Suckoo-Chollette was chosen to write and illustrate the story and she has added "how-to" activities, such as building a simple kite and making a yo-yo pattern quilt.

Maree Martin, Rotary Sunrise Director of Literacy, said the creation of the book forms part of the club’s ongoing commitment to promoting childhood literacy in Cayman.

Rotary Sunrise President Michael Levitt explained that the service club vision for the book was to plant the seeds of service to others, which if nurtured would create a future that we would all be proud of.

On Saturday, 9 April, Suckoo-Chollette will read from the book and sign autographs at Books & Books in Camana Bay at 10:30am. Parents are encouraged to bring their youngsters to meet and hear the author.

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Report says UK is subverting global financial reform

| 29/03/2011 | 6 Comments

(CNS): A new report published today argues that the UK is subverting progress towards a safer financial system, and has become a major barrier to international efforts for reform. Subverting Safer Finance by the new economics foundation reveals that compared with other major financial centres, including even the US, the UK is part of the problem in key areas of financial reform, rather than leading the search for solutions. The think-tank’s report says that in areas including potentially damaging speculation in food, energy and minerals, the Alternative Investment Market, ‘naked short-selling’ and the operations of British tax havens, the UK is holding back urgently needed regulation.

NEF head of finance Tony Greenham said the UK can’t blame other nations for standing in the way of reform when the reverse is more likely to be the case. “…the UK itself is a ‘haven’ that threatens the stability of the global economy,” he said as he called for the UK to live up to its image as a pre-eminent global financial centre and demonstrate strong international leadership on better regulation instead of pandering to vested financial interests.

The report reveals that the UK is actively choosing not to tackle tax havens. “While the UK claims it cannot influence tax havens, many are UK Crown Dependencies or Overseas Territories,” the report says where a past history of intervention suggests otherwise along with reserve powers enshrined in the constitutions of the overseas territories that can affect and block legislation.
“If the government wants a safe and stable financial system it should stop the UK dragging down international efforts toward financial reform. If it doesn’t we are in danger of being seen by our neighbours as a financial rogue state, subverting safer finance,” said Andrew Simms, nef fellow and a co-author of the report.

In order for the UK to demonstrate that it wants to deliver a safer financial system, nef calls for a range of minimum necessary actions to be implemented immediately which include eliminating tax havens that are under UK control, and work with the US, the EU and other international authorities to co-ordinate regulation of global tax evasion and avoidance.

See report here

 

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Mac inducts six dive pioneers for 2011 hall of fame

| 29/03/2011 | 4 Comments

(CNS): Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush and the Board of Directors of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame have announced six dive industry pioneers as the inductees for the 2011 Hall of Fame. Andre Laban (France), Bev Morgan (USA), Alan Power (Vanuatu), Clement Lee (Borneo) and Howard and Michele Hall (USA) will join the growing line-up of feted industry members who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since it started in 2000. The board has also cited three of the dive industry’s early pioneers for induction. They are John Scott Haldane (Scotland), who developed staged decompression tables; Louis de Corlieu (France), who iscredited with inventing the swim fin; and Hugh Bradner (USA), who developed the wet suit.

Dive industry fans from all over the world are invited to join the inductees at a gala Dinner and Induction Ceremony, which will take place in Grand Cayman on 8 November.

"This latest slate of inductees are men and women who are pioneers, innovators, inventors and household names in the international scuba diving industry, as much as their counterparts in previous years have been,” Bush said. "The ISDHF Board is pleased to recognise them as the best in their field and to place their names alongside the other outstanding individuals who have been named to the Hall of Fame over the past 10 years."

Founded in 2000 by the Cayman Islands Ministry of Tourism, the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame recognises international and local Cayman pioneers who have made outstanding contributions to the recreational scuba diving industry, in a yearly ceremony held in the Grand Cayman.

André Laban, a world-renowned French diver, photographer, author and painter was a pioneering member of Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s Calypso team, serving as chief engineer and diver. He developed early underwater cameras that were used in shooting ‘The Silent World’, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary in 1956. He shot several films in the Cousteau Odyssey series and co-directed three. His distinctive bald head can be seen in several Cousteau films.

From 1956-1966, he was Director of the French Office Underwater Search. From 1966, he began to paint his underwater images, which are internationally acclaimed and collected worldwide. In 1996 he won the Palme d’Or at the World Festival Underwater Images in Antibes for his film, ‘Iris and Oniris’. A collection of the photographs he produced from 1973 to 1983 has been published as ‘One Bald Man,’ released in 2007.

Bev Morgan’s ideas and inventions have had a huge impact on commercial and sport diving for nearly half a century. He began free diving and surfing in 1949, a year after leaving high school and became a Los Angeles County lifeguard in1952. That year, he purchased an early Aqua Lung scuba unit and founded the Los Angeles County Instructors programme, which was the first scuba instructor’s programme available to the public. He wrote the first instruction manual, which was based on the Scripps Institute programme and also authored ‘Underwater Safety’, a standard diving book of the 1950s.

Bev also began manufacturing wetsuits and developed what would become the Body Glove. As an early diving writer and photographer, his work appeared in Skin Diver magazine. He also dove commercially for abalone and in the oilfields. In 1966, in association with Bob Kirby, a former Navy diver, he began The Kirby Morgan Corporation, a company that would change the face of commercial diving forever with its development of lightweight, comfortable, professional diving gear. It also produced the diving equipment for the movie, ‘Sphere’.

Today, the company is the world standard for surface supplied diving helmets and its products are employed in every ocean in the world. Kirby Morgan is a name that has become synonymous with outstanding diving equipment and remains the company through which Bev Morgan continues to serve the diving industry.

Alan Power’s inclusion in the 2011 International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame recognises his over 40 years spent diving the wreck of the President Coolidge and making it into one of the best known and safest dive sites around theoceans of Vanuatu. Over 40 years ago, he visited Espiritu Santo Island, Vanuatu on a salvage expedition and remained to become ‘caretaker’ of the President Coolidge, a 200 m long luxury passenger liner that sank in 1942 after hitting a mine as it was about to enter the Segond Canal.

The President Coolidge has been declared a Marine Reserve and is renowned throughout the world as one of the most accessible wrecks thatdivers can explore. Alan Power has done over 15,000 dives on the wreck and has taken over 20,000 divers to visit the Lady Godiva panel alone, a decorative part of the wreck’s salon décor.

Clement Lee is recognised as a leader in the development of diving in Southeast Asia. With extensive diving experience in Sabah (Malaysia) waters, Clement Lee became a dive master in 1985 and later that same year, a PADI Instructor. In August 1991 he became the first PADI Course Director in Malaysia.
As Managing Director and a founding partner of Borneo Divers and Sea Sports, in 1989 he was among the first to build a dive resort on the famous Sipadan Island.

He has received numerous awards for his achievements and contributions to the diving industry. These include the PIRA Excellence in Dive Resort Operations Award, for Significant Leadership and Innovation in the Dive Resort Community (1994); PADI Outstanding Achievement Award, for 12 Years of Excellence in Dive Retailing & Dive Travel (1996), the DEMA Reaching Out Award (2008) and a Malaysia Tourism Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Tourism Industry (2000).

Underwater filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall are hailed for their marine cinematography contribution to over 100 films. Howard has received six cinematography Emmy awards for films produced for television and Michele has received one Emmy. They have authored several books about diving, underwater photography, and marine wildlife. Howard has authored and illustrated three children’s books — ‘The Kelp Forest’, ‘Sharks’ and ‘A Charm of Dolphins’. Michele has authored two – ‘The Shark Project’ and ‘All About Sharks’. She has also published several books of photographs of marine life and directed numerous films for PBS and National Geographic.

The couple has also created two critically acclaimed IMAX Productions – ‘Into the Deep’ (3D) and ‘Islands of the Sharks’. They also appear in a third one, ‘Coral Reef Adventure’, which was directed by Howard, with Michele as the location manager. Released in 2003, the film continues to be played in IMAX theatres around the world.

For more information on the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame visit http://www.scubahalloffame.com
 

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Sports boss makes changes to school meet

| 29/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Some 300 athletes from ten local high schools will be facing off on the track and in the field this year at the Interscholastic Track and Field Meet. The meet takes place in two weeks time and Cayman’s future athletic stars are currently preparing to be the fastest and strongest in their specific events and the anticipated fierce competition. Director of Sports Collin Anglin has revealed that there are a few changes this year, including the fact that the event takes place after the schools own in-house meets, allowing them to select the athletes currently at the top of their game to represent them in the national contest, which will go across two days for the first time.

“We took onboard some of the feedback received from athletes and coaches and decided to make a few modifications,” said Anglin. “The biggest improvement, I believe, is the fact that this year the meet will be held over two days instead of just one. By allocating sufficient time for all, we hope that this adjustment will result in a less rushed and more focused event,” he explained.

In addition to creating a better event for the athletes, organisers are also aiming to energise officials and supporters.

“This year we have made a concerted effort to recruit student volunteers to help administer the competition. They will work alongside qualified track and field officials, gaining valuable experience. Supporters are also expected to turn out in larger numbers, creating what we hope will be an electrifying atmosphere,” Anglin said.

Sports Minister Mark Scotland said participation in such an event was invaluable for the young athletes.
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“There is no doubt in my mind that it is an important ingredient in a child’s educational experience. As such I encourage all students, whether athletes or supporters, to attend both days of competition. I also want to encourage parents and the wider community to come out and support the athletes,” he said.

Students from John Gray, Clifton Hunter, Triple C, St Ignatius, Cayman Prep, Cayman Brac, Grace Christian Academy, Cayman Academy, Cayman International School and Wesleyan Christian Academy will participate in the meet which is set for Thursday, 7 and Friday, 8 April.

For more information and a full event schedule go to www.intersecondarytrackmeet.ws 

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Master’s scholarship on offer for brightest postgrads

| 29/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Government officials have opened the application process for prestigious Chevening Scholarship Award, which gives the brightest Caymanian students interested in postgraduate study the chance to go to one of Britains’s leading universities. Candidates have until Friday 15 April to apply for the funding offered through the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Awards are normally for one-year masters programmes, but may also be considered for other courses of a minimum three months duration at any participating school. As the programme is intended for future leaders and decision-makers, successful applicants must demonstrate this level of potential and officials said there is strong competition for the limited number of scholarships on offer.

Over the past fifteen years, some 25 Caymanians have received Chevening scholarships, some of whom have returned to the Cayman Islands to take up employment in a number of Government Departments and elsewhere. The Chevening programme is administered locally by the Governor’s Office and the Education Council.

Further information on the Chevening scholarship programme can be found at www.Chevening.com. Further information is also available on the Governor’s Office website (www.ukincayman.fco.gov.uk).

Completed applications must be submitted by the Friday 15th April 2011 deadline. Please contact Melenie Mylrea at the Governor’s Office (+1 345 244 2431 or Melenie.Mylrea@fco.gov.uk) if you have any questions and for application forms.

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CITA plans marketing summit to help boost tourism

| 29/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The private sector tourism body, which includes around 200 businesses in the industry, will be holding its first ever marketing summit in May in order to find ways to help improve the sector’s economic fortunes. The Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) said it plays an integral role in coordinating international promotions that are advertised through the Department of Tourism, and with the help of a new marketing committee it hopes to provide more ideas and feedback from the industry. The summit was one of the ideas to come from the new committee’s first meeting, along with its aim to plan international promotions and provide more marketing recommendations.

The new committee is co-chaired by Tom McCallum and Melissa Ladley, both of whom have long-standing marketing experience and CITA involvement, the organisation said in a release this week.

The committee plans to hold meetings with the CITA membership to share ideas and information and invite input and feedback from those in the business. The next CITA General Marketing Meeting will be held in conjunction with their first Annual Marketing Summit, which has been scheduled for 2-4 May at Camana Bay. The summit will include a panel discussion with the general membership and a series of workshops and breakout meetings over the three days, CITA stated.

In the goal to find compelling promotions that are in line with the Cayman brand, the committee said it is working on an eight month lead time to plan promotions to ensure that adequate time is allocated for stakeholder involvement.

“Through research and consultation this committee will provide a series of formal recommendations with regards to the general marketing and promotions strategies and execution for the Cayman Islands,” CITA revealed in the statement. These proposals will be submitted to the DoT and the Ministerial Council for Tourism and Development.

Members of the marketing committee include
Harry Lalli, Brickhouse/Treasure Island– CITA President
Trina Savage Christian – CITA Executive Director
Tom McCallum, TheReef – CITA Condo/Villa Director
Melissa Ladley, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
Markus Mueri , Abacus/Deckers/Prime – CITA Restaurant Director Nominee
Nadia Hardie, Sunshine Suites – CITA Hotel Director
Nancy Easterbrook, DiveTech – CITA Director
Steve Broadbelt, Ocean Frontiers – CITA Immediate Past President
Danielle Wolfe – Caribbean Club

The next General Meeting is CITA’s AGM (Annual General Meeting) on 14 April at the Marriott Beach Resort from 3:30pm to 5:30pm where the 2011/12 CITA Board of Directors will be elected into office. For more information about CITA contact info@cita.ky or 345-949-8522.

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Sub-pilot reveals secrets of Cayman Trench

| 29/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Local author and sub-diver Gary Montemayor will be holding a presentation and book signing at Books & Books this Friday launching of his debut book Down the Cayman Wall. As a Deep Sub Pilot, Montemayor has explored the perilous depths of the world’s oceans in search of new species and precocious phenomena. Down the Cayman Wall he encountered alien sea creatures including an aggressive 26 foot prehistoric shark. Montemayor moved to Grand Cayman from Hawaii in 1996 and spent the next 8 years diving a 21 foot research submarine to 1,000 feet in and around George Town almost every day.

This unique exposure to the same patch of sea and its inhabitants left him with a rich tapestry of unique experiences. The book follows the author on a hunt for answers about the deep. While guiding an expedition into the Cayman Trench for a film crew from BBC’s popular show Blue Planet Montemayor crosses paths with an underwater giant.

Not just about giant sea creatures lurking at great depths the book also reveals the discovery of an underwater neighbourhood full of unusual characters.

The island of Grand Cayman, its people, its places, and its way of life forms the backdrop book which critics say ranges from hilarious to peculiar, and even totally surreal.

Montemayor has accomplished more than 2000 dives in manned submersible and has served as a test pilot for two prototype submersibles. He is the newest Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, a Fellow of the prestigious Explores Club of New York, and a member of the American Polar Society. He has also been asked to sit on the Board of Directors for the Institute of Nautical Archaeology of Texas AM and was recently selected as the Honorary Consul for the US Embassy to the Cayman Islands.

The event will include a book discussion and signing as well as a visual presentation of incredible photographs from Montemayor’s expeditions. It is free and open to the public starting at 7pm 1 April
 

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DoT seeks families for city kids’ vacation

| 29/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): For the fifth summer in a row, the Department of Tourism, Cayman Airways and Fresh Air Fund have come together to give a small group of kids aged between eight and twelve years from New York a week-long holiday in the Cayman Islands. The Fresh Air Fund programme depends however, on the support of local hosts that can welcome the children, often from underprivileged backgrounds into their homes. The DoT is appealing to Cayman families to host one or more Fresh Air Fund child during this year’s summer vacation and where they can experience true Caymanian hospitality. This year, the children will be visiting between 25-31 July and will have a packed agenda visiting the local sights which means there shouldn’t be any extra demands on families hosting the kids.

However, the charity encourages families to involve fresh air kids into their regular family activities and practices, including games night, dinner time, story-telling and the Caymanian tradition of Sunday dinner among others.

To qualify families will be required to undergo a home visit and screening interview with representatives from DoT, the host home must be safe and clean with places to play indoors and out and be a positive environment for kids. The Fresh Air Fund child must have a dedicated bed to him or her during the stay as the kids are not allowed to share the bed with other members of the household.

Each member residing within the household over the age of 18 will have to obtain a Police Clearance as a security measure to ensure that the child will be in a safe environment and the host family must be able to provide three character references from upstanding members of the community verifying that they should be considered for this opportunity.

To learn more about becoming a host family do to the DoT website

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$69m unaccounted for after failed ministry audit

| 29/03/2011 | 77 Comments

(CNS): In the latest batch of backlogged financial reports tabled in the Legislative Assembly two from the tourism ministry reveal that well over $69 million of public money spent between 2007 and 2008 cannot be accounted for as a result of the auditor general being unable to verify any aspect of the ministry’s financials. Charles Clifford, who was the minister with responsibility during the time, said that the issue of financial reporting before Cayman had a political minister of finance was an administrative function for which the civil service and ultimately the governor was responsible. These reports join a growing pile of other useless reports, while the public accounting for the latest financial year continues to fall behind.

Not one of the latest batch of more than a dozen reports tabled in the country’s parliament on 17 March, mostly from statutory authorities, were for the most recent financial year and most were either several years old or carried some form of qualification – or both — rendering them essentially meaningless.

The dated reports come in the wake of comments by Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick, who pointed out in his own report on the state of government financial accounting recently that spending time producing these old reports was a waste of time. He said that all of the ministries old accounts will get failing grades and core government backlogged reports are all “fundamentally unreliable” because of “significant deficiencies” in the supporting documentation and information.

Swarbrick advised government that it should give up on the old accounts and spend the scarce resources and time on producing the most recent and up to date financial reports, which will have more meaning for the public.

However, the government said it wanted to complete all of the accounts and was committed to complying with the Public Management and Finance Law. The Ministry of Finance, which is now responsible for government accounting, said it was not prepared to ignore the past financial statements. Ministry officials said that, although the accounts were late and wrong, they still had value.

“Despite the lack of timeliness and technical accuracy … these reports still have tremendous value to the wider public as they provide a record of the government’s finances during this period. Without them there would be no record of the government’s financial performance during this significant period – a truly unacceptable position,” the ministry stated.

When the premier tabled the financial reports for the former tourism, environment and commerce ministry he was at pains to emphasise that the financial years covered by the report were nothing to do with the current government.

Clifford, who was at the helm at the time, is suggesting that there is political manipulation going on, especially as staff who were at the ministry during his tenure were all removed, breaking the continuity of the financial work. Clifford said that when he was there his ministry officials assured him that they were making good progress in bringing the accounts up to date in preparation for audits.

“I was never given any indication that there was a record keeping issue that could potentially affect future audits,” he said, noting however that at the time it was an administrative function. “Of course part of the problem is that the majority of the senior officers in the ministry were removed from office immediately after the 2009 general elections, and that no doubt affected the continuity of the work on the financial statements and ultimately the audits. This change of personnel could have been intentional in order to set the stage to criticise the outgoing administration.”

Clifford said he believed staff had been removed quickly at the insistence of the premier, which would have prevented the necessary exchange of information. “I know that the current minister, who is also the premier, refused to move into his office until certain senior officers were removed from the ministry, so I doubt that there was any opportunity for a proper hand-over or transition with senior civil servants.”

The former minister also noted that while the accounts issue was an administrative function when he was in office, the new constitution heralded in the new political post of Minister of Finance, meaning that McKeeva Bush, who now holds that post, has political responsibility to ensure proper financial reporting.

“I believe that the premier’s rush to change ministry staff following the last general elections has negatively impacted the work that was being done on the financial statements and ultimately the audits,” Clifford stated. “The ministry became focused on other things while the important checks and balances, such as financial reporting, public accountability, transparency in government and other good governance policies, were simply seen as hindrances to the new government’s agenda.”

Clifford also stated that the Governor’s Office ought to ensure that the “apparent desire to politicise the civil service” is discouraged because it is unsustainable in a small country such as Cayman.

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