Archive for April 20th, 2012

Bush subject of 2nd probe, UK worried over port

| 20/04/2012 | 81 Comments

bell2.JPG(CNS): Full story — British officials have revealed that Premier McKeeva Bush is the subject of a second police investigation. No details on this further enquiry have been released but UK minister Henry Bellingham said he was confident of the independence of the police and that they were handling the investigations properly. Neither Bellingham nor Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor would elaborate after admitting to the second probe at a press briefing Friday evening. Bellingham said it was important to keep at arms-length from the investigations but he was being updated on the progress. The governor said further questions should be directed to the police commissioner but as the investigation was live he doubted that he would be able to comment more.

CNS has contacted the police regarding the surprise revelation and is awaiting a response. On Saturday morning the premier’s press secretary stated that the premier had no comment yet as he was still trying “to determine what the Governor was referring to” when he made the comment on Friday evening. On Thursday in a broadcast statement on Radio Cayman in response to further calls for him to reveal the details of the police investigations against him but he had stated that he was aware of “none”.

The comment regarding the second probe came during a press briefing at Government House with the visiting British OT minister Henry Bellingham, who is on his first visitto the Cayman Islands, and Governor Taylor.

“I am obviously aware of the investigation and the governor keeps me updated on the progress,’ Bellingham said following a question about the first probe into 'financial irregluarities', adding that he was not prepared to say anymore while the investigation was still ongoing. “I am satisfied that it is being dealt with properly by the police,” he said and pointed to the independence of the police in the overseas territories from politicians. “It is very important that this investigation is kept at arms-length.”

The governor said it was up to the police commissioner to take the investigation forward and that at some point it would be up to the director of public prosecutions to take the matter any further than that. He then revealed that there was another hitherto undisclosed probe into Bush.

“I can say that there is a further investigation, a second investigation involving the premier but, as the minister said, it is not appropriate for me to comment on it in any detail,” Governor Taylor stated, adding it was for the police commissioner to comment.

During the press briefing Bellingham also revealed that he had engaged in wide ranging and “frank discussions with the premier” and had raised concerns about procurement and the port. Bellingham said it was not the principle of investment or the nationality of those investors but the process of procurement. He repeatedly spoke of the need to bring the procurement process in connection with the port “back into line with international procurement best practice.”

The UK minister made it clear he had a number of concerns and had told the premier to seek the advice of the auditor general and the chairman of the CTC on how best to achieve that.

“There are concerns on a number of issues, including procurement and the major projects,” Bellingham said, adding that he fully understood the need for infrastructure investment but was concerned over how it was done. “I believe it’s vital that such important projects be procured in-line with international best practice to ensure value for money. I have concerns over procurement of the cruise ship terminal project, which I have raised with the premier. I have made it very clear to him, for me to be able to support the project it must be in line with international best practice.”

The minister said he was seeking reassurance of how the premier would achieve this as he spoke about the importance of trust and confidence, which he said were the foundations of partnerships with the Cayman people and the UK.

“This is a huge project for the Cayman Islands and one that’s incredible important to get right,” he said.

Bellingham would not be drawn on the details of his concerns but emphasised the issue of best procurement practice and good governance. He said that the financial framework agreement that the premier had signed was not just about managing public finances but was also about having good governance in place across the whole of the public sector and procurement that the public could have confidence in. Good governance prevented mistakes, the minister said, and provided better administration, as he pointed to UK concerns about the erosion of confidence.

Quoting the premier’s oft stated comment about “bureaucratic harassment”, Bellingham denied this was the case. “I don’t accept that there has been bureaucratic harassment or interference at all because, after all, the whole idea of having devolved government is that these competencies are devolved. There is no way the UK is going to … try and micro manage what is going on but we do feel strongly that It is important to have good governance in place.”

He said part of the shared values agenda with Cayman and the UK was having good governance in place.

Bellingham alsorevealed that he had asked Bush for an updated three year plan on how government would get public finances back on track. He stated that it was up to the Cayman government how it balanced the books but he needed “to be confident that the plans were credible and were being implemented effectively.”

He also announced that a UK economic expert would be “embedded in” a strategic economic unit here in Cayman.

Bellingham spoke about a number of other issues and offered his thanks for the warm welcome he had received in the Cayman Islands over the short visit and said he looked forward to coming back.

See Henry Bellingham’s speech delivered at Thursday evening’s cultural reception at Pedro St James below.

 

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Ryan turns attention to North Sound golf club

| 20/04/2012 | 8 Comments

golf%20north%20sound.jpg(CNS):The former owner of the Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman appears to have turned his attention to the North Sound golf club in the wake of a number of legal difficulties. Michael Ryan has announced the start of a renovation project and improvement plan at the club and that the membership programme would soon be restarted. Ryan, who is facing several law suits as a result of action by a major creditor in connection with the development of the Ritz, said he had been working for some time to keep the islands only 18-hole course open. Last November members received letters from the manager stating that the club was not renewing memberships, fueling speculation that the club was in trouble and up for sale.

The club, which is now owned by one of another collection of companies established by Ryan and other investors as part of the Dragon Bay development, is located at Safehaven.

“We have long recognized the need for golf to be an integral part of what Grand Cayman needs to offer, both to its residents and as an essential element of our tourism offering,” Ryan said in a release from the club, where he is understood to now be based since leaving the offices he had on the Ritz Carlton site.

“We have worked for many years to find a viable way to keep the course open and we have been seeking the necessary support to make this happen. With all the challenges the islands are facing I am pleased that we are able, not just to announce that the course will be remaining open, but also that we will be expanding our commitment through the implementation of a renovation and improvement program.”

The former hotel owner said that the club wanted to welcome “loyal members back” to the course, which is run by PGA golf professional Jason Deerwester, but also attract new members “and show everyone that our commitment is for the long-term,” he said.

Ryan lost control of the Ritz Carlton last month when RC Cayman Holdings LLC, the secured lender to the companies involved in the development of the resort, took legal action against Ryan and appointed receivers for Cesar Hotelco (Cayman) Ltd, CondoCo Grand Cayman Resort Ltd, Cesar Properties Ltd and CondoCo Properties Ltd, which were all involved in the Ritz project and connected to Ryan. RC Cayman is now the owner of a loan that Ryan originally took out with RSB, which he used to build the five star resort.

Despite the mounting legal issues relating to the hotel, as he has also been accused of misappropriating funds from the companies seized by RC Cayman, Ryan has said he is staying on the island and still has hopes that he can develop the planned Dragon Bay resort project.

Ryan recently claimed that he was no longer responsible for a $6 milllion debt owed to the Cayman government on outstanding duty payments on materials imported for the development of the hotel.

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What’s important to the Ministry of Education?

| 20/04/2012 | 31 Comments

The Cayman Islands Further Education Centre has been endeavouring to make their prom happen. However, it seems that the Ministry of Education does not support two of our themes for dress down days, which were “Pajama Day” and “Gender Switch Day”, and neglected to give a valid reason as to why. This raises numerous questions within me, such as: “What is so wrong with these two themes?” and “Why is this so important when there are other situations that need more attention given to them?”

My fellow students and I were the ones who decided that a ‘Spirit Week’ would be a fun and safe way to  raise money. Students helped pick a theme for every day that would allow to us to dress up completely differently and step out of the norm for a week. We had a lot of success and students enjoyed themselves.

However, yesterday, April 19, certain teachers and parents did not like the idea of girls dressing as boys and boy dressing as girls. It is understandable if people didn’t like the theme and we accept that, but the ministry should have dealt with this in a mature manner rather than making a public statement saying that Gender Switch and Pajama days were now banned from all schools (public and private) because the ministry does not approve.

This resulted in our principal going around to classes checking if there were any males dressed as a girl. It is known fact that the Cayman Islands are very conservative and believe certain ways of living are not appropriate. Nothing is wrong with having an opinion but it does become a problem when you shove them down people’s throats and expect them to be happy because to you it makes sense. It did not even occur to the students that boys dressing like girls and vice versa made others think that we were supporting homosexuality. We were just having fun and the ministry basically stripped us of our innocence and made our school look bad. Because of those who are narrow minded, our exciting day turned sour.

What has really been bothering me is how fast this was dealt with. It didn’t even take a day to handle a situation that wasn’t even a problem! It’s clear to me that that the fact that our standard of education is dropping to accommodate those students who don’t find school to be necessary isn’t as important as a boy putting a dress on for the fun of it. Changing schools basically every year since 2007 with new ideas that didn’t work out should be the issues they are dealing with. What they should be looking into seems to be the least of their worries, which should trigger some serious questions within every citizen of this country.

A teacher suggested that the reason this was a problem is because CIFEC is right next door to the school for those who live in Bodden Town and up (which is in George Town) and maybe parents didn’t like it because it could influence the younger students to want to dress like us.

I have a statement to all parents who were offended: if your child liked the fact that girls were dressing as boys and vice versa, maybe you should consider that your child is gay.

It was very childish of the ministry to deal with this situation as they did. It would have been a lot better if they came to our school and explained to us as to why they didn’t want us to do it again instead of giving a public statement to make it seem like they’re on top of everything.

Lastly, I’d just like to say that although it may seem like they are doing something for our schools, they are not and we need you as parents to realise that that is what is important, not girls acting like thugs and boys acting like chicks just for the fun of it.

Also, when the bill of rights is introduced to the Cayman Islands, this act of banning gender switch day would be considered illegal. Cayman needs to get with the times (though I'm not implying that we should be followers and not leaders) and realise that the times are changing and it would be wise to go with the flow. 

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Cops issue warning over ATM fraudsters

| 20/04/2012 | 4 Comments

ATM skimming - April 2012.JPG(CNS): Financial cops are issuing a warning to people using  bank ATMs to be on the lookout for the evidence of fraudsters in the wake of at least two recent attempts to tamper with machines in George Town and copy customer's details. In recent weeks two separate machines were tampered with in the capital police stated. No customer accounts have been compromised, but officers from the RCIPS Financial Crime Unit are urging members of the public to be vigilant when using cash machines and immediately report anything suspicious. Police have not revealed which ATMs were tampered with but warn it could happen on any back cash machine.

“The tampering consisted of a skimming device being placed over the card slot of the machines and the pin number or card details are copied,” said Detective Chief Inspector Claudia Brady. “Fortunately, on both occasions, bank staff from both of the financial institutions that were affected, quickly identified that the machines had been tampered with and, due to their quick actions and vigilance , none of their customers have lost out financially.”

When using a cash machine you should make sure that the green band of lights around the card slot is illuminated, check the machine to make sure nothing looks out of place or suspicious and look for small holes near the keypad as there could be a concealed camera.

The FCU said ATM customers should always cover the keypad when entering a PIN number and if they believe that the machine could have been tampered with customers should not use the machine  but immediately report to the bank and to the police.

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Public-private partnerships not benefitting taxpayer

| 20/04/2012 | 0 Comments

(The Telegraph): British taxpayers "rarely" benefit from public-private partnerships (PPP), which are more expensive and no more efficient than Government-procured projects, a study has concluded. Nearly 30 years after the UK Government turned to the private sector to help build the Channel Tunnel, the hybrid projects are still failing to produce "value for money", the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Manchester Business School have said. In the joint report, Professor Graham Winch of Manchester Business School said: "The value-for-money case for PPP in the public sector has yet to be proven. The benefits gained from the availability of 'extra' finance, the transfer of risk from public to private sector, and improvements in decision-making processes are too nebulous to provide any certainty that they outweigh all the known problems."

The conclusion is a blow to the Government processes, which specifically set "value for money" as the main objective for PPP and its successor programme, Private Finance Initiatives (PFI).

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Cross dressing students fuel complaints

| 20/04/2012 | 76 Comments

(CNS): Local students at the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre appear to have ruffled some religious sentiments with a fundraising effort for their prom. The Ministry of Education released a statement on Wednesday afternoon that on the one hand stated the students' ‘gender swap’ day had been conducted appropriately but that the ministry did not support students cross dressing. Students told CNS that the day designed to raise money for their graduation ceremony had gone very well with no issues but they heard that some complaints had been made to the school about boys in dresses.

The ministry stated that the principal had confirmed that the students who participated in the dress-down days all behaved appropriately. Girls taking part in the gender swap attire day came in baggy clothing and baseball caps and the boys wore brightly coloured shirts and pants, the ministry revealed.

The dress down days were part of a series of fundraisers and the youngsters also had a pajama day, a super hero day and will be having a sports personality day as well.

The CIFEC principal said he had issued guidance for appropriate dress under the theme days, with the proviso that anyone inappropriately dressed would be sent home.

However, despite the acknowledgement by the school authorities and the ministry that none of the students had stepped over the boundaries or behaved inappropriately, the complaints caused the ministry to state that it did not support either the gender swap or pajama themes.

“While the Ministry supports fund-raising efforts by students, including dress down days, we do not support dress-down days that promote gender swap attire or pajamas or any other inappropriate theme in any of our schools. The Ministry will be formally communicating to all schools, public and private, the expected boundaries for dress-down days," the statement read.

Students involved in the organization of the fundraising efforts for the prom said no one had done anything wrong and the dress down days had gone really well. The students said the problem was down to the homophobia of some people.

Taking a mature attitude about what had happened, the young students told CNS that this was something the gender swap day could have addressed as it got students talking among themselves about such prejudices.
 

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Attitudes need to change about sharks, says DoE

| 20/04/2012 | 23 Comments

Tiger-Shark-Roger-Horrocks.jpg(CNS): As the research project into local shark populations continues the DoE is warning that with shark numbers lower than anticipated in local waters attitudes need to change towards these misunderstood marine creatures. As the body of research grows into the ocean predators their connection to the maintenance of healthy reefs becomes increasingly apparent. Local research has been boosted by the tagging of three sharks that have been found regularly in the waters around the Cayman Islands and the youngest of the three returned home recently almost a year after she was first tagged.

Coco the Tiger Shark is one of the three female sharks in the collaborative tagging programme between the Department of Environment (DoE), Marine Conservation International (MCI), the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) at Nova Southeastern University and the Save Our Seas Foundation and Foster’s Food Fair.

Coco left Cayman last June and has spent her time off of Jamaica, but in early February, she headed back towards our shores and finally arrived home. The tag she is wearing has proven to be very successful in keeping track of her movements, giving insight into the life of a young tiger shark for the researchers. All three tagged tigers have proved to be energetic, crossing great swathes of the Caribbean Sea relatively quickly.

The project involves an extensive survey of all the sharks around the Cayman Islands, providing information on the types and numbers of sharks and ray that we have. While there are fewer sharks than expected, they are particularly low on Cayman Brac.

“There have been scientific studies on coral reefs to show that the presence of sharks promotes healthy reef life, which is a worry for us as we depend on tourism to our shores,” Timothy Austin, Deputy Director of the DoE said. “The main threat to Cayman sharks is our attitude and this we need to address if our coral reefs and the life they support are not to decline further.”

A recent documentary film by local artist and marine conservationist Dr Guy Harvey has shown, “sharks are not the bad guys”.

The project also works with fishermen and divers whose expertise and observations are important to the project. Any sightings of shark, whale or dolphin helps and can be reported to the DoE at DOE@GOV.KY or on 949-8469.

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Mac denies probe against him

| 20/04/2012 | 103 Comments

mac 3 (236x300).jpg(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier said Thursday that he knew of no investigation against him, as he answered the call made by the opposition member for East End to come clean about the police probe into ‘financial irregularities’ relating to him. Despite the acknowledgement by the governor that a fax sent by McKeeva Bush in 2004 to Texan developer Stan Thomas asking for $350,000 in relation to the zoning of land was at the heart of a police investigation, the premier denied knowledge of a criminal investigation against him. In a short statement broadcast on Radio Cayman, he said he had heard the opposition talk about an investigation but he knew "of none".

Bush denied any wrongdoing in the face of the challenge thrown down by Arden McLean on Wednesday.

The former PPM Cabinet minister was cleared by the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) after a very short investigation into whether he had abused his position by not paying power bills while in dispute with CUC for twelve months. McLean had cooperated with the investigators from the start and was proactive in ensuring his name was cleared as quickly as possible. When he received his letter yesterday from the police commissioner concluding that he had committed no offence, McLean called on the premier, who had asked for the corruption investigation, to do likewise regarding the probe into the letter that Bush sent to Thomas.

However, Bush not only denied accusing McLean of corruption, he denied knowing anything about the investigation that people were talking about. The premier said in his short broadcast statement that he had reported McLean to the ACC because the PPM member had admitted that he had not paid his electricity bill for more than a year during the time he was negotiating with Grand Cayman’s monopoly power provider.

The premier said that he had heard his opponents talk about an investigation but it seemed odd that there would be one into him when it was McLean who had negotiated what he called a “sweetheart deal” with CUC while he was a minister and had not paid his bills.

“While Mr McLean and his cohorts have done their endeavour best to smear me and I hear them say of an investigation I know of none,” Bush stated in the recorded message, even though there has been clear indication from the governor’s office that a police investigation is underway into the premier.

“It strikes me, though, rather odd that there would be a criminal investigation of me while he was a sitting member he could negotiate such a lucrative agreement with CUC while not paying his electrical bills,” Bush added as he denied knowing about the police probe.

Bush criticised McLean and other opposition members, stating that he was not surprised that they did not recognised the “dangerous game of international politics that is being played against the Cayman Islands”, which he claimed was “using me as a scapegoat to do so”, and McLean and “his pals” were facilitating this by “scandalizing” him.

“I have done no wrong and I therefore can say my hands are clean and my heart is pure,” Bush stated.

It has never been made clear, despite the acknowledgement by the governor that the now infamous letter to Stan Thomas is the source of the police investigation into Bush, if the premier has ever been interviewed as part of the investigation. Although few details have ever been revealed by authorities, leaked documents have shown that the director of public prosecutions has written to Thomas asking for his cooperation in the enquiry.

Other witness statements have also been given to the investigators but David Baines, the police commissioner and chair of the ACC recently stated that allegations of corruption being dealt with by the commission which occurred before 2009 were difficult to prosecute as the new law isn’t retroactive.

In his short broadcast to the government radio station, Bush also hit back at McLean’s criticism over the benefits the premier was receiving as a result of his position and that despite the difficult economic times he was drawing his full pension as well as his salary.

Bush said all the benefits he had he was entitled to and had earned as a result of being returned to office seven times. He also said he had wanted to cut politicians salaries more and the PPM had objected but he had cut his own pay as well as the opposition leader’s salary.

See related story:

Arden cleared over CUC bills

 

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Survey says hospital doing a better job with sick

| 20/04/2012 | 12 Comments

hospital entrance.jpg(CNS): The results of a recent survey of people using the services and facilities of the Health Services Authority including the Cayman Islands Hospital shows people believe things are going well with 78 per cent rating the HSA facilities as Excellent or Good. However, those surveyed said that the accident and emergency needed some improvement as 17% said they had a poor experience at A&E. The research, called the Cayman Health Facilities Usage and Attitudes survey, was carried out by Tower Marketing and was commissioned by the Health Services Authority to gauge public opinion on the its facilities and performance since a similar survey was carried out in 2010.

This latest research, which was conducted between 16 and 23 September 2011 with 500 respondents called at random, found that while inpatient satisfaction was on the rise, from a 30 percent Excellent rating in 2010 to 44 percent in 2011, 66 percent of respondents rated the HSA outpatient facilities as Excellent or Good, a drop compared to 77 percent in 2010.

Lizzette Yearwood, Chief Executive Officer of the HSA said that the annual survey underscored the importance the HSA places on achieving a high level of patient satisfaction and that the survey provided an important reference point for the Authority and its future planning focus.

“While the survey shows that the level of confidence in the HSA remains relatively constant at 80 percent, those patients who have used the HSA over the past 12 months are 3 percent more confident that they will receive good service than those who have not, which I think is an important statistic,” she said. “It shows that patients who use the HSA realize that we do provide an extremely good level of service and it also shows that we still have some work to do to ensure that the general public has a more positive perception of our facilities and services.”

The survey also found that respondents highlighted the need to provide more or faster assistance at A&E as the most important way to improve the service at the Cayman Islands Hospital. While a total of 17 percent of respondents rated their A&E experience as Excellent, 17 percent rated their experience as Poor. This was in comparison to the General Practice experience, which received an 18 percent Excellent rating and a Poor rating of just 7 percent.

“A&E is the primary entry point for many patients (41 percent), which is why improvements here have the potential to affect the experience of the greatest number of patients,” Yearwood said  “We recognize that there are areas of service which need our particular focus for improvement and the survey has helped to pinpoint these areas.   We are now looking at a variety of ways to reduce waiting times at A&E, one example that is being investigated is the establishment of an urgent care clinic.”

Yearwood said she wasencouraging to see 72 percent of respondents strongly agreed with the statement that the public had a responsibility to support and use the HSA services properly.  69 percent also agreed that HSA staff and physicians treated patients in a courteous and friendly manner respecting the patient’s individual culture and beliefs.  The survey found that  while 37 percent of the respondents strongly agreed that they should not have to pay for services at the HSA, 31 percent strongly disagreed with this statement and 12 percent somewhat disagreed.

One of the HSA’s strategic objectives is to achieve a rating of satisfactory or better by 90 percent of the population by 2015.

“Our hard-working staff all go to tremendous lengths to provide the highest quality of healthcare in the Cayman Islands. We believe that this research will help us all to identify how to achieve our goals most efficiently and it will assist us in tracking our progress towards it,” Yearwood added.

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