Archive for October 6th, 2011

Rally to present options to crime for Cayman youth

| 06/10/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A group of young people are organizing a non-political youth rally for this Saturday with the hope of offering young people in the eastern districts options to crime. As the East End community reels from the fatal shooting of 21 year old Asher McGaw last month, the fifth young victim of a spate of gang related killings which began in West Bay, members of the district community aim to bring young people together in a relaxed environment to meet representatives from a number of local clubs and programmes.

Local artists, performers, positive role models and caring citizens will be on hand to organizers hope positively touch the life of young Caymanians by introducing them to the service groups and clubs and the opportunities that exist for positive peer interaction.

“Given the recent increase in crime in the Cayman Islands, particularly the sharp escalation of murders involving relatively young persons, it is hoped that this event will help to create a fun, relaxed atmosphere where the young people can be themselves, but also have the opportunity to interact and learn from other successful Caymanians,” the organizers said. 

Scheduled for from 11am until 7pm the event is open to the public, especially the young people and will be free of charge. There will be bouncing castles and water slides on site for the younger children, music, entertainment and food which will also be free of cost to everyone who attends.
 

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Alicia Keys caused DoT to break financial rules

| 06/10/2011 | 27 Comments

(CNS): The acting director of the Department of Tourism said it was the goal of securing international singing sensation Alicia Keys which led to the department to avoid putting the 2009 Jazz Fest production contract through central tendering. Shomari Scott explained to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week that the DoT had not gone through the normal process before it awarded the contract, worth over $1.2 million, to BET because the production company came as a package with the award winning artist. However, the auditor general pointed out that mechanisms exist for such unique circumstances and the department only had to submit a business case for a sole supplier.

During the PAC hearing Tuesday Scott explained how the department had been presented with the opportunity to secure Alicia Keys for the Jazz Fest at a great price through BET, as they worked with the star. Given that this was a great coup for the Cayman Islands to sign an artist of that calibre, the department acted quickly and signed the deal with BET, not just for Keys but for the company to produce the entire festival.

He said that, given the unique circumstances, which the ministry was aware of, and the need for flexibility with regard to the contract, it would not have been possible for the department to go through an open tender. Scott said that if they had dragged their feet they would have lost the chance to get Keys, which ended up representing great value for money for the Cayman Islands. He said the star enhance the Cayman brand image as well as attracting large numbers of tourists to the festival and the subsequent business generated for hotels, restaurants and other local businesses.

Scott also said he had not acted entirely alone as he believed he had the go ahead to by-pass the tendering process because the ministry was aware of the negotiations that were taking place with BET to secure Keys and he was instructed to go forward with the proposal to sign the star.

The need for flexibility from the tendering process was emphasised repeatedly by the government members of the PAC, but the auditor general, Alastair Swarbrick, pointed out that there were flexible mechanisms already in the Public Management and Finance Law and the regulations governing tendering.

Swarbrick told the committee members that the Department of Tourism only had to present the business case to CTC for the need for a sole supplier and notify the auditor general’s office for it to have remained within the law.  The country’s top auditor said that there was flexibility and that unique situations such as that could have been handled within the existing regulations without circumventing the process.

“There is no issue about sole suppliers once the business case is set out,” Swarbrick said.

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Programme reveals kids needed somewhere to go

| 06/10/2011 | 12 Comments

(CNS): The need for youngsters to have somewhere safe to go and something structured to do in the immediate hours after school finishes has been emphatically confirmed recently with some 800 students signing up for government’s free Extended Afterschool Programme (EASP) in just three weeks. At a recent meeting in West Bay the education minister spoke about the need for the programme covering the late afternoon hours which have been identified as a high risk time slot for young people to find themselves in trouble.  The secondary school programme offers students 31 activities, including martial arts, power lifting, swimming, sailing, scuba diving, dance and media club, between 3-6pm weekdays.

The chief officer in the education ministry echoed Rolston Anglin’s recent comments when she said the programme which is being managed by both the education and youth ministries was seen geared towards reduce opportunities for young people to adopt at-risk behaviour in the three hours after school.

“The programme provides a safe, fun and productive environment between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. until parents return from work. Students on our at-risk register are encouraged to attend, but the programme is open to all students,” Mary Rodrigues said

With so many more parents working full time, few finishing work at the same time as school ends and childminding costs and private clubs too expensive many kids have increasingly been left to fend for themselves until their parents come home for a significant period. The number of kids signed up represents well over a third of all students attending high school in the government system.

The education ministry’s liaison officer for at-risk youth and the coordinator of the new programme said the overwhelming community response to the programme proves that it is a worthwhile investment for the future of the country.

Michael Myles said that the after school service had been piloted for two months earlier this year with nine activities. The programme was then expanded after organisers received positive feedback from the young people taking part and their parents by adding some 22 more activities.

Four social programmes were also added looking at food, families, community and rewards. Myles explained that the food and nutrition programme is designed to expose kids to healthy food preparation practices and advice on healthy life styles. Offered in conjunction with the Health Services Authority (HSA) the programme involves visits to restaurants and information sessions with an HSA nutritionist.

Family recognition night aims to pull parents, volunteers and instructors together for a monthly dinner with students. Myles said students will have an opportunity to pay tribute to their parents, instructors, volunteers and community. Equally, parents will have a chance tomeet instructors and develop relationships adding that all stakeholders will be encouraged to attend this event.

Giving back to the many community partners who’ve made the programme possible is also important and Myles added that students from the various clubs and activities will develop projects and partner monthly for this purpose. “This will teach our young people that they too have an obligation as citizens to give back to the country in other areas,” he said.

Finally the students exhibit perfect attendance, respect and hard work,  who perform well, and demonstrate positive leadership and commitment to community service will also receive special recognition via the rewards programme that has also been created as part of the overall after school programmes.

Given the size of the project and the response to it which is essentially about keeping kids out of trouble and giving them something positive to do Myles said, sustaining it long-term will require community support.

“This programme has the potential to grow even further, but it requires volunteers to assist instructors, and incentives in the form of gift certificates and funding,” he said. “We’re inviting persons with ideas for additional activities or those wishing to donate gifts to join the programme. Our aim is to ensure that every young person attending secondary school has a choice for afterschool activities. By ensuring that this happens, we will prevent young people from engaging in negative activities,” he added.

 

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Mac defers PAC appearance

| 06/10/2011 | 54 Comments

(CNS): The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was adjourned Wednesday afternoon on its second day after the chair revealed that the premier, who had been called as a witness, was unable to attend as he was travelling overseas. Moses Kirkconnell, the new chair of PAC, said that McKeeva Bush, Central Tenders Committee Chair Ronnie Dunne and Peter Young, the UDP party treasurer, have all agreed to appear before PAC to answer questions regarding the financing arrangements for government’s loan in the last financial year. During his appearance before the committee on Wednesday Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson said that from the very beginning the Cohen representations appeared unrealistic.

Kirkconnell said he hoped, depending on the premier’s schedule and the next Legislative Assembly sitting, which is now expected to reconvene next week, that PAC would be able to examine the auditor general’s findings regarding the circumstances surrounding Cohen & Co loan with the three outstanding witnesses in the next two weeks.

During the tendering process to find financing for a loan of up to US$185 million, which government had been cleared to borrow by the UK, the premier overturned a CTC decision and awarded the financing deal to Cohen & Company Capital Markets LLC. According to representatives from the Treasury, the deal was submitted by a local firm called Advanced Fund Administration Cayman Ltd on behalf of Cohen and Co, and the PAC heard it was sent by email to government by Peter Young.

The financial secretary and representatives from the treasury department appeared as witnesses on Wednesday and shed further light on the behind the scenes moves surrounding the loan deal. Jefferson said that from the very beginning staff had concerns that the representations made by Cohen that it could guarantee a maximum interest rate of 4.5% on the length of the loan at the price it had offered was unrealistic. He told the committee that once government had signed a deal with Cohen, the firm became reticent about answering questions on how it would be able to guarantee the favourable rate.

Jefferson said that, as a result of the protracted discussions and the failure of government to get answers before committing to the full loan, there were cash flow problems and government was forced to take out the two short term bridging loans, which were arranged by Cohen. These two temporary loans ended up costing the public purse  almost half a million dollars more than if government had gone ahead with the joint local bid which had been successful during the open tender.

Jefferson further revealed that, as part of the deal, the Cayman government had to use Cohen to arrange the loans with Scotia Bank and Banque Havilland, and no due diligence was done at the time to see if the public purse got the best deal because of the pressing need to get the cash and as a result of being tied into Cohen.

Jefferson said that after several months questioning the New York financing firm, it eventually admitted that it could not supply government with the financing at the rate it had first suggested. At that point, given that no savings would ever be realised, the government terminated the deal and went back to the CTC to tender once again and, after the proper process was followed, the original joint bid was again successful.

Jefferson told PACthat there were certainly lessons to be learned from the experience and he agreed that having access to a market specialist in Treasury, which it now has, having employed the services of a UK capital markets expert, would have been helpful. But Jefferson also revealed that even without that high level of expertise brought by Geoff Bell the department recognised from very early on that the representations by Cohen were unrealistic. The financial secretary said that, to the best of his recollection, before the deal was signed no one in Treasury was asked for their opinion.

Bush will be facing questions from the committee about why he intervened in the central tendering process after a consortium of two local banks had won the bid and chose to go with a representation made by the New York based financing house when there was no apparent evidence that the company could produce the savings it claimed.

Since the cases studies on the management of government procurement was published in August, the premier has been outspokenly critical of the auditor general’s office and has stated that his decision to go with Cohen and Company and circumvent the process was to find a better solution for the country’s loan financing. “Had I succeeded, I would have saved this country over $24 million. And yes I would do it again as it is my duty to try and save money,” he said in a televised statement in August.

Bush is understood to currently be overseas on official business but, despite several requests to his office, no details of the latest trip have been revealed.

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Maples take the lead

| 06/10/2011 | 0 Comments

(CRFU): The Cayman Rugby Club in South Sound will play host to the fastest form of rugby every Saturday in October this year. The Rugby 7’s series continues to garner interest locally as the game is a quicker, more flowing form of Rugby and with more room to run the local lads and ladies get that added opportunity to show their speed and agility. The league, split into men’s premier, men’s social and ladies divisions features a total of 10 teams who play round robin matches throughout the day and a final at the end for each division if time allows. In the Men’s premier division the Maples Academy team which comprises the National Men’s 7’s team jumped to the top of the standings board with 3 straight wins.(PhotoCaroline Deegan)

The CML Ama Tsotsi were expected to give the Maples boys a run for their money in the opening Premier league game Maples took the win in easy fashion 28-7. The Ecay Pigs Trotters put up a much stronger fight against Maples but were still beaten 28-17. Meanwhile the former powerhouse Peter O’Neill Wolfhounds struggled on the day and could not muster a win against any of their opposition.

The Ama Tsotsi will look to bolster their team in week 2 with the return of Etienne Duvenage and challenge the Maples early dominance whilst the Wolfhounds and the Pigs Trotters look shore up their defenses and climb up the points ladder.

Premier Division Standings:

Team                               Won Lost  Tied   For    Against   Diff   Points  Tournament Points
Maples Acadamy           3      0         0       101    24            77    9            15
CML Ama Tsotsi            2      1         0        97      42           55     6            12
Ecay Pigs Tortters         1      2         0        43       99          56     3            10
Peter O'Neill Wolfhds    0     3         0         26     102         76     0             8

The men’s social division can often produce the most entertaining rugby for the spectators as the apparent lack of pace in the older teams and the Heineken Clydesdales can lead to some interesting tactics on the pitch. Elsewhere all the teams are left in the dust by the Dart U19’s team whose pace often means a win is but assured before kick off.

In week one the Social division was the victim of timing issues as the day started late and some of the later social games had to be sacrificed to make room for the premier division.

Whilst the U19’s got their share of games the Clydesdales, Maples and Grizz’s Old Fellas dropped a game each.

Maples looked dangerous in their games and held the Dart U19’s to within 2 points as the youngsters took the game 14-12 but the clash of the heavyweights will have to wait until this weekend when the Clydesdales get their chance to face off against the Old Fellas

Social Division Standings

Division  Team             Won  Lost   Tied  For   Against  Diff  Points        Tournament Points
Soc          Dart U19        3        0        0       118   26           92    9                            15
Soc          Maples           1        1        0        40    27           13    3                            12
Soc  Hkn Clydesdales 0         2       0        17    62            44   0                            10
Soc         Knackers        0         2      0          20    80           60   0                              8

The women’s division, being made up of only 2 teams is looking to build towards the next Caribbean 7’s championship in Barbados but the highlight for many onlookers was a chance to see Schmarrah McCarthy in action.

Some will recognise her name from 2006 when Schamarrah represented the USA U19’s women’s team and since that time hasbeen making strides in the sport. McCarthy’s strength and running lines made her a force to recon with throughout the day and her presence on the field will no doubt be a huge boost to women’s rugby in Cayman.

Division    Team         Won  Lost    Tied   For  Against   Diff  Points       Tournament Points
Women     White          2        0           0     45     19           26      6                  15
Women      Green        0        2           0     19     45           26      0                  12

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Ex senior cop paid off

| 06/10/2011 | 56 Comments

(CNS): Some three and a half years after he was suspended from duty, former deputy commissioner Rudi Dixon has agreed a financial settlement with the government and formally left the RCIPS. The figure remains under wraps, however, even though the cash comes out of the public purse. The governor’s office said that a settlement was reached with Dixon but a non-disclosure confidentiality agreement was attached to it, preventing  officials from revealing the details of the deal with the former senior cop, which was reached around six weeks ago. Dixon was placed on required leave during the costly and discredited Operation Tempura investigation into alleged corruption within the RCIPS in March 2008 and never returned to his post.

Dixon was suspended along with the police commissioner at the time, Stuart Kernohan, who has a continuing legal dispute with government, and Chief Superintendent John Jones, who has returned to work. Shortly afterwards Dixon was arrested by UK officers from the special police investigation team (SPIT).

The senior investigating officer of the internal police probe, Martin Bridger, charged Dixon with two counts of misconduct in a public office and two counts of doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice. The charges related to two separate incidents in which Dixon was involved with individuals being released from custody without charges.

One of the cases against him relating to the arrest and release of a suspect on Cayman Brac over illegal numbers, which was dropped before it reached the court room. In the second case, which related to advice Dixon had given to an officer to release a former senior cop after a drink driving arrest, he was found not guilty by a jury.  Following the court case, by which time the police commissioner had replaced Dixon with a UK deputy, the local senior cop remained on suspension on full pay while the RCIPS continued what it said was an internal “disciplinary investigation”, the results of which have never been revealed.

It is understood that since then, Dixon has been in negotiations with the Cayman government to agree a financial settlement that would see him formally depart from the service and compensated for the damage to what had been a successful career in the RCIPS up to that point.

It is estimated that Dixon would have been paid close to $500,000 over the last three years he spent on suspension in salary and benefits. The amount of the settlement is likely to have reached the millions of dollars mark, given the former cop's senior position and the potential length of service ahead of him. Dixon was a senior career officer who would have served until his retirement and had at one point been tipped to become the police commissioner, hopes of which were dashed once Bridger arrived in Cayman.

This latest undisclosed bill to the public purse is unlikely to be the last of the money to be spent mopping up after Operation Tempura. Former police commissioner Stuart Kernohan is continuing with his wrongful dismissal claim against the Cayman Islands government and former police officer Burman Scott, who was arrested by SPIT in relation to the same case as Dixon, has also filed a claim against the government.

Aside from the more than $6 milllion spent on the actual investigations undertaken by SPIT, which did not result in a single conviction for corruption, Operation Tempura also cost the Cayman public purse a further CI$1.3 million. This was for damages paid to Grand Court Judge, Justice Alex Henderson, who was unlawfully arrested by Bridger’s team and who won the payout following a high profile courtroom case in which the various allegations and investigations by SPIT began to unravel.

CNS contacted Dixon about the long awaited payout but he also stated that he was unable to make any comment regarding any settlement that may have been reached.

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Burglars take food from meals-on-wheels centre

| 06/10/2011 | 26 Comments

(CNS): Police have confirmed that a report was made to them this morning, Thursday 6 October, regardinga break-in at the TE McField Youth and Community Center off School House Road in George Town. The centre is where volunteers prepare food for the meals-on-wheels delivery service, which takes food to the elderly and infirm who are house bound. It also prepares some of the meals for young kids who attend the government’s after-school programme in George Town. The report was received around 6:25am after volunteers arrived to find the food for today’s meals gone. Police have not yet confirmed the details of the incident but other sources tell CNS that the foods stuffs were taken during the break-in, which appears to have occurred overnight.

Anyone with with information on this or any other crime can call George Town Police Station on 949 4222 or Crime stoppers 800 TIPS(8477).

 

 

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Kurt urges action on report

| 06/10/2011 | 22 Comments

(CNS): The former opposition leader and newest member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has urged the deputy governor to ensure that someone, somewhere in the administrative arm of government takes ownership of the goal to review and revamp procurement. Based on the report by the auditor general regarding the management of how government buys goods and services, Kurt Tibbetts said he did not want to think about how much money could have been wasted over the years and the country was in no position to waste any more. He said the issue had been talked about in the past but no one had ever taken responsibility for the change, as he implored Donovan Ebanks to get the project rolling before he retired.  (Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

At the first open meeting of the PAC under the new chair, Moses Kirkconnell, on Wednesday and Thursday the members examined two reports by Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick and his team from the audit office which exposed the mismanagement of and disregard for the proper processes under which government should be buying the services and goods it needs. The shocking reports not only revealed pure management incompetence but the potential for fraud and corruption, as well as direct political interference.

The AG made a significant number of recommendations about how to fix the system and also indicated the need for leadership on the issue.

With as much as $250 milllion spent by central government on a diverse shopping list, from electricity consumption to construction services, the former leader of government business said that someone in the administrative arm of government had to take up the responsibility for ensuring that the recommendations by the auditor general were implemented and the changes that could begin to save government money got underway as soon as possible.

Called as a witness by PAC, the deputy governor said that he was willing to take the lead on implementing the project but procurement was not really the remit of Portfolio of Internal Affairs.

He said a new system wouldn’t happen overnight as he spoke about a timeframe that was long as two years before the many recommendations made in the reports could be implemented, if they were all decided to have merit. Ebanks said that he had begun talking about the possible changes with the financial secretary because he believed that procurement should remain the responsibility of the finance ministry, but he said decisions on how the country wanted to deal with the issue in general had to be made and he was not clear about who would make those decisions.

Questions such as whether or not there should be a centralized procurement unit, given that government was now decentralized, whether there should be a chief procurement officer, who should appoint the CTC and the technical committees, and how conflicts of interest should be dealt with were some of the issues that needed to be considered, Ebanks noted. He told the committee that someone did need to take ownership of the problem and he was willing to commit to begin the process.

Despite the urgency and scale of the mismanagement pointed out by Swarbrick in the reports, the first of which was published in July, Ebanks said that over the next few months the goal would be to create a proper plan that would then be taken to Cabinet for approval before any changes could begin to be made. “It’s going to take time to get a handle on what we want to do,” Ebanks told the committee.

It was still not clear how the civil service would manage and communicate the procurement process with a view to cost cutting and value for money for public funds. Furthermore, he noted that while it had been apparent for many years that there were problems with procurement, there were so many other things facing the civil service it was not possible to do everything.

Tibbetts urged the deputy governor, who will be retiring in the next few months, to “get the ball rolling before he departed” and pass it on to Franz Manderson, who will be filling Ebanks’ shoes when he retires. Tibbetts said that if, as the auditor general had said in his report, millions of dollars were being wasted, the need for change should be at the head of the line in government’s plans to balance the budget and someone had to take hold of the issue.

“The race needs to begin,” Tibbetts urged. “Someone needs to say I own this because no one does.”

See the Auditor General's reports on the management of procurement and the case studies below.

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Saad Group legal battle reaches turning point

| 06/10/2011 | 0 Comments

(Reuters): Maan Al-Sanea, the founder of Saudi Arabia's Saad Group, has seen a UK court lift a freezing order on $9.2 billion worth of his assets in what his legal team called a "significant turning point" in a bitter legal battle with his in-laws. The move by London's High Court, which follows a similar order by a Cayman court two weeks ago, leaves Al-Sanea free to claim what is expected to amount to several millions of pounds worth of legal costs as well as damages from the Algosaibi family, a London-based spokesman said.

"The lifting of the freezing injunctions obtained by the Algosaibis against Mr Al-Sanea — both in the Cayman Islands and now in England — marks a significant turning point in the litigation between the parties," said Louis Castellani, a lawyer at Harbottle & Lewis, who represents Al-Sanea in London.

The Algosaibis' main lawyer, Eric Lewis, said the family would continue to pursue a fraud claim against Al-Sanea in the Cayman Islands and litigation in Saudi Arabia, as well as continuing to cooperate with investigations in the United States, Switzerland and Bahrain.

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British told US before T&C constitutional suspension

| 06/10/2011 | 0 Comments

(Turks & Caicos Sun): For at least three months before the Constitution of the Turks and Caicos Islands was suspended, former Governor Gordon Wetherell told officials at the US Embassy in The Bahamas that was “certain” about direct rule being imposed on this country. That’s according to a US Embassy cable that was created on June 13th, 2009 and released by WikiLeaks on August 30, 2011. The cable said Wetherell acknowledged to the US Ambassador  that the relationship between former Governor Richard Tauwhare and former Premier Michael Misick was “uncomfortably close”.

Commenting on the suspension of the Constitution which actually took place on August 14, 2009, the US Embassy cable stated:  “Gordon Wetherell, Britain's new governor of the tiny Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) British Overseas Territory just to the south of The Bahamas, told Embassy Nassau Charge that he is certain that the final report from a Commission of Inquiry into gross mismanagement by ex-Premier Michael Misick – due to be made public in the next few weeks – will cause London to suspend TCI's constitution and its elected House of Assembly,” the cable said.

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