Archive for January 8th, 2014

Rabbit hunter misses target

| 08/01/2014 | 45 Comments

(CNS): A gunshot which appears to have been accidently fired into a Bodden Town residence saw police quickly on scene Wednesday afternoon. However, it appears that the intended target was a rabbit and the licensed firearms holder shot at the home by mistake. Police officers went to the house following the report by the home owner, who said a shot was fired through his window.  But an RCIPS spokesperson confirmed that preliminary enquiries quickly revealed the shot was fired by his neighbour who was hunting for rabbits. Police said no one was injured and the hunter had a licence for his weapon. However, the circumstances surrounding the incident are still under investigation.

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3000 requests made as FOI reaches 5th anniversary

| 08/01/2014 | 1 Comment

CNS): It is five years ago this month since the Freedom of Information Law came into force in the Cayman Islands and as a result of the work of a small team at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), government is slowly becoming more accountable. More than 3,000 FOI requests have been made since the law was enacted and the ICO has dealt with more than 140 appeals, 36 of which have gone to full hearings where decisions were handed down. Despite well documented and ongoing procedural problems, which in most cases are down to poor record keeping in government, the law has assisted significantly in improving public sector transparency.

However, five years after the law was implemented by the former PPM administration politicians have failed to complete the review of the legislation, which was mandated by the law itself after twelve months. Although the former information commissioner, Jennifer Dilbert, undertook her review and passed her recommendations to the Legislative Assembly more than 18 months ago, no review of the legislation took place under the previous UDP administration. The acting commissioner has confirmed that the office has received no news on the current administration’s plans regarding the review, which is expected to be examined not just by government but the entire Legislative Assembly.

With several more years having passed since that review, Dilbert said before her retirement that there would now need to be a review of the review because of the greater experience the office has now gained after working with the law for so much longer.

While the office has seen many problems over the five years, it has also witnessed considerable improvements in the work of information managers across the 92 different public authorities that make up the Cayman Islands Government.

“The FOI Law’s requirements for transparency and proactive publication have gradually become accepted by public officials and public authorities. Five years after the Law came into effect, FOI has become a way of life in the public sector and in the Cayman Islands at large, not least thanks to careful vigilance on the part of the Information Commissioner’s Office and a continuing programme of training and public education,” the office stated this week as it marked the five year anniversary.

“As various hearing decisions have brought to light, some infringements continue to occur, but for the most part public authorities – and particularly the information managers in each entity – are trying their best to comply with the Law, to respond to requests on time, and to be more transparent and accountable.”

Upon her retirement, Dilbert thanked all those who helped in the establishment of an effective Freedom of Information Regime in the Cayman Islands.

“I can assure them, and the public in general, that both our Legislation and our operational systems meet or exceed international standards, and in my experience are among the best worldwide,” she said. “The majority of chief officers, heads of departments and statutory boards have embraced FOI, and are ensuring that their entities are well placed to respond to requests and meet the requirements of the Law, including the proactive publishing of as much information as possible.”

Dilbert retired in December 2013 at the end of a five year appointment as commissioner and after more than 30 years of public service. Jan Liebaers was appointed as acting commissioner in January 2014, having served as the deputy information commissioner from June 2010 to December 2013. Prior to that, Liebaers was a key member of the FOI Working Group which drafted the Cayman Islands FOI Bill from 2005 to 2007, as well as the FOI steering and implementation planning committees which assisted in the development and planning of the law.

On the occasion of the laws anniversary the ICO thanked the civil service and successive governments for their support, in particular the information managers, some of whom have been in this important role for the last five years. Through their attendance at the ICO’s training seminars, the commissioner has had the opportunity of being involved with discussions with many of them, and witnessed first-hand their dedication to their sometimes difficult job.

All ICO decisions released to date are posted on the ICO website. Dilbert’s farewell message can also be found on the website in Issue 18 of ICON, the ICO Newsletter.

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Fleet problems still plague rubbish collection

| 08/01/2014 | 23 Comments

(CNS): Although the government has purchased several new garbage trucks and the minister recently promised an improvement in collection services, growing piles of rubbish and unpleasant associated smells blighted the holidays across Grand Cayman. Officials from the Department of Environmental Health said the delays to rubbish collection were down to a combination of continuing technical problems with the aging fleet and delays in the arrival of the new trucks. Issuing an apology on Thursday, the department said it was working with the Department of Vehicles and Equipment Services to get the old trucks back in service as soon as possible.

The DEH said the two new residential garbage trucks purchased during the 2012-2013 fiscal year are expected at the end of this month as a result of the severe weather conditions in the United States and other unspecififeddelays. Nevertheless, it said things would improve before then.

“As an interim measure while our vehicles undergo repairs, the DEH is working with a private sector company to collect all of the uncollected garbage by Wednesday of this week,” officials stated. ”All residential customers will continue to receive garbage collection service once per week.”

DEH Director Roydell Carter, who is ultimately responsible for ensuring that rubbish is collected, said, “All commercial customers will continue to see improvements with waste collections from their premises this week, especially after the uncollected waste has been removed. As of Thursday this week, it is anticipated that commercial services will be more in line with the ‘normal’ customer requirements as the DEH continues to work with the private sector, while striving to have our own vehicles back into operation.” 

In this fiscal year’s budget (2013-2014) the department received funding for two new front loader garbage trucks, two additional residential rear loading trucks and two new Roll-On / Roll Off trucks. In addition, the DEH and DVES are now “actively working on the procurement process” to purchase and deliver these extra vehicles, which will significantly improve the overall garbage collection services,” Carter said.
           
However, customers will still have to hold on to their rubbish and residents are being asked not to put waste by the roadside until the relevant day in accordance with the DEH collection schedule.

See schedule here.

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Botanic Park tempts members to renew

| 08/01/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): As a result of the recent and unexpected heavy rainfall for the time of year, the Queen Elizabeth Botanic Park is looking particularly lush, park officials said this week, as they reached out to the community to come and visit the facility. The park’s general manager, John Lawrus, said that the latest garden, the Xerophytic Garden, is really coming into its own now. “As we move forward into the dry season, it will continue to demonstrate a wide range of plants that can be enjoyed without supplemental irrigation,” he said as he urged ‘Friends of Botanic Park’ to renew their membership for continuous unlimited visits into the facility throughout 2014. 

“The Orchid Boardwalk is continually being planted with regional orchids as well as orchids that have been rescued from various sites on the island by staff members and members of the Cayman Islands Orchid Society,” he added as he reminded the public about the much loved Annual Orchid Show and sale, which is going to be held on 1 and 2 March, as well as a Friends of the Park members preview party on the evening of 28 February.

One of Cayman’s most underestimated tourist attractions, the Botanic Park is home to a wide variety of endemic, indigenous and unique Cayman flora and fauna. It is home to the world renowned Blue Iguana Programme as well as a local tree nursery, where garden enthusiasts can buy endemic and native plants for their own yards instead of reverting to imported species.

For more about the park visit its website or www.facebook.com/QEIIBotanicPark.

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Youth football tournament set for February

| 08/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A number of local sponsors, CIFA and the sports ministry have partnered up to present a local football tournament next month for some of Cayman’s younger players. The inaugural C3 Cayman International Youth Football Tournament kicks off on Tuesday, 18 February with the Cayman Islands Select Team that performed admirably in the recent CONCACAF Under 15 Championships in August playing visiting teams from Swindon in the UK and Houston, Texas.  The competition’s major sponsors are C3 Cayman’s latest local player in the communication industry with the provision of high speed internet, TV and phone.

The Under 15 team from English League 1 outfit Swindon Town Football Club that previously toured the Cayman Islands in 2012 and 2013, and the Under 15 team from Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo from Houston, Texas will be the local boys’ opponents in the round robin competition. The youngsters from Swindon Town FC play the Cayman Islands Select Team on Tuesday, 18 February and the Houston Dynamo on Thursday, 20 February. The final game of the competition will be the Cayman Islands Select Team versus the Houston Dynamo on 22 February. All games are scheduled for 7:00pm at the Annex Field in George Town and will be preceded by games featuring the best Under 14 and Under 13 Caymanian footballers.

C3’s Managing Director, Randy Merren said the firm was proud to be the premier sponsors of tournament, which will not only promote local talent but give local players the opportunity to develop their skills against overseas competition.  “We encourage everyone to come out and support the teams. Patrons will be given the opportunity to ‘kick to win’ during halftime of each game and have a chance to take home a flat screen television or tablet to enjoy C3’s digital TV service,” Merren said.

In addition to the three games, coaches from the visiting teams will be conducting free camps for players and local coaches on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Annex Field and Ed Bush Fields.

“It’s gearing up to be a very exciting and entertaining week for youth football,” said hosts and organisers Grasspiece Promotions spokesperson Neil Murray. “Thanks to major sponsors C3 and other corporate sponsors, we are able to once again showcase Cayman’s talented youngsters in action against top opposition from the United Kingdom and for the first time, opposition from the United States.”

The Under 15 team from Swindon Town FC features three prominent Caymanian youngsters – Sebastian Martinez, Kray Foster and Nathan Borde. Unfortunately for young Foster, an injury sustained in December will keep him out of the action but Sebastian Martinez who has been with Swindon Town’s Youth Academy since October 2011 will be in the line-up.

Martinez’s contract which includes his education was made possible by Swindon Town FC’s talent scout and former Swindon Town player and Reggae Boy Fitzroy Simpson. Simpson’s recommendation to take Sebastian to Swindon Town FC was supported by the Cayman Islands Government and a collaborative effort between the then ministries of youth and sports, education and development, and his parents.

Nathan Borde, who recently joined Swindon Town’s Youth Academy in August after spending time with Sheffield Wednesday’s Youth Academy, is there through the efforts of Simpson as well.

The tournament will mark the first time that the Under 15 team from the Houston Dynamo has ventured south to the Cayman Islands. In October 2013, Sunset Football Club travelled to Houston with Under 13 and Under 15 teams and played practice matches against teams from the Dynamo’s Youth Academy.

On this trip, Sunset FC will play host to the visitors from Texas.
Tickets for the tournament are $25.00 for the three games or $10.00 per game and are available at the gate. In addition, children under 13 will be charged $1.00 at the gate with all proceeds from the event covering expenses for the visiting teams.

For further information on the tournament and camps, please contact 925-3323 or e-mail grasspiecepromotions@gmail.com.

Along with C3 the platinum sponsors other sponsors include Pepsi, Aquafina and the Ministry of Health, Sports, Youth and Culture, in association with the Cayman Islands Football Association, Sunset Football Club, and a number of other corporate sponsors.

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Registry appeals for data to see true cancer picture

| 08/01/2014 | 9 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Cancer Registry, which collects information on a voluntary basis, is appealing to doctors and patients to tell them about their diagnosis to help experts understand the prevalence and impact of the disease in Cayman. With mounting anecdotal evidence that the islands may have higher levels of cancer among the population than comparative jurisdictions, the registry needs to collect accurate data to find out if this is the case and begin to look at possible causes. With only 177 documented cases on the registry it is impossible to draw any conclusions about the nature of the disease here, said Cancer Registrar Amanda Franck, who hopes that mandatory reporting will be introduced before the year is out.

Franck confirmed that as far as she is aware there has never been any research conducted about the levels, types and ages of those diagnosed or any other information about how cancer is impacting the local population.

The introduction of the register in 2010 was the very first step towards rectifying that but the expert stated that until there is mandatory reporting, as in most other countries, it can only offer a glimpse of the true picture. Hoping that legislation and a system to protect confidentiality can be introduced before the end of 2014, she said that this should be the year when an accurate picture finally emerges.

Franck pointed out that the patient data that is being collected through the registry is still being used to try and identify cancer trends here, with hopes thatrisks can be mitigated and an understanding how to decrease the incidences in the country can emerge. However, the experts need more information.

“Once we know that we are capturing the data of all diagnosed cases we can begin to examine what could be the environmental factors,” she said.

At present there are no answers as to why the reporting of diagnosis is limited and the registry is working hard to encourage doctors and patients to register and trying to establish a working protocol to facilitate the reporting process. But until the law forces mandatory reporting Franck said, the register will continue to rely on voluntary submissions, which, she emphasised, are held in the strictest of confidence.

“Patient confidentiality is of upmost importance and all information is held securely in a database and will never be available for public viewing,” Franck said. The registry database system is like the one used by the World Health Organization (WHO) which uses codes verses patient’s names, so all information remains confidential.

The month of January is being dedicated to raising awareness about the pressing need for this accurate and reliable information so health care professionals can improve Cayman’s prevention efforts, early detection, treatment and support. Franck appealed to patients and clinicians to get in touch and pointed out that the register needs to collect data from people who have suffered from cancer as well as current patients.

“Currently, there is very little information on the number of people living with cancer in the Cayman Islands, nor it is known which types of cancer are the most prevalent, or which types are on the rise,” Franck explained. “We need this information so the Cancer Registry can do everything possible to decrease cancer risks and keep the population healthy. We rely on cancer survivors, and families of those who have passed from cancer, to provide us with this valuable information.”

Registering is easy, completely confidential, and only takes minutes. By taking part in the registration process the public can help the Cayman Islands and the world understand more about cancer and ultimately finding better treatment.

Contact Amanda Franck, Cancer Registrar, at 345-244-2560 or Amanda.franck@hsa.ky to register today. To find out more people can also visit www.cics.ky and www.hsa.ky.

The national Cancer Registry is a collaborative effort between the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority and the Cayman Islands Cancer Society. The Registry was established in 2010 for the purpose of housing all cancer data collected in the Cayman Islands.

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Dart bent pension rules

| 08/01/2014 | 49 Comments

(CNS): A catalogue of documentary evidence collected by the former spouse of an ex-Dart employee as a result of divorce proceedings demonstrates that the island’s largest investor and major employer allowed some employees to opt out of the mandatory legal requirement for pensions. Although government officials said Dart is no longer allowing this to happen, for several years some of the developer’s investment experts were given their pension benefits and allowed to invest the money as they saw fit rather than paying into one of the six mandated funds as required by law. It is understood that no sanction has been taken against Dart but the director of the new labour enforcement agency said this doesn’t mean other employers and employees can follow suit.

Mario Ebanks said that the situation with Dart is being monitored and, despite the discovered infraction, the company had quickly rectified the situation when it was drawn to the management’s attention as a result of a complaint.

“In our compliance review of the Dart organization last year the NPO uncovered two such cases of non-compliance, which were quickly resolved by the company when it was brought to their attention,” he said. “The National Pensions Office (NPO) and the other regulatory agencies in the CI Government are collaborating with intelligence and systems to ensure that all employers are complying with the relevant Laws. The NPO continues to engage Dart, and its newly acquired businesses, to ensure that the National Pensions Law and Regulations are being complied with,” he said.

According to the documentation, seen by CNS, much of which was released via a freedom of information request, Dart was meeting and going beyond its financial obligations under the law to the employees involved.

However, it was allowing at least two and possibly more of its employees to do what they wanted with the money for wellover a decade. The issue came to light in 2009 during divorce proceedings between Karen Avery and her now ex-husband, who was a long time employee of Dart both in the US and here in Cayman. During the legal battle that followed the couple’s marriage breakdown in Florida, Avery requested details from Cayman’s NPO for her husband as he had told the courts in the divorce proceedings that there was no pension in Cayman. The NPO confirmed that it was indeed the case that there was no fund for her husband, despite his long employment here with the major developer.

In a letter sent to Avery in November 2012 Amy Wolliston, the Superintendent of Pensions, said that she had issued an order in March that same year under the National Pensions law to the employer to pay the sums into a pension plan on the basis that she believed the employer had contravened the law.

Subsequently however, Dart appealed that decision and the NPO made a decision not to defend the appeal based on advice from the legal department. It is understood that a confidential settlement was reached between the pension’s office and Dart over the issue and the file has been closed and the terms of the settlement are under wraps.

While Avery is still attempting to pursue her complaint against the NPO for not enforcing the law, the issue raises other questions as many employees in Cayman have concerns that the pension schemes they are forced to participate in are often badly managed or mismanaged, especially the investment experts that work in the country’s offshore industry who undoubtedlybelieve they could make the cash work far better.

Nevertheless, Ebanks, who as director of the new government labour office now has responsibility for enforcement of the pensions law, said that government would not allow employers and employees to collude in any ‘opt out’ of the local system. Instead, he has encouraged them to invest additional amounts in other financial schemes on top of the basic percentage the law requires to be paid into just one of six locally based schemes.

Ebanks noted that the current pensions law is nothing more than a “safety net” in terms of retirement planning as he said the contribution rate is only 10% of employee earnings and unless the contribution rate is significantly increased, as has been recommended in the Mercer Report, or unless pension funds begin performing exceptionally well, many employees will have very meagre pensions to depend on unless they invest in additional financial products.

He said the government “encourages all employees to properly and wisely invest any other portions of their disposable income, to ensure that they maximize their retirement options and thus enjoy comfort, financial independence, and dignity in their golden years, and do not become a burden on the country’s treasury,” he added.

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Victims in critical condition following road smash

| 08/01/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): Police have confirmed that two people are in hospital this morning in critical condition after being seriously injured in an early morning road crash in West Bay. A spokesperson from the RCIPS said that at around 1:30am on Wednesday 8 January police received a report of a serious motor vehicle accident involving a Suzuki Jimny. The accident happened along Up The Hill Road in Mount Pleasant. According to officers, the driver was traveling from the Shores towards the junction with Meadow Road when he lost control of the car and collided  with a chain link fence, causing major damage to his vehicle and the fence. Both the driver and a front seat passenger sustained serious injuries.

Police said the two were both taken to the hospital in George Town by ambulance, where they were admitted in critical condition. A 6:30am update from the hospital confirmed that the victims were still unresponsive.

Anyone with information or who witnessed to crash is asked to contact the RCIPS at West Bay Station on 949 3999.

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