Archive for July 12th, 2011

Ebanks to tackle AG report

| 12/07/2011 | 42 Comments

(CNS): Duncan Taylor, the Cayman Islands governor, has asked his deputy, Donovan Ebanks, to take the lead in preparing an urgent response to the auditor general’s report in the wake of its public disclosure Monday. In the wake of the damning assessment of the procurement procedure and the concerns of political interference, the governor said Ebanks would draw up an action plan to address the shortcomings that had been identified. Taylor said the issues needed to be addressed quickly and that he had spoken with Karin Thompson, the chair of the Commission for Standards in Public Life.

Taylor said he welcomed the “frank” report by Alistair Swarbrick and noted the auditor general’s reference to political interference and the risks that posed. “I believe that the best way to eliminate those risks is to ensure that we have a robust and effective procurement system which enjoys the respect of all stakeholders.  That is what we aim to achieve,” Taylor said.

The governor noted that the AG had questioned the procurement system and not the commitment of the many dedicated and professional public servants who do their best to make it work.

As head of the civil service, Ebanks was also quick to defend public sector workers when he said that he was grateful to those “who consistently strive to ensure” the best interests of the public within the existing system. However, he too acknowledged the serious findings of Swarbrick's report.

“It has been recognised for some time that ‘procurement’ is an area in which our systems have not been developed as fully as they should or by comparison as they have been in the financial and human resources areas,” he said, adding that the report would be a valuable resource in addressing the issues.

Ebanks said that it would be important that any system enhancements which are proposed reflect the uniqueness of Cayman and the markets from which government buys goods and services. “The success of these enhancements will depend on them encompassing both the rules and guidance that is provided on paper and the skills and knowledge of our people who are expected to apply them.”

The deputy governor said he looked forward to developing a modern and resilient procurement system with his colleagues in Cabinet and the standards in public life. He said it should continually strive for efficiency, effectiveness and value-for-money and provide a fair opportunity for eligible entities to provide goods, services or facilities based on clear, fair and auditable criteria and processes.

The 44 page report, which is now in the public domain, said the governance arrangements for the management of procurement activities “are very poor” and that senior government officials have not discharged their duties to ensure that appropriate management practices have been established. 

Swarbrick points to the failure of management in the civil service and states that public sector managers should be responsible for ensuring that employees of an organization act ethically and in the best interests of the elected government of the day.

“This includes the obligation to act faithfully and honestly in the course of their employment,” he states. “Senior managers including the deputy governor, the financial secretary, the chief officers of ministries and portfolios and managing directors of statutory authorities and government companies are responsible for ensuring that these obligations are fulfilled,” he states.

The auditor sums up the 44 page report in his final paragraph when he points to abuse, waste and even fraud.

“Basedon what we found, we concluded that the Government of the Cayman Islands is mismanaging the procurement of supplies, services and assets resulting in a lack of efficiency, transparency and fairness as well as costing the Government millions of dollars more than necessary. If not addressed immediately, the procurement activities will continue to be at significant risk of waste, abuse, and potentially fraud and corruption,” the report concludes.

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UCCI to offer lessons in Chinese culture

| 12/07/2011 | 53 Comments

(CNS): In keeping with the “vision” of preparing students for a globalized world, the UCCI president said that steps are being taken to have a ‘Confucius Institute’ developed at the local university. During his address at the graduation evening last week, Roy Bodden spoke about a number of future initiatives and said the board of governors had approved this project. He revealed that preliminary contacts had been made by UCCI with Beijing representatives. He said the establishment of the Institute will mean that students and the wider local population will have the opportunity to learn Mandarin and to become familiar with many aspects of Chinese culture.

“Importantly, however, is the fact that the establishment of this Institute will be completely funded by a Chinese government agency, including the provision of two teachers, textbooks and other resources,” the president told the audience gathered to mark the academic achievements of this year’s students.

The president also reported that plans are well on the way to develop an Astronomy Observatory. He said the “Reach for the Stars” project is a joint venture involving Dr William Hrudey of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman and UCCI with the public.“Offering a fully computerised and unobstructed view of the planets, the observatory will house the second largest telescope in the Caribbean,” Bodden announced.

“In addition to being accessible to the general public, whom we invite to visit when the project is completed, the observatory will enable us to offer courses in astronomy and astro-physics here at UCCI,” the president explained as he called on the public to help in the funding of the significant goal.

Bodden also revealed that next year’s UCCI International Conference will be themed “Surveying the Past – Mapping the Future”, and will examine the fifty years since the Cayman Islands broke its close constitutional relationship with Jamaica.

Listing the colleges many achievements throughout the 2010/11 academic year, he also spoke about numerous challenges ahead, from the need for a college nurse to its own power supply. Bodden further noted that a major challenge for UCCI came from what he termed “uninformed detractors” who, he said, cast unmerited aspersions on the integrity and standards at the University College.

“Students graduating from UCCI are accepted by a large number of foreign universities. Similarly, our students transfer with the minimum of inconvenience to overseas universities to finish their education,” he stated, adding that the list of foreign universities accepting UCCI graduates was available from the registrar’s office.  In order to address the issue, the president said during this upcoming academic year the faculty would make a more determined effort to inform local private school students of the advantages of studying at UCCI.

“As president, I wrote some time ago to the private schools requesting permission for representatives of UCCI to visit their campuses to make presentations to senior students; regrettably I got no response to my solicitation,” he said. “Only Triple C School has displayed any common courtesy toward UCCI and I am informed by UCCI Student Services office that presentations have been made to Triple C students.”

Bodden also confirmed that this would be the last summer graduation as in future the ceremony would be held in the fall in the college’s courtyard on a Saturday. The president said it would represent a welcome change from the current rushed and stressful event and offer more students the summer semesters to complete their requirements.

Kayla Shibli, who gave the valedictorian address, spoke of the continuous words of encouragement from the faculty that she said helped the students believe in themselves as she thanked them all on behalf of the graduates, for the sacrifices, commitment, and support.

“I can confidently say that UCCI is fully committed to excellent teaching, innovative research, and the personal and intellectual growth of the students. It is dedicated to providing students with the values that are perfectly aligned with corporate requirements in the Cayman Islands, and the values that preserve integrity in the workplace and society,” she added.

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