Archive for October 19th, 2011

Top judge says criticisms won’t help crime fight

| 19/10/2011 | 49 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands chief justice has warned that the country’s sense of security won’t be regained by one arm of law enforcement criticising another. In a letter to the press addressing recent public comments criticising judicial decisions in criminal cases, the islands' top judge has said that the rhetoric about the acquittals is not only misguided but potentially harmful as it could invite a loss of confidence in the administration of justice. Although the chief justice said the majority of responses in the media have described the comments as inappropriate, the wider debate called for a response from the judiciary.

“This letter offers what I trust will be accepted as an appropriate response,” Anthony Smellie writes in his letter to the editor, posted below in full. “Confronted by the current unprecedented wave of armed violence, it is entirely natural that everyone will be concerned for the loss of our common sense of security … Our common security will not, however, be regained by futile and misguided attempts to deflect blame away from one arm of law enforcement to another.”

Although the chief justice does not refer directly to the police commissioner, who has publicly criticised the decision of a visiting judge to acquit Devon Anglin for the murder of 4-year-old Jeremiah Barnes, he warns of the dangers of the comments and their impact on future decisions made by the local judiciary that could lead the public to question whether those decisions only reflect the judges’ responses to the pressure of criticism.

Justice Smellie offers the public his reassurance that the judges and magistrates of the Cayman Islands will “remain faithful to their constitutional oaths of office, no matter what the criticisms and no matter what the consequences.”

He also pointed out that judges make decisions based on the law and evidence, and while they are not infallible they are “uniquely accountable”, unlike any other arm of government, through a hierarchical process of appeal which provides an extensive check and balance.

The senior judge said the judiciary requires and deserves the respect and trust of the people, as do other agencies involved in the “relentless struggle for law enforcement against those who would bring violence and anarchy into our midst.”

See full letter below.

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Public purse facing scrutiny

| 19/10/2011 | 34 Comments

(CNS): The auditor general has set out his intention to scrutinize the public purse over the coming year with the publication of a comprehensive performance audit programme, which includes audits of how government cash is collected as well as how it is spent. Alastair Swarbrick’s team plan to audit the arrangements currently in place to determine, manage and collect government revenue and more than seven different areas of public spending. The office will be taking a closer look at how the public sector manages hospitality and travel expenses, investment in IT, human resources, executive transactions and transfer payments, as well as an examination of the government building and high school projects.

Swarbrick said that as a result of the significant risks identified in recent reports about government procurement, the office will also be monitoring and reviewing procurements on an ongoing basis. He pointed to a long list of government projects and areas of expenditure that will be closely monitored and may also become the subjects of public audit if the need arises.

He said his team will be taking a look back at previous audits to find out if recommendations had been acted upon.  “We also plan to follow up a number of our previous performance audits to examine whether the issues identified, the recommendations made or the lessons learned have been addressed,” Swarbrick stated.

These include a review of the legal aid programme, a review of the expenditures for the UK police operations Tempura and Cealt, the internal audit’s report on fuel card usage and management, and the Matrix scrap metal report.

The newly published programme further reveals that the office is in the process of completing a performance audit on the management of overseas medical expenseswhich is expected to be published before the end of this month. Next month the government’s top auditor also plans to publish a report on how government deals with fraud.

Alongside the publication of the work the audit office plans to carry out between now and the early part of 2013, the office has also published its strategic pla,n which sets out the goals and explains the importance of the government watchdog.

“This is a time of significant change and uncertainty, and the pressures on public finances present significant challenges for government, as they seek to contain and reduce costs,” Swarbrick stated. “The risks that these challenges present reinforce the need for effective accountability of public expenditure and the importance of independent scrutiny of that expenditure by my office.”

The auditor general points out that those responsible for public business and handling public money must be held accountable, in accordance with the law and proper standards “to those who use and pay for the services provided”,  the people of the Cayman Islands.

“Public resources should be safeguarded, properly accounted for and used economically, efficiently and effectively,” wrote Swarbrick. “Ministers, boards, chief officers, managers and public officials have the primary responsibility for ensuring that public business is conducted in accordance with the law and proper standards and that public money is handled with integrity and spent appropriately.

He said public bodies and those responsible for conducting their affairs must discharge this accountability by establishing and maintaining proper governance arrangements and effective stewardship of the resources at their disposal.

The public auditor also noted the importance of his office’s independence and the need to make the results of the audits and reviews available to the public and to democratically elected representatives. It is vital to ensure public accountability, Swarbrick said, so that all stakeholders can effectively hold government to account for its decisions and actions.

“This presents some specific challenges for the Cayman Islands, with public entities not producing accounts and financial statements effectively and efficiently to support robust financial management and accountability,” he pointed out. “As the watchdog of government spending our primary aim is to hold government to account for how it manages and spends the scarce resources at its disposal.”

He also stressed the need for his office to help government to improve its accountability, which will in turn improve governance and the provision of services to the people.

See the performance audit programme here

See the strategic policy statement here

See the new office website here

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Man denies attempted murder in Wetfete fight

| 19/10/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 25 year old man has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder in connection with a stabbing which occurred on the West Bay Road this summer. Aaron Solomon was charged with attempting to kill Akim Dunbar, also 25, during an incident which occurred near the Islander Hotel following the WetFete event close to the Marriot Hotel in the early hours of 27 August. The victim received multiple serious stab wounds to the neck and body according to a police report from the time of the incident and was bleeding profusely when emergency services came to his aid.

Solomon will now face trial on 16 January next year when he will also face a second count of GBH wounding with intent.  Solomon who was arrested in East End on Saturday 27 August has been refused bail and was remanded in custody to Northward until his next court appearance.

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Auditor offers real and virtual access to public

| 19/10/2011 | 14 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman public will now have more access to one of government’s most important watchdogs with the launch of the auditor general’s new website. The comprehensive portal reveals everything from how much the staff have spent on hospitality to the office’s forthcomingaudits letting the people see not only how the office spends its own budget but how the team is keeping a close eye on how all public money is being spent. The website www.auditorgeneral.gov.ky was launched Tuesday and Alastair Swarbrick is inviting the public to an open day next month to meet him and his team.

The office has also made public its strategic plan and its performance, or value-for-money, audit programme.  The deputy auditor general Garnet Harrison, who has spearheaded the work on the website said there is a lot of information on it previously unavailable except through freedom of information requests. Harrison said the new site will ensure the key provisions of the FOI law will be met more efficiently and it will be an example of good practice for other public bodies to follow in the future.

The Office has made public management team remuneration, key payments and contracts, employee travel expenses, hospitality received and given and even a register of interests for key employees. Visitors to the website will be able to find copies of the office’s press releases and audit reports dating back to 1995 and a ‘Quick Guide to the Office.’

In an effort to provide useful information to other officials in the Cayman Islands Government, the website will have information about good practices for the management of the public sector as well as links to other websites that provide information that could assist public sector managers.

Swarbrick also announced the recently completed Strategic Plan – Making a Difference – and the planned programme of performance audits.

“Since being appointed Auditor General in July 2010, I have spent a lot of time talking to government officials and the public to understand how my office can provide the government with an effective independent public audit function,” Swarbrick said. “I believe the Strategic Plan captures the essence of this effort and will be a good base for how we want to go forward in the future. We desire to make a difference in how Government operates by promoting good governance, transparency, and accountability in the use of public funds.”

He said the purpose of performance audit plan is to inform all stakeholders of the reports the office plans to issue over the next 18 months and other areas it plans to watch and which may be reported on in the future.

“I also hope that it will help stimulate stakeholders to contribute ideas about the areas my Office should be auditing,” he added.

Public sector employees and the public are also invited to meet the Auditor General and his staff, and have a “tour” of the new website at an open house to be held on 2 November from 1.00pm to 4.00pm at the office on the third floor of Anderson Square, 64 Shedden Road.

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Extreme runners wanted for annual ultra-marathon

| 19/10/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Organisers of next year’s Off the Beaten Track, Cayman’s ‘ultra’ marathon, are calling for relay teams from companies on the island to join forces with some of Cayman’s most prominent professional firms, to make this year’s event the most well-attended ever. The event will be held on Sunday 26 February. Off The Beaten Track is organised by local runner Kenneth Krys, of Krys Global, and is a one-of-a-kind, ultra-marathon designed to create the atmosphere of Morocco’s Marathon des Sables, in which Krys has participated. Now in its third year, Off the Beaten Track sees teams of six running in relay over a distance of approximately 50 kilometres across and around the island.

Krys says the route is complex to really test the runners, incorporating beach, dyke roads, back streets, and so it is aimed at fit runners who are comfortable running under such conditions.

Krys has just recently returned from a six stage run through the Amazon jungle.
“The race was the hardest I've done so far, so it’s not surprising then that it's called the hardest race on the planet,” he says of the Jungle Race.“It's more than just a run … You have to climb over falling trees, some over 5 feet high, swim across streams and climb sharp ascending hills. The jungle is harsh, wet and unforgiving. I've got a lot of scars and cuts, but also a ton of great memories.”

Buoyed up by his recent race success, Krys says he will be adding some new challenges to this year's Off the Beaten Track race to incorporate some of the events and difficulties from the Jungle Marathon, including some water crossing and trekking through the bush.
“Along with international recognition, we are expecting the biggest field ever this year. Already people on and off island are seeking more information and indicating they plan to attend,” he states.

At least 50 per cent of the monies raised from the run will be donated to Facing Africa, a charity which assists people with NOMA, a flesh eating disease that affects young children, those living in poverty and the malnourished living in Sub Sahara Africa.
Krys says: “I started seeking support for this organisation when I did the Marathon de Sables and have been impressed with their work and the success they are having in operating on children with NOMA so they can live 'normal' lives.”

He confirms that the remainder of monies raised will go to local charities, in particular those that assist children in the local community.

Last year the race raised almost $20,000 and the organisers say they would like to reach that level again this year. Krys is looking for sponsors and volunteers to assist.
Visit www.offthebeatentrack.ky for more information.
 

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Frasers take one-two in 200m at Pan-Am games

| 19/10/2011 | 66 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands swimming, sibling sensations had a remarkable achievement at the Pan Am Games in Mexico on Tuesday. Not only did Brett Fraser win the islands’ first ever gold medal at a Pan American Games, his brother Shaune got the silver in the same race. The brothers managed the one-two in the men's 200m freestyle final, where Brett notched up a new games record of one minute and 47.18 seconds, shortening the previous mark held by Brazilian Gustavo Borges by 1.31 seconds. His older brother Shaune came in at 1:48.29 with Paraguay's Benjamin Hockin, who timed 1:48.48 just behind him.

With no American swimmers on the podium, the Cayman brothers shared the glory at the medal’s ceremony, putting Cayman firmly on the top of the international swimming stage.

“It feels spectacular. I still can’t believe what just happened. My brother and I are very happy because we shared the podium, he’s always been an example to follow. This is a great moment for my country,” said Brett after receiving his medal. His older brother Shaune added: “This is my second Pan American medal. My brother and I talked about making the 1-2, no matter in what order. In the pool, it is a competition between us both. Outside the pool we get along great. This is the second time he beats me.”

The sports minister Mark Scotland applauded the Fraser brothers for their tremendous achievement. “These two champions started their swimming career in a 25 m pool. But never did they use it as an excuse not to reach the top. They have steadily worked their way up without sacrificing their academic careers. They are truly worthy examples of how hard work and dedication can pay off,” he said.

For more on Cayman’s participation in the games go to the Olympic committee face book page


 

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Cayman Islands put 4 past Suriname

| 19/10/2011 | 33 Comments

(CIFA): The Cayman Islands under 20 Women’s Team opened their CFU World Cup Qualifying campaign with an impressive 4:0 win over the hosts Suriname. An excited crowd was on hand at the Essed Stadium in Paramaribo, Suriname, to witness Cayman take on the home country.  The first half of game did not live up to the billing as both young teams showed signs of nerves and seemed to be overwhelmed by the occasion. The Cayman Islands were fielding a very young team — eight of Cayman's starting eleven were 18 years old or younger. Cayman managed to create a number of half chances in the first half but were unable to convert and went into the dressing room at half time 0:0. The second half saw Cayman take the ascendancy, the girls came out firing on all cylinders and opened the scoring in the 48th minute from a set play.

Shanice Monteith bent in an inviting cross that was converted by Courtisha Ebanks, who managed to rise above the Suriname defenders and power home her header.  Two minutes later Cayman doubled their lead with a superb 25 yard lob from Brianna Hydes, who caught the Suriname keeper off her line. Brianna’s goal seemed to push Cayman into overdrive as they came with wave after wave of attack. Suriname’s resistance was breached again in the 60th minute when Marrisa McLaughlin latched onto a cross from Jetena Bodden, who worked tirelessly all game.

The rout was completed in the 75th minute when Shanice Monteith manufactured a goal out of nothing; Cayman Captain Jessica Ebanks found Monteith in space on the half way line, who then ran 45 yards with the ball before calmly slotting home Cayman’s fourth.

Head Coach Eric Dobrzanski was very satisfied with his team's second half performance and result. Dobrzanski said, “The team played an inspired second half and proved that they wanted to make a statement in this round of Qualifiers. They realized the adjustments that needed to be made and capitalized. I could not be more proud of every single one of the girls who was wearing a Cayman jersey tonight.”   

Cayman Islands Striker Shanelle Frederick from the Cayman Brac, who is only 15 years old, was a constant threat in attack and instrumental in everything that Cayman had to offer going forward. Shanelle said, “It’s an honour to put on the Cayman Shirt and play with these girls. They are all my sisters and we are a family. I should have had a few goals tonight but the main thing is that the team won and now we focus on Trinidad and Tobago.”

The Cayman Islands Under 20 National Team will play Trinidad and Tobago Thursday 20 October in their final Qualification game of the first round. Kick off is 5pm Cayman time. For updates, highlights and information please visit www.facebook.com/caymanfootball

Cayman Islands Women’s Under 20 Squad: Emily Kelly,  Brittany Bodden, Giselle Johnson, Brianna Hydes, Marissa McLaughlin, Jessica Ebanks, Courtisha Ebanks, Shanice Monteith, Jetena Bodden, Brittany Mobley, Brittni Ebanks, Kimberly Rivers, Chelsea Greene, Somali Hall, Kaela Ebanks, Tacita Berry, Shanelle Frederick, Chelsea Brown, Janel Ebanks, Neesah Godet.

See game highlights:

Goal 1: Courtisha Ebanks:  Watch video

Goal 2: Brianna Hydes: Watch video

Goal 3: MarissaMcLauglin: Watch video

Goal 4: Shanice Monteith: Watch video

 

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NHDT offices closed by cops

| 19/10/2011 | 57 Comments

(CNS): The arrest of an official board member from the National Housing Development Trust is not the only action police have taken this week against what is said  to be financial irregularities related to government’s affordable housing scheme in East End. The police have also temporarily closed the offices of government’s NHDT and taken the computers for forensic examination as part of the investigation into corruption and deception. The 59-year-old man who was arrested at his home in George Town yesterday has since been released on bail while the investigation continues but it is understood the enquiry is widening.

The official, who was one of only three remaining members on the board after a string of resignations which have not yet been explained by government, is accused of abusing his position on the board relating to the sale of insurance policies to the buyers of the low cost government built homes. Police confirmed yesterday that he was arrested under the relatively new anti-corruption legislation as well as for deception offences.

The arrest comes only days after keys were handed over to 12 families who have purchased homes on the East End project by government ministers and officials at a special ceremony. The East End development, which is now embroiled in controversy, is situated just behind the district’s primary school off John McLean Road.

As charges have not yet been brought against the board member, who is also a member and director of the United Democratic Party, police have not named the individual. Although he is the first person to be arrested in connection with irregularities relating to the trust and the development of the affordable homes, it is understood he is not the only official currently under investigation.

Following revelations by CNS on Monday afternoon that the board member had been arrested, Mike Adam, the government minister with responsibility for the NHDT, said that he was awaiting further details from the police commissioner about the arrest. Although Adam indicated that he was aware of the investigation, he said on Monday afternoon that he was unaware of who had been arrested and would be making an official comment once he knew more.

Since then CNS has received no further comment from theminister or any government officials in the community affairs ministry, which deals with the government company.

Government back bencher and general secretary of the UDP, Ellio Solomon, who has reportedly worked on the NHDT project, has also failed to offer any comment regarding the position of the party on the arrest of one of its leading members or his own involvement with the NHDT. 

The investigation began as a result of complaints filed with law enforcement officials the police almost one year ago, which had accused government officials and political appointees of abusing their positions in regard  to a number of different elements relating to the development of the one, two and three bedroom homes on the sub-division.

The NHDT is a government owned company with a mandate to assist low-income Caymanian families and first time buyers into home ownership.  There are several other housing projects underway across Grand Cayman, including the development of 29 homes in West Bay, 26 homes in Windsor Park in George Town and a project in Bodden Town, which is due to start shortly, but it is not clear yet if corruption investigations are also underway regarding other developments.

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