Archive for July 12th, 2011

CSPL still without teeth

| 12/07/2011 | 9 Comments

(CNS): The constitutional commission created more than eighteen months ago to oversee standards in public life isstill working without legislation. The committee, which was established in January 2010, announced last summer that it needed a law to support it in the work it is expected to do in accordance with the requirements of the constitution. Although the commission has met regularly since it was formed and has published the minutes of those meetings along with two reports it appears not to have undertaken any actual oversight of standards during its first year and a half of existence as it says it has no teeth with which to enforce its remit.

According to the latest minutes published on the website, which cover the meeting held in May, the commission was expecting to meet in June with Professor Jeffery Jowell, the constitutional expert who assisted the Cayman Islands government during the constitutional negotiations with the UK, to discuss the proposed bill and other questions regarding the scope and remit of the CSPL.

The constitutional secretariat confirmed that the new law is still being written and once complete it will then need to go to the legal drafters before going to Cabinet, then through public consultation before finally coming before legislators for debate and hopefully passage. Given all the various stages the law still needs to pass through, it will be several more months before the committee created as a safeguard against corruption among public officials will have any power to act on that remit.

According to the constitution, the commission is also required to review and establish procedures for awarding public contracts. In his comments on Monday regarding the auditor general’s report on the management of government procurement, the governor said he had spoken with the CSPL chair Karin Thomas, who he said had assured him that the commission would give priority to this area of their work.  “The commission has already done a good deal of work in this regard and kept in close touch with the Auditor General’s office during the preparation of this report,” Duncan Taylor said.

The CSPL latest minutes confirm that the chair had met with representatives from the auditor general’s office regarding this latest audit. However, there was no specific comment in the minutes regarding the CSPL’s position on what has proved to be a damning report regarding the risks and vulnerabilities associated with public officials and government contracts.

The minutes do reveal that the commission has been examining the current legislation and regulations relating to contracts falling outside the remit of the Central Tenders Committee – those under $250,000 currently awarded at the discretion of chief officers. The minutes note the concerns of the CSPL members.

“While such discretion may indeed be necessary for efficiency purposes, the commission is keen to review the regulations with a goal of identifying possible weaknesses with respect to safeguards, checks and balances, sanctions and penalties for non-compliance, ethical standards, and conflicts of interest,” the minutes state.

The commission says it will focus its attention on lesser contracts above $20,000 but not exceeding $250,000 and has plans to deliver recommendations on the subject with the aim of enhancing policy, directives, and legislation to promote transparency and accountability.

Although the auditor general's report focused mostly on the procurement process for contracts and tenders over $250,000, which go through the central tendering process, the problems of the poor management practices that the auditor identified apply to the process across the board.

Alastair Swarbrick said that in the four government entities reviewed the office could not find any management frameworks in place for procurement, and interviews conducted with officials revealed that no one was responsible for the process. “We found that government officials are not generally concerned, or in somecases even aware that good internal controls are necessary for an effective procurement function,” he added.

Swarbrick also noted that there was no code of conduct and an absence of conflict of interest rules for public servants. He said that during the audit the officer learned of situations where departmental technical committee members were in a conflict of interest yet did not withdraw from the process.

“Public servants and individuals acting on behalf of government must arrange their private affairs in a manner that will prevent conflicts of interest between their private interests and their public duties,” the auditor stated.  “The government should also have in place a framework for employees to register any potential or real conflicts of interest on a regular basis,” Swarbrick added in the report.

Warning shots regarding these issues were sounded in the first report by the standards commission when the members noted the need to examine civil servants' potential conflicts of interest and who else aside from elected politicians needed to be signing the Register of Interests.

In its second report, published 8 February, the commission also pointed to problems regarding the tendering process and the potential conflict of statutory board members. It raised concerns about a lack of transparency regarding the government’s tendering process as well as the necessity for expertise on the Central Tenders Committee in order to ensure contracts are awarded in the best interest of the public.

In the report, which was made public around four months ago after it was tabled in the Legislative Assembly, the commission said it intended to take an “in depth look” at statutory board appointments and how “conflicts of interest or corruption”, perceived or real, could be avoided.

Marking its concerns over procurement, it said it was making a number of recommendations about creating a more transparent system. “The commission believes that the membership of the CTC should comprise individuals who possess the requisite professional aptitudes and skills from which to draw their experiences in making sound decisions,” it revealed in its report. It also said the CTC would better serve the public if it published the minutes of its meetings and its agendas.

See the latest minutes and reports of the CSPL at www.standardsinpubliclife.ky in the document library

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Enterprise city close to deal

| 12/07/2011 | 33 Comments

(CNS): The developers proposing to create a science and technology centre in Grand Cayman say they are on the verge of an agreement with the Cayman government and hope to sign in a matter of days. A spokesperson for Cayman Enterprise City told CNS that they expect the proposed legislation to support the special economic zone will be ready for public consultation in August and the developers now have options on land for which they are currently undertaking final negotiations with the owners. One of the least opposed development projects currently being considered by government, CEC is promising jobs and a new string to Cayman’s economic bow.

Not thought to have the negative environmental or social impacts of some of the other large scale proposals that government has considered in recent months, CEC has been met with less concern from the public. Focusing on attracting modern technologies such as bio tech firms, internet companies and multi-media, CEC says it expects to create 800 local jobs in the first year. CEC also says it will create new careers for Caymanians in the fields of IT, science, media, commodities, commerce and academia that have not previously existed.

The government signed an MOU with the developers in January and the developers say they are now about to sign a draft agreement which will pave the way for development to begin next year. “We are confident that a draft agreement will be signed with CIG this week or early next and once signed it’s a green light,” Hilary Cahill, VP of Marketing & Business Development, said explaining that the firm is working with government on the Special Economic Zone Law, which will provide the legislative framework to support and oversee CEC.

“A new Special Economic Zone Authority is being established to regulate the zone and members of civil service will work cohesively with CEC management team to ensure an efficient and seamless service at all times.”

The firm said it has also taken on the former National Trust boss, local CPA Frank Balderamos, as VP – Investor & Operations and he will be the key link in the relationship with the new Zone Authority on behalf of CEC.

Once the draft agreement for the economic zone is in place, CEC will begin operations and Cahill added that key players have already been hired for both the local and international management teams. Sixty-eight percent of the local team is Caymanian and Cahill confirmed that it is CEC’s intention to continue identifying and hiring Caymanians to fill as many key positions as possible.

“Our global marketing and business development strategies have been developed and our product offering is close to being finalized. Our director of design and construction — Caymanian Architect Cindy O’Hara — and her team are close to finalizing the details of the master plan,” Cayhill added. “After going through the permitting process we intend to begin construction of phase one.

This first phase will cover 150,000 sq ft and is expected to break ground in the first quarter of 2012, with the first tenants expected to move in to CEC during the beginning of 2013. The business development team is currently said to be reaching out to large global brands and Fortune 500 companies based in SEZs in the Emirates regarding establishing a presence in CEC.

“Those companies already understand the benefits of being based in an SEZ and for brands wishing to have easy access tothe lucrative North American and South American markets, CEC is an ideal location,” Cahill said. “It allows them to operate from a tax neutral zone, whilst enjoying CEC’s other special concessions. There are 3,000 SEZs around the globe and our team researched hundreds…. visited twelve countries and ultimately chose Cayman as the perfect strategic and geographical location in which to develop CEC,” Cahill added.

The firm had also determined that lifestyle was an important factor for corporations when choosing from zones that offered similar concessions and benefits.

“Companies can take advantage of the economic and strategic benefits of being located in CEC to expand into new international markets and their executives can enjoy acosmopolitan lifestyle on a beautiful, safe English speaking tropical island which is only a stone’s throw from the U.S. and operates on the NYC time zones,” Cahill noted.

In the first instance the draft agreement will call for the firm to rent existing space in George Town from Caymanian landlords to temporarily house tenants, where they will still enjoy the full CEC concessions, until the new city is finished, allowing them to move to Cayman and begin their operations immediately. 

“This has been very well received by local commercial landlords as we understand that somewhere in the region of twenty percent of commercial office space in Cayman sits empty and is currently un-leased,” said Cahill. “As we construct each phase and our tenants move into their new buildings so future tenants of CEC will replace them in the existing George Town office space whilst phase two is constructed.”

Although CEC would not say which companies had signed on the dotted line because of continued negotiations, it did stated that it has been approached by major brands including Virgin, Baxter, Pfizer, Cisco Systems, Oracle and IBM.

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Parchment to return to Cayman’s London office

| 12/07/2011 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Updated – The Ministry of Finance has confirmed that Charles Parchment will be taking up the post of deputy representative in the Cayman Islands London office. Following a broadening of the economic objectives for the office, Parchment, who was formerly head of what was once the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau's London office from 2002 until 2007, will be involved in identifying potential investors in the UK. The London office, which is located in Arlington Street in London’s West End, is headed up by Mary Chandler-Allen, Cayman’s acting representative. "With his knowledge of London, finance and business, Mr Parchment is a strong addition to government’s team,” said  Premier McKeeva Bush.

The London Office’s expanded scope includes identifying potential targets for inward investment, and opportunities for Caymanian businesses to reach new markets, and greater lobbying and information-gathering in Brussels and the UK," the finance ministry stated in a release. 

Established in 1982, it promotes the islands’ interests in the UK and Europe by liaising with UK lawmakers, Commonwealth bodies, the UK Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA), the Overseas Countries and Territories Association of the EU (OCTA), and other international organisations. 

It collects important market intelligence that can inform the Cayman government’s policy, and disseminates information in response to enquiries from governments, private-sector companies and the general public within the UK and Europe.  Secondary services include consular assistance to Caymanians, especially during crises.

Chandler-Allen, the current deputy representative, is retiring at the end of July after 28 years service in the London Office. For the past 2½ years she has been the acting representative. Recruitment is now underway for the representative post.

“Mrs Chandler-Allen has done an exemplary job as acting representative,” the premier acknowledged. “She accepted a demanding role and handled these demands while continuing to fulfill her responsibilities as deputy. I thank her for her service and dedication to the Cayman Islands.”

Since leaving CIIB in 2007 Parchment has been an independent consultant, advising private clients on a range of business and financial procedures. He also has assisted the Cayman Islands Government on a project basis.

He holds a degree in international relations and an MBA with a focus in financial management from Webster University, London.

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US senator introduces revised tax haven bill

| 12/07/2011 | 12 Comments

(CNS): Senator Carl Levin introduced his latest version of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act in Washington on Tuesday, once again taking aim at offshore tax haven abuses, which he says cost the US taxpayer around $100 billion per year. The most recent bill, which is the fifth one the senator has tried to get through the Senate, contains an array of provisions which would permanently close offshore tax loopholes, raise revenue and increase transparency and accountability for multinational businesses, the senator revealed. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Bill Nelson, Sanders, Shaheen and Whitehouse. The Michigan Democrat said he hoped the current focus in Washington on deficit reduction may carry his legislation “over the goal line” this time.

“But it is fundamental fairness to our taxpayers and to the businesses that stay here and pay taxes that will get it to the goal line,” remarked Levin, who is the chairman of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. “The idea that we have all these companies that avoid paying taxes through all these gimmicks is disgraceful, and that we tolerate it is disgraceful.”

Among the goals of the senator’s new proposal is to give the Treasury Department new tools to face down offshore banks that do not cooperate with the IRS.

It also aims to change Internal Revenue Service regulations that allow American traders credit-default swaps to avoid paying federal taxes on many transactions that begin in the United States. It would also tighten rules that enable some hedge funds and corporations based in the United States to reduce their federal tax liabilities by declaring themselves foreign companies and moving a small part of their operations overseas.

“Passage of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act would be a game changer,” said Global Financial Integrity (GFI) director, Raymond Baker, one of the NGOs backing the bill. “It would close offshore tax loopholes, remove incentives to send money and jobs overseas, level the playing field between small businesses and multinational corporations, and strengthen law enforcement and tax collection capacities.”

The bill contains a provision requiring annual country-by-country reporting by SEC-registered corporations related to their employees, sales, purchases, sales, financing arrangements and taxes.

Levin said he thought corporate opposition and the complicated nature of the issue had stood in the way of getting his bill passed in previous years. President Barrack Obama twice signed onto Levin’s tax haven legislation before being elected to the White House. “We’re very much hoping he will remember what he did when he was a senator,” Levin said.

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Finance cops warn of absurdly obvious scam

| 12/07/2011 | 5 Comments

(CNS): It will not come as a surprise to most people that an e-mail claiming to be from the office of the Executive Director of the FBI telling the recipient that it's ok to claim over ten million dollars from the Bank of Nigeria is a scam. However, it seems that despite the extremely obvious nature of this particular con, officers from the financial crimes unit have still issued a public warning. DCI Claudia Brady said it may seem obvious but some people still see these scams as a possible way to profit. "While it is hard to believe that anyone would fall for such a scam times are hard and some people may see this as a way to 'get rich quick',” said DCI Claudia Brady.

The e-mail tells the recipient that an ATM card loaded with the ten million dollars is waiting to be couriered to them. They are then asked to provide financial details and pay large sums of money to complete the deal and pay for the courier service.

Pointing out the obvious Brady noted that it would be extremely unlikely for the FBI to load ten million dollars from an account you don't have onto an ATM and then courier it to you. “Do not respond to the e-mail do not even consider sending any cash or personal details. If you do you will end up losing cash instead of realising your dream of becoming an overnight millionaire."

Anyone who requires any advice about how to spot an internet scam should contact the Financial Crime Unit on 949-8797.

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Maples and Calder continues support for CIUWC

| 12/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Maples Foundation has donated US$25,000 to the United World Colleges (Cayman Islands) National Foundation (CIUWC) to support its scholarship programme. Maples and Calder is the longest standing, and largest benefactor in partnership with CIUWC to provide scholarships for academically talented and service-oriented Cayman students. Through such major commitment, Maples and Calder has allowed CIUWC to sustainably expand boththe number of students selected to represent Cayman at the United World Colleges as well as increase its outreach to students. This year’s selected applicants, were chosen from a pool of 22 excellent candidates. (Left: Paul Lumsden and Abigail Drummond)

Zachary Jones, Abigail Drummond and Kathryn Schirn will be attending UWC-USA, UWC of the Atlantic in Wales and UWC Costa Rica, respectively.

Orchid Morrison, Chairperson for CIUWC, expressed the gratitude of the Board for the consistent commitment of the firm. She stated, “Maples and Calder has been a long standing and most generous sponsor of CIUWC, we are extremely grateful for and touched by their continued support to this very worthy cause which affords young Caymanians the opportunity to excel locally and internationally both socially and academically.”

"Work in the community has always been part of the culture of the firm," said Paul Lumsden, Managing Partner at Maples and Calder. "We believe that investment can have a profound impact when spent locally. The Maples Foundation is committed to our responsibility as corporate citizens and, therefore, seeks to assist organizations that will benefit the youth of our community."

Withoutcorporate sponsorship, many charitable organisations would find themselves lacking the support and adequate funding to provide invaluable services to the local community. Morrison spoke to the importance of the role local corporations play in the community, stating, “Maples and Calder is an excellent role model/example of corporate citizenship in the Cayman Islands and a boon to the Cayman Community and its young people.”

With regard to Maples and Calder's relationship with the CIUWC, Lumsden added, "We have been a supporter of this programme for many years and are proud to stand behind such a unique and vitally important initiative. We are delighted that it has grown and firmly believe that, with continued corporate investment, it will afford many students the opportunity of further education through its scholarship programmes."

Conceived in the 1950’s by the notable educationalist Kurt Hahn, who is also the founder of the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme, UWC offers an exceptional learning and living experience for students from over 120 countries. Founded on the ideals of international peace and understanding, the thirteen United World Colleges are university preparation programmes for students aged 16–18 years old that award the International Baccalaureate Diploma on successful completion. The programme is based upon participation in a two-year, academically rigorous set of courses coupled with community service, cultural endeavours and physical activities.

Companies and individuals interested in making a donation to CIUWC are invited to contact Ms. Orchid Morrison at CIUWCFoundation@yahoo.com or 345–814–2734.

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IMAC educational fund awards two scholarships

| 12/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Insurance Managers Association of Cayman Educational Scholarship Fund has recently awarded two full scholarships. The 2011 Tom Clark Scholarship has been awarded to Sheena Jackson to study for a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science at the University of Waterloo in Canada. The award is named after one of the founders of the Fund, who was a Director of HSBC and also Head of Insurance. A full scholarship was also awarded to Priscilla Brown to study for a Bachelors Degree in Management at the University of South Florida. (Photo: L-R: Sheena Jackson, John Pitcairn, Priscilla Brown)

 

John Pitcairn, Chairman of the Scholarship Fund stated that he was delighted that the fund was in a position to offer two further scholarships this year thanks in part to the generosity of HSBC as Trustee of various charitable trusts.  He added that the Fund was now supporting nine students in fulltime education overseas.

 

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Auditor’s report makes international media

| 12/07/2011 | 14 Comments

(CNS): The warnings in the latest report from the auditor general office has already been picked up by the international media, with Bloomberg and CBS among those already picking up on the Associated Press coverage of the report. Noting Alastair Swarbrick’s comments about the lack of leadership, political interference and the "significant risks of abuse, mismanagement, fraud and corruption”, the AP article has also cited the Cayman Islands premier as calling for action. However, so far McKeeva Bush, who is currently overseas, has not yet made any official comment on the report. Quotes attributed to him calling on the deputy governor to address the issue were actually made by Governor Duncan Taylor.

For more on auditor’s report and the reaction of the governor's office go to:

Auditor warns off politicians and Ebanks to tackle AG's report

 

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Cuddly turtles help feed the real thing

| 12/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The sales of the cuddly “Sir Turtle” by the Tortuga Rum Company are to benefit real turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm after the store donated over $600 to the farm’s breeder nutrition research programme. The money was raised following just a few months of the toy which has proved very popular going on sale. Walter Mustin, Ph.D., Chief Research Officer of the turtle breeding program said that the funds will be used to assist with the preparation of a new and improved diet for breeding turtles.

Mustin explained that the money would help in the goal of replenishing the waters of the Caribbean with green sea turtles. “Without such efforts and the kindness and concern of citizens and corporations in Cayman, this important conservation work would not be possible,” he said.

Illustrating how important it is to return turtles to the wild he said ones tagged at the Turtle Farm as long ago as the 1980’s have been returning to Cayman to lay their eggs.  This means the efforts to save the turtles are having real results.  “It takes roughly 30 years for turtles in the wild to complete their life cycle, and become mature enough to lay eggs” said Dr. Mustin.  “Seeing them return to Cayman’s shores after such a long time is such an encouragement, and shows that what we are doing here is working.

“It was a special moment for me to be able to contact Dr. Robert Schroeder the scientist who pioneered this work in the 1970’s to let him know that the mature turtles were back and had survived in the wild and were now home, all grown up and laying their own eggs on Cayman beaches.” 

In recent years the farm has reduced the number of turtles returning to the wild because of problems with the breeding numbers. The farm increased the price of turtle meat to reflect the true cost of rearing the endangered species but it is continuing in the battle to overcome the breeding problems. Nutrition has been identified as one of the possible problems and scientists at the farm are trying to improve the food fed to the breeding turtles.

However, over the years, the farm has placed more than 31,000 endangered green sea turtles into the wild since its 1968 founding and the goal is to return to a position where the farm can breed more turtles to release.

“Sir Turtle” are available t any Tortuga location, or on line at www.tortugarums.com.  With every one sold $3.00 is donated to the Turtle Farm.

 

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Miss Cayman limbers up to take on the ‘Universe’

| 12/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The reigning Miss Cayman Islands, Cristin Alexander has been keeping on her beauty queen toes recently with Catwalk training, modelling, photography and a practice run at the Miss USA Pageant in Vegas all in preparation for the Miss Universe Pageant in September. Alexander heads for Sao Paulo next month for the run up to the pageant and the activities leading up to the where she will participate in Miss Universe activities, leading up to the international beauty contest. While in Vegas she also met with the current Miss Universe as well as Miss USA and Miss Teen USA. “Attending a competition on this large a scale has really hit home – it has made me realize the importance and value of training and preparation,” Alexander said.

Attending the exclusive ‘True Beauty’ event, a Miss Universe training workshop, Miss Cayman had the chance to meet with renowned Miss Universe runway coach Lu Sierra and famous pageant coach Joey Galon. She was also photographed by world famous photographer Fadil Berisha and received styling advice from Robin Ross Flemming, owner of Lacasahermosa.

“These past few months have been filled with fantastic training opportunities for me. One of my best moments was meeting motivation speaker Dale Smith Thomas, who gave me the inspiration and motivation to forge ahead. The events also gave me a greater appreciation for the mental and physical strength it takes to compete at an international level, as I experienced in the Miss World Pageant,” Miss Cayman added.

Back home local photographers Patrick Broderick, David Goddard and Luis Vallecillo have been helping to build Alexander’s portfolio in time for the Miss Universe Pageant.

Her profile and photos can be viewed on www.misscaymanislands.ky; www.pageantfanatic.jimdo.com; www.theidealbeauty.com; www.hectorjoaquin.com.missosology.org and through Facebook groups such as Miss Cayman Islands; Miss Universe 2011; Road to Miss Universe and Who Will be the Next Miss Universe.
 

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