CSPL still without teeth

| 12/07/2011

(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 theaim 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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Comments (9)

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  1. anonymous says:

    The first thing that needs to be done is DEFINE "CORRUPTION" these elected officials degree or not, seems to be void of understanding of what the word corruption in government really means. Or they feel it does not apply to them.

    Let's Explain corruption to them please. they seem to think its legal to be corrupt and that it's OK now time is closing in on them so at least mirandise Corruption let them know true the meaning of it.   They obvivously don't know.

    Corruption – misusing public office for personal gain, for example, by accepting bribes or by charging personal expenditure to a public expenses account.
    corruption means- (Lack of integrity or honesty use of a position of trust for dishonest gain.)
    • Anonymous says:

      Corruption also means accepting $3 million (or any other benefit) from a potential Govt contractor because that gives that contractor an unfair advantage over other potential Govt contractors. This is creating a situation whereby future Govt contractors needs to 'grease' the wheel by gifts or loans in order to get a Govt contract. It does not matter whether the payoff will go direct to Govt coffers, or to be used for a slush fund, or wherever, or to whoever.

      It is a disgrace to this country if we accept money from someone wanting to do business with us. Any payment or loan received from a contractor (if such actually occured), should be returned forthwith, and cessation of any agreement between our Govt and the payer.

      Should not the FCO or its representative reprimand or charge whoever  exposed our integrity in this way?

    • Anonymous says:

      and "conflict of interest" which seems to be a totally alien idea and while we are at it define "bribe" as well.

    • tim ridley says:

      The Anti Corruption Law and the Penal Code contain very specific offences that cover a broad range of corrupt practices. What is needed is not further laws, regulations or codes of practice; what is needed is effective enforcement of the existing laws. That in turn requires a real commitment from the very top here in Cayman. To get this commitment  requires in turn vociferous pressure from the local community here on the Governor (and Police Commissioner) to properly resource and staff up the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC). For starters, this means the appointment of an Executive Director of the ACC with the remit and budget to make the Commission an effective operational unit. Right now, it is anything but. The Exec Director SHOULD BE NEITHER from the UK (that has a shocking record in anti corruption) NOR someone seconded from the RCIPS; he or she should preferably be from Hong Kong or another jurisdiction that has a record of commitment and success in its fight against corruption.

      Corruption typically requires at least two to tango – one or more in the public sector and one or more in the private sector. So the private sector needs to publicly commit to eliminating corruption and to participating actively in its elimination. The Chamber of Commerce should be loudly trumpeting its opposition to corruption and educating its members to just 'say no'. So far it has been very silent. This is not an option.

      Until we see a meaningful change in attitudes and effective action  in both the public and private sector, we are not going to see any improvement in the current poor behaviour. 

      • nauticalone says:

        Agree with you completely Mr. Ridley!

        People of Cayman (especially those educated in Ethics) need to speak up….loudly and clearly.


  2. B. B. L. Brown says:

    Words….. just words!  "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

  3. Gums Only says:

    No Teeth?….then get to the Dentist….as a matter of Urgency!

  4. Anonymous says:

    yeh I heard it will be right after the electic car legislation.  Maybe 2020?

  5. Tiny Briefs says:

    This is not true.  The Committee could judicially review any discretionary power for non compliance with existing human rights norms in force in Cayman or bring proceedings in England against the FCO for permitting the Governor to sign illegal statutes.