Archive for July 11th, 2011

Auditor warns off politicians

| 11/07/2011 | 93 Comments

(CNS): The auditor general has found that political interference and a lack of leadership is undermining the procurement process and leaving the purchase of government services open to corruption. Speaking about his latest special report, which takes a general overview of the process, Alastair Swarbrick said on Monday that he had significant concerns about the undue influence by elected politicians. The country's public auditor said that procurement was an administrative process and politicians had no role in it because it was not about policy. He pointed out that when politicians were involved there were risks of abuse and mismanagement.

In a comprehensive overview of the procurement process, the 44 page report reveals that Swarbrick and his team found several instances where politicians have been involved in the day-to-day operations of the procurement function. “There are significant risks and negative consequences when this happens,” the report reveals.

The auditor's officestated that, without a clear definition of responsibility and accountability for the actions taken by politicians in an administrative process, there were significant risks to the equity, transparency and effective operation of the procurement function.

“Good governance in the public sector procurement requires that there is a clear division of responsibilities between elected members and administrative officials," the AG said. “We found evidence that some politicians are not complying with the procurement rules that have been established by the administration and, in some cases, contravening the laws and regulations.”

With limited checks and balances on transactions that are conducted “outside” the administrative process, this increased the risk of corruption the AG noted. “Without some form of oversight of the individuals conducting the transactions, there is no assurance that the risk of fraud and corruption is being effectively managed,” he warned..

He also spoke about politicians overriding the decisions of administrative staff, which impacted morale.

“During our interviews, we were told of a number of recent situations when political interference had created uncertainty and angst among government employees. For example, in one case, politicians met with middle management officials to question their decision with regard to procurement. In another case, we found that politicians directed the appointment of individuals, who were not government officials to a Departmental Tendering Committee. The government employees participating on the committee were informed that they could not participate in the evaluation of the bids.”

The auditor further revealed that Cabinet reviewed the results of a tendering process and held up the announcement of the winning bidder. Politicians questioned entity officials repeatedly regarding the decision rather than simply asking the chief officer to provide assurance, in his opinion, whether he could assert to the rigour and fairness of the process.

“We found a senior public servant who submitted his resignation to the government as a last resort to demonstrate his unease with the level of political override that was occurring and the impacts it was having on his ability to do his job effectively, and members of committees stepping down and not wanting to participate in the current procurement process because of the impacts of political interference,” the report said.
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The AG stated that there was evidence that public servants no longer wanted to be involved with procurement because of the political interference and the possibility for abuse of the process that might be associated with such activities.

Swarbrick pointed to a list of other problems as he criticised the current process and noted once again the absence of any real leadership in the adminstrative arm of government. He said there was a lack of expertise as well as proper policies and procedure and no one was monitoring compliance or will to take responsibility. There was, he said, little communication or coordination across government departments leading to a real danger that significant sums of public money were being wasted. Government, he warned, is likely to be paying millions of dollars more for supplies and services than needed.

Making some thirty recommendations about how government could improve the functions and create greater fairness, equity and transparency, Swarbrick recommended that officials appoint a senior officer to take charge of the entire process.

“The government should appoint someone as a Chief Procurement Officer who would be accountable for the overall development, management and reporting on the Government’s procurement activities,” he said.

Speaking at press briefing to make the report public, the AG explained that a second report which will lookspecifically at individual case studies would bereleased shortly  He said that report examines the actual procurement process for the Jazz Festival 2009 , the recent CCTV award and the controvertial  government financing tender when the premier publicly overrode a decision of the CTC.

He noted that this first report was to give a general overview of where the process was going wrong and what could be done to address it. He said, however, that given the very real concerns his office has about the process, which accounts for close to half of the core government spending – some $220million – he said that it would not stop there. The office will be following what happens with all major procurements closely and, Swarbrick said, resources permitting, his office would want to look at the issues surrounding waste- management and the proposed cruise berthing facilities in George Town

Swarbrick said government's administrative officials had cleared this first report for factual accuracy but he said they had stated that they would take some time to come back with a strategic response to the report.

The report was circulated to members of the Legislative Assembly last week but as no vote has yet taken place in the parliament to formalize the appointment of Moses Kirkconnell as chair and elect Kurt Tibbetts to it, the Public Accounts Committee is still without a chairman and full complement of members since the resignation of Ezzard Miller. The PAC is the body which should conduct further enquiries into the report, interview witnesses and produce its own report and recommendations for parliament.

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Three in hospital after two weekend road smashes

| 11/07/2011 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Two major road smashes led to four people being admitted to the Cayman Islands Hospital this weekend, three of which were still receiving treatment on Monday, police said. Three of them were taken to the hospital just after midnight on Saturday, when a Honda motorcar and a motorbike crashed on West Bay Road close to Queens Court. The pillion passenger was thrown from the bike onto the roadway and sustained serious injuries to her pelvic area and abdomen. The rider of the bike also sustained serious abdominal injuries while the driver of the Honda suffered whiplash.  The second smash occurred about 4.10 pm on Sunday, when a car drove off the road into a concrete column on Ryan’s Road at Alto Way, George Town.(Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

The driver of the car had to be cut from the vehicle by fire service personnel. He was admitted to the Cayman Islands Hospital where is being treated for chest pains. No other vehicles were involved in the collision.

Police said the motor cycle accident was caused after the Honda driver who had left the parking area at Queens Court and was travelling towards George Tow was struck from behind by a motorcycle which was travelling in the same direction.
 
Enquiries are ongoing into both incidents and officers from the RCIPS are asking anyone who witnessed either crash to contact George Town police station on 949-422 or the Traffic Management Department on 946-6254

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Teen returns to courtroom after 6 month trial break

| 11/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Seventeen-year-old Elmer Wright returned to the Grand Court dock on Monday when his trial for the attempted murder of a police officer and the robbery of a Bodden Town gas station resumed after a break of more than six months. Problems with DNA evidence meant the trial, which is being heard by Justice Smith, had to be adjourned just a few days after it started. The teen faces six serious charges and is accused of being part of a gang of four masked men that robbed Mostyns Esso gas station in June last year. Wright is also accused of shooting at the police as he attempted to flee. The teenager is the only man police have charged in connection with the robbery, in which the shotgun and the car used in the crime were both stolen. (Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

When the crown opened its case against the teen last year, Cheryl Richards QC, the then solicitor general and now the director of public prosecutions, highlighted eye witness, circumstantial and forensic evidence linking the teenager to the crime.

The crime took place in June 2010 at Mostyns Esso Gas Station in Bodden Town. Wright and three other men are said to have robbed the gas station of around $1,000 with the use of shotguns before escaping towards George Town in a getaway car, which was chased by a passing police patrol unit.

The suspects turned into Northward Road, where they all got out of the car and three of them ran behind a house. The defendant, however, is accused of lingering behind his accomplices, loading the shotgun and, before taking flight, firing at unarmed police in the patrol car which had chased the robbers.

The teen was arrested a short while later by one of the USG units set up in the wake of the robbery on the corner of Beach Bay Road and Shamrock Road. He was found to have several hundred dollars on him and was wearing similar clothes to those described by the robbery victims, which were later found to have gunshot residue on them.

A shotgun was also found very close by to the arrest, which later proved to have Wright’s DNA on it. The crown further revealed that swabs taken from the teen's hands that evening tested positive for gunshot residue.

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Cayman débuts as host of airports conference

| 11/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Airport professionals from around the region will be converging in Grand Cayman next week when the country hosts the Airports Conference of the Americas for the first time. The annual event organized by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), South Central Chapter and the International Association of Airport Executives (IAAE) is an important networking event for the industry. Jeremy Jackson, CEO, Cayman Islands Airports Authority said it was a great opportunity for Cayman and said the focus would be on the safety of the travelling public, which is of paramount importance at the CIAA.

“The airports industry is an ever evolving business and it is only through the development of meaningful working relationships with our regional counterparts that we can overcome the challenges that we consistently encounter,” he said.

“The forefront of this conference is the safety of the travelling public, which is of paramount importance at the CIAA and our representatives are eager to learn more about the issues impacting international airports and the solutions that are being implemented to address them.  Three members of our management team will be speakers in the CEO forums as well as the panel discussions on safety oversight and lessons learned as well as enhancing the customer experience with existing infrastructure.”
  
The event is designed to provide business executives with an edge in developing meaningful working relationships in the Caribbean and Latin American airport and aviation market and provides networking opportunity for interaction with airport delegates from the Caribbean, the US and Latin America.

Officials said that airport vendors will also have table-top exhibits showcasing their latest services and equipment in the pre-conference area. This Conference will allow attendees to learn about the issues impacting international airports and the solutions being implemented to address them.
At the forefront of this event will be topics such as improving the customer experience with existing infrastructure, safety oversight and lesson learned, financing, commercial air service development, aviation safety and security and airport certification challenges.

It is being held at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort from Sunday, 17 to Tuesday, 19 July and the premier is expected to deliver opening remarks at the conference on Monday morning.

For more details go to the CIAA website

 

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Plastic bag takes young filmmaker to Big Apple

| 11/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Connor Hoeksema left Grand Cayman on Saturday to spend a week at the New York Film Academy (NYFA) courtesy of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation (CNCF) and the Cayman Islands Film Commission (CIFC), after tying for first place in the Cayfest Young Image Makers Short Film Competition. Documenting the life of a plastic bag the young would be movie man was one of several young people who entered the competition which included a video basics workshop for finalists hosted by Apex Video Solutions and a gala premiere.

The CNCF created the programme in 2010 to encourage young people to explore their creativity and the possibility of a career in film. Once the idea was presented to the Cayman Islands Film Commission, the two organisations collaborated not only to create the competition, but also, to award one student a scholarship to the New York Film Academy’s summer movie camp.

Of the 78 entries received this year, 13 films made it to the final round of the competition and in fact the quality of films was so impressive, that two young persons were awarded the trip to New York!   The other winner, Eric Caraballo of Cayman Brac High School will be travelling to the NYFA Teen Summer Movie Camp at theend of July. 

“The YIM programme is one that, we at CNCF want to see expanded over time, so that more young people have the opportunity to explore the possibilities of a career in film,” said Rita Estevanovich, Programmes Manager at CNCF. “We’re very pleased with the marked improvement in the quality and quantity of the short films and I am particularly pleased that this year, not one but two young people will be able to take advantage of this great opportunity.”

See Connor’s film here

YIM 2011 WINNERS:

People’s Choice Award
3rd runner up: Niklas Wolfe with ADVENTURES OF TOWELY
2nd runner up: Nicola Galvin with A SEAFARER’S TALE
1st runner up: Tsin Zan Graham with ANT MOVIE
WINNER: CONNOR HOEKSEMA with LIFE OF A PLASTIC BAG

YIM Overall Winners
3rd runner up: Lauren Daije with DEATH OR LIFE
2nd runner up: Nicola Galvin with A SEAFARER’S TALE
1st runner up: Rayan Fresard with WAKING UP
WINNERS: CONNOR HOEKSEMA with LIFE OF A PLASTIC BAG and ERIC CARABALLO with MY DEAD STORY

Winning School, for Most Entries 2011: Cayman International School
 

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Competition uncovers antique telephone.

| 11/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The owner of an antique phone dated to 1891 received a brand new Blackberry Bold recently as the winner of LIME’s local photo competition to commemorate World Telecommunications and Information Society Day.  Entrants were asked to send in photos of their oldest telecommunications equipment.  Julie Hutton, MarketingManager LIME Cayman Islands said there were plenty of old phones Rajesh Khillawa’s was the winner.
“We had lots of entries with everything from very old landline phones to some of the earlier mobile phones.  We would like to congratulate Rajesh Khillawa for his winning entry which dates back to 1891,” she said.

The purpose of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) is to help raise awareness of the possibilities that the use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) can bring to societies and economies, as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide. the day is commemorated on 17 May which marks the anniversary of the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention and the creation of the International Telecommunication Union.

More winning photos can be seen at http://www.facebook.com/time4LIME
 

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CUC denies benefitting from rising fuel costs

| 11/07/2011 | 55 Comments

(CNS): The local power company has said that its profits do not increase when the fuel factor goes up as a result of global oil prices. In a statement released Monday morning, President and CEO of the power firm, Richard Hew, denied that CUC gained in any way as he urged people to conserve energy. He said that the fuel factor adjustments on bills takes place over a two-month period when the prices are reviewed and approved by the Electricity Regulatory Authority. The total cost of fuel to CUC in April, including government duty of 75 cents per gallon, was applied to customers’ bills in June and the cost of fuel in May will be applied to customers’ bills in July. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

“CUCdoes not benefit in any way from high fuel costs as only actual fuel costs are recovered without markup,” Hew said. “While we always encourage customers to use electricity efficiently, with fuel costs rising to the highest levels since 2008, coupled with warmer temperatures, we are encouraging customers to be especially vigilant of their electricity consumption during the summer period.”

He said that when there is a reduction in the price of fuel, customers will also see a decrease in fuel costs on their bills.  “CUC’s per kilowatt hour base (non-fuel) rates (kWh) have remained unchanged at an average of CI$0.1039 for the past two years, and are in fact lower today than they were in 2002,” Hew added.  

CUC purchases fuel through a competitive bid process using long term contracts based on world fuel prices, the power company stated in the release as it explained that fuel costs, driven by world fuel prices, are at their highest levels since summer 2008.

“Customers receiving their June bill would have seen a spike in the fuel cost line item related to fuel purchased by CUC in April when the cost was CI $4.00 per imperial gallon. This translated to a calculated fuel cost factor of 25 cents per kWh. In March fuel costs were at CI $3.78 per imperial gallon which translated to a calculated fuel factor of 23 cents per kWh.  The calculated fuel cost factor for July is also 25 cents per kWh,” CUC said.

The high cost of fuel was compounded over the last year through a combination of the international price of oil and the removal by government of the rebate on bills that was put in place by the previous administration. Last year the government also increased the fuel duty by another 25 cents adding to the cost of CUC bills, fuel at the pump and a knock on effect to the price of most consumer goods. In this year’s budget delivered last month the premier said that he would be setting aside $4.5 million from a new hedge fund regulatory fee to subsidise residential fuel bills. The ERA said last week that it was in the process of working out how the money would be allocated to help reduce customer’s bills

The graph supplied by CUC shows the fluctuation in the fuel cost factor compared to the stability of the CUC base rates betweenJune 2008 and June 2011.


 

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Fundraiser breaks records to help Kemar

| 11/07/2011 | 8 Comments

(CNS): Over 650 people came out to the Caybrew special fund raiser on Saturday and helped to raise around $20,000 for the firm’s assistant brewer, who was shot in the eye by masked gunmen at a jerk chicken stand last month. 28-year-old Kemar Golding has finally made it to the United States after difficulties with a visa prevented the Jamaican national from being airlifted last week. Although he miraculously survived being shot through the head, Golding has lost his left eye and is still in need of specialist surgery to deal with the wound. Matthew Leslie from the Cayman Islands Brewery has been co-ordinating efforts to help Golding and was delighted by Saturday’s turnout.

He explained that a record 66 local businesses had donated cash, food, drink and other resources to make Saturday’s fund raising effort such a success and all of this was pulled together in a week. The food and drink was free but people attending were asked to make donations and purchase tickets for the draw, which had drawn gifts and donations from many local businesses.

Leslie said he believed the event had attracted the biggest number of donors for any fundraiser ever held in Cayman and offered his thanks to everyone who had joined in, not just to help Kemar and his family but to send a message to the men who shot him. Leslie also noted the efforts of Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, who had helped to get Golding to Miami.

The brewer became the victim of three masked gunmen late on Wednesday 29 June as he helped a friend take out garbage. When the two men had no money to give the would-be robbers who approached them behind the chicken stand, one of the gunmen senselessly shot Golding through the eye before the men reportedly escaped on foot behind the Prospect Playhouse.

The bullet passed through Golding’s head and miraculously missed his brain, and after pulling through his first emergency surgery at the Cayman Islands Hospital, Golding was able to speak to Cayman 27 last week and said he was thankful for his life.

The shocking crime has attracted a reward for the three men of $10,000, but so far police have made no arrests in what is an attempted murder investigation and Golding has said he could not remember much about the incident or the three masked men.

“Any individuals who were in the area at that time please help us,” DS Marlon Bodden head of CID said in the wake of the shooting as he pointed out how dangerous the men were.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 800-8477(TIPS) or the confidential police hotline 949-7777.

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Communities to manage disaster at grass roots

| 11/07/2011 | 1 Comment

(CNS): A new initiative spearheaded by Hazard Management Cayman Islands and the local Red Cross was launched last week to encourage local communities to take control of their own emergency needs by forming community based rescue teams. Government officials said Friday that the goal was to mobilize as many people as possible in the event of an emergency and use local knowledge to coordinate disaster relief and assistance.  The creation of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) with specific local knowledge of the needs of their neighbourhoods as well as theirresources are expected to improve disaster response.

CERTs will be in a position to assess the vulnerabilities, the skills and the resources of their respective communites and this, government hopes, will create more effective management across the country in the face of any kind of emergency, from hurricanes to man made disasters.

“We hope eventually that everyone in the Cayman Islands will be covered by one of these teams,” said Simon Boxall at the launch on Friday when the teams from the Red Cross and HCMI explained what CERTs are and how they can be formed.

With groups already established in the outer districts, HMCI is now taking the model and rolling out CERT across the Cayman Islands, encouraging local neighbourhoods to create the teams at the grass roots level. The idea is that members of the team will be trained in first aid and in emergency response management but it is the collection of local knowledge by the teams that will make the teams even more effective.

It was explained that the teams will compile information about the specific vulnerability of a given neighbourhood, such as flooding or storm surge, the people in the community that need special assistance, such as the elderly or lone parents with very young children, as well as the doctors or engineers or heavy equipment owners and other skills and resources that may be available in that neighbourhood.

By collating this information the teams will be able to not only coordinate more effectively with the central emergency services in the event of an emergency but they may be able to manage their own needs if the community was cut off.

The director of HMCI, McClearly Frederick, said that the CERT programme was essentially all about communities helping themselves in the first instance in the face of any kind of emergency. “Disaster management is a community affair,” he said as he encouraged neighbourhoods across Cayman to come together and form teams.

Once the teams are formed, HMCI with the help of the Red Cross will organise the training and supply CERTs emergency packs. Aiming to grow the project community by community, the CERTs will become essential sources of knowledge when it comes to coordinating any kind of emergency effort and the first line response in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. The goal is also to help communities becoming more resilient by addressing before a disaster strikes the issues that could make them more vulnerable to a hurricane or flooding. By understanding the vulnerabilities of their neighbourhoods CERTs will also be able to advocate on their behalf to address those needs.

Franz Manderson, chief officer of the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, explained that the initiative was about communities responding to “hazards at the local level” and as a result becoming more hazard-resilient.

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Government makes amends over job programme

| 11/07/2011 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Following the revelation that the person given as the contact for the summer jobs programme was on leave last week, the premier’s ministry have submitted new details regarding the initiative. The Summer Students’ Employment Program from the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development was designed to give young students work over the next two months, but when a number of parents and young people made an effort to contact the ministry about the programme, they were told the person was on leave and would not return for another week.

“We would like to inform the public that while the Chief HR Officer is currently away on official business and returning to office on Thursday, 14th July, all emails which have been sent to her email address are being responded to by Ministry HR staff,” a spokesperson for the ministry said on Friday afternoon. The ministry also said the inquiries can be sent to MOFTDcareers@gov.ky for more details on the programme and for a copy of the application form.

The work is available to students from Year 10 and above as well as those in college or university, both locally and overseas. A release from the Premier’s Office on Thursday morning said students would be placed within various government agencies for the two-month summer holiday period to provide them with paid employment. “Government is delighted to be able to assist students with employment over the summer and, in return, will receive valuable service from the future leaders of these Islands,” McKeeva Bush stated. 

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