Archive for April 5th, 2013

Cabinet admit port surprise

| 05/04/2013 | 68 Comments

shocked monkey_1.JPG(CNS): Members of the current Cabinet, most of whom were members of the previous UDP government, have admitted that, while they knew talks with CHEC had moved toward a framework agreement, they had no idea their leader had signed that deal without any legal advice. The ministers stated Thursday that they could not be sure that other things that they were unaware of would not turn up that may cause concern or raise liability issues for government. The framework agreement, which was signed by McKeeva Bush without consulting his then Cabinet colleagues, including the attorney general, was discovered by the minority government only last week.

Speaking at Thursday’s government press briefing, in the absence of current premier, who has not yet made any public comment about the discovery, the remaining four ministers revealed how they were kept in the dark about this deal. The copy of the signed framework agreement between the Port Authority, the Cayman government and China Harbour Engineering Limited was leaked to the independent members for East End and North Side and first published on CNS this week.

The document was first seen by Cabinet members last week, when it was given to Cline Glidden, the new tourism minister. Glidden’s ministerial team had set about looking for any and all documentation relating to the cruise berthing facilities project to help with the strategic outline for a competitive tender. Glidden said the framework document was given to his ministry by the Port Authority after several weeks of pressing for relevant information. He said there were also question marks about what commitments had been made regarding the proposals surrounding the Spotts Jetty, which he had wanted to clear up.

While not surprised to see the agreement, the ministers said it was surprising that it had been signed without any legal advice.

Glidden, who had been involved in the previous negotiations with both DECCO and the GLF Construction, also said he was surprised to see some of the details of the agreement. He pointed out that the talks with DECCO were stopped because there was concern over the original request for a 99 year lease that the Dart Group’s construction firm had been seeking to ensure it recouped its costs, and that GLF had been dropped because the premier believed they did not have financing.

The current tourism minister noted that the content of the CHEC deal offered the Chinese firm a lease of some 81 years and that the financing was less than certain and still dependent on passenger guarantees.

None of the Cabinet members were able to say why they believed the former premier had not consulted Cabinet and signed it before engaging in a discussion with his colleagues, let alone the wider caucus. The ministers said they had repeatedly been told that when the negotiations were over, they would all be privy to all of the details.

The legal department has now been given a copy of the document to assess any possible liability to CIG. But Glidden said there was no way to know if this, or any other documents which to date remain undiscovered that could have been signed behind closed doors, will lead to future liabilities for the next administration.

“We would love to say there areno more surprises, but …” Glidden said.

See related story here and CHEC Framework Agreement below.

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Budget report due before election day

| 05/04/2013 | 18 Comments

(CNS): The interim government has confirmed that a pre-election budget report, currently being completed by civil servants, will be published before 24 April. In accordance with the law, ensuring that everyone who is running for office is aware of the state of the country’s public finances ahead of the national poll, the report cannot be released less than 42 days before the election. As a result, Cabinet members said Thursday that they were unable to reveal how close government is to meeting the whopping $87 million surplus predicted in the 2012/13 budget. However, Deputy Premier Rolston Anglin said they believed government could expect a “healthy” surplus.

There is speculation that, despite significant cost-cutting efforts, government will not reach the target surplus but there has been no indication of how far short the public purse will be when it comes to the year-end result.

The incumbent politicians have no input in the report, which will be released ahead of the election but will still be a projection. With little activity in May and June in terms of government spending and earning, however, Anglin, who is a qualified accountant, said that the figure would give a reasonable assessment of how the year is likely to end.

He said that Cabinet members had not yet seen the report and its projections but, by all other indications, government was confident of what would be a “healthy surplus" by 30 June 2013. The report itself will be gazetted sometime after 10 April but before the 24 April and made public. Anglin stated that the ministers would be in a position to comment on the report at next week’s briefing with the media.

The report will contain predictions regarding the unemployment levels, inflation, bank balances and the budget surplus, and while Cabinet believes the forecasts will be relatively close to the actual performance of government and the economy for this financial year, its accuracy won’t be known until after the year-end and the election.

Arguments persist regarding the final budget of the previous PPM administration and the much discussed $80 million deficit. But question marks remain about the predictions that were given in March 2009 to the government at the time compared to the figures revealed during the election campaign that year. As a result, the deputy premier said efforts were being made by the administration to ensure the predictions were as accurate as possible and that they reflected the true position of government finances, especially where government companies were concerned.

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New faces join local public sector commissions

| 05/04/2013 | 0 Comments

donovan ebanks (225x300).jpg(CNS): The governor has appointed five newpeople to a number of commissions that fall under his remit.  Attorney David Ritch has been appointed Chairman of the Constitutional Commission for a period of three years while accountant Ian Wight has been appointed as a member of the Commission for Standards in Public Life. The former deputy governor Donovan Ebanks has been appointed Chairman of the Civil Service Appeals Commission for a period of three years while Stacey VanDevelde and Deanna Look Loy have been appointed to serve as members of that commission. 

Ritch is the Senior Partner at the firm he founded, Ritch and Conolly and a past president of the Law Society who has served on numerous Government Statutory Boards.  Ian Wight, a local consultant, worked as Managing Partner of Deloitte in the Cayman Islands for over twenty years. He has been an associate member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales since 1974 and a Fellow since 1981.  He is a member of the Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants since 1979. 

Donovan Ebanks worked as a public servant for thirty-six years in the Public Works Department and then as Deputy Chief Secretary, Chief Secretary and then became the first Deputy Governor of the Cayman Islands. He is former Chairman of the National Hurricane Committee and the National Hazard Management Council.  He currently serves as Chairman of the Records Management Advisory Committee. 

Stacey VanDevelde formerly worked at KPMG and was a member of the Board of the Cayman Islands Society for Human Resource Professionals (CISHRP) from 2000 and served as President from 2006 to 2008. Deanna Look Loy was Director of Social Services for 17 of her 37 years in the public sector.

“I am honoured to be able to appoint such outstanding members of the community into these important roles,” the governor, Duncan Taylor stated.  “Their extensive knowledge and experience will be invaluable to the Commissions they serve on.  I am confident that this will help ensure that the Commissions meet their legislative and constitutional remits effectively.”

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