Archive for January 22nd, 2014

Workers recognize each other in customs awards

| 22/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): To add to the growing list of honours, gongs and awards being given to public sector workers, the annual recognition awards for Customs Officers have been reinstated but with a new twist. The awards have moved away from a purely top down evaluation or a customer assessment but are instead a more egalitarian award via peer selection. Those receiving the awards were first nominated by their work colleagues and then, from the pool of 25 nominations, the winners were selected by a management committee in six categories. Lauding the winners,  Collector of Customs Samantha Bennett said recognition by peers could be one of the greatest motivators.

Promising this would be an annual feature, she explained that the criteria included attitude and professionalism towards both colleagues and the general public to mark qualities including communicationskills, sociable personality, positive approach, courteous behaviour, ability to carry out work requirements and willingness to accept constructive criticism.

She said the officer of the year was “nominated by a number of his peers in recognition of his leadership, his supervisory skills and especially the quality of his service to our customers. It was inspiring to see other staff members nominate their colleagues and recognise them for their efforts and diligence at work."

The first awards in six categories in 2013 were:

  • Officer of the Year: Senior Customs Officer (Sea Freight), Glarman “Bobo” Grant;
  • Administrative Support Officer of the Year (Admin/Accounts/Cashier/Tally/IT): Accounts Officer Michael Bartlett;
  • Customs (Junior) Officer of the Year: Customs Officer (Narcotics Enforcement), Tina Campbell;
  • Senior Customs Officer of the Year: Senior Customs Officer (Freight Security Initiative), Philip West;
  • Assistant Collector of the Year: Assistant Collector (Airport), Gidget Powell; 
  • Porter/Warehouse Officer of the Year: Porter, Robert Scott.

The chosen officers received awards and certificates of appreciation.

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Wreck of the ten sails provides backdrop for novel

| 22/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The National Museum is welcoming maritime historian and author William H. White as its next Speaker Series guest. White’s most recent work of historical fiction, Gun Bay, which hit the bookshelves last summer, is based on the ‘Wreck of the Ten Sail’, an historical event well known in Caymanian tradition. In Gun Bay, White’s fictitious narrator Edward Ballantyne tells the story of the disastrous event in February 1794, when ten ships – nine merchants, and a Royal Navy frigate – wrecked on the reef at the east end of Grand Cayman. The ships were part of a convoy of fifty eight vessels bound for North America and Europe from Jamaica 

After a brief presentation on the historical wreck led by Museum Director and Underwater Archaeologist Dr. Peggy Leshikar-Denton, White will discuss how he transformed history into a fictional adventure, and sign copies of his book.

For more details see flyer posted below.

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Local service club gives $5k for school meals at CHHS

| 22/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands may have one of the highest standards of living in the region but children in its schools are still going hungry and under-nourished. Grand Cayman Sunrise Rotary Club made a $5,000 donation recently to Clifton Hunter High School to help finance school meals. The club said in a release that it’s Youth Services Director, Donald Aitken, and his committee recognized a need in the community to help students at the school who were struggling in their studies due to a lack of nutritional meals. The cash will be used for healthy meals that will allow students to receive the nutritional basics they need to encourage improved learning in the classroom.

“Students cannot learn when their stomachs are hungry and as an organization committed to youth, education and literacy the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman Sunrise has recently made a donation of CI$5,000 to Clifton Hunter High School in support of school meals,” the club stated in the release.

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Ministry seeks consultants for cruise port EIA

| 22/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): The Ministry of District Administration Tourism and Transport has issued a request for tender from qualified and eligible environmental and engineering consultants for the next stage on the path to development of cruise berthing facilities. Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell, whose ministry is overseeing the development, said that this accords with the schedule in the Outline Business Case, which was released to the public and openly discussed during public meetings held in November 2013, and noted that procurement for the cruise berthing facility is following an open, transparent and competitive process as required by the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility (FFR). Read more on CNS Business

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‘We’re taking OAG seriously’

| 22/01/2014 | 21 Comments

(CNS): Following the release of more reports from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) that show government is falling below standard when it comes to good governance, transparency and accountability, especially over how it spends tax payers money, the political and administrative arm of government has committed to improvements and doing a better job. In the past government in general has done badly at responding to the OAG's reports, Premier Alden McLaughlin told the press Wednesday, but said he wanted the public to know that his government took the reports and findings seriously. He said they would consider very carefully all the recommendations made and in many cases CIG was already working on improvements.

 
Following yet more damning reports from the OAG that highlight continuing inadequacies, failures in compliance, significant risks to public money and very poor levels of accountability and transparency in core government, and even more so in government companies and statutory authorities, the message from both the premier and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson was: we are working on it.
 
At a press conference at government headquarters both Manderson and McLaughlin acknowledged the shortcomings and outlined steps that government is making to address systemic problems.
 
"I know that for many people it seems that the government and the auditor general are always in opposition to each other and in the past response to the reports has left something to be desired," McLaughlin said, as he opened the first briefing he has held for many months. 
 
With the political and administrative arm of government working more closely than ever, despite the different responsibilities, there is just one government, said the premier said, adding that he wanted to send a clear message that what the auditor general found in his reports would be taken seriously.
 
Manderson outlined a list of actions, from training board members in government companies to more reviews of the Public Finance Management Law and the possibility of divesting some government functions, in order to improve compliance, accountability and good governance. He spoke of the Standards in Public Life Law, which would be tabled in the LA this session, and said work was well advanced on a public authority law. 
 
Looking at the overall problem, however, the premier said he felt that it would take time to change the fundamental culture in the service towards genuine accountability and to drive down costs but his government was committed to doing it. McLaughlin promised that there would be consequences and that government had to focus on results, with civil servants helping government to actually achieve its objectives and not just turning up to work to push paper.
 
Although successive governments had talked about the importance of a performance-based civil service, that must now be a reality, the premier said, and if civil service posts were not achieving government objectives then the jobs or holders would have to go.
 
Nevertheless, McLaughlin warned that cutting public sector jobs without knowing how the services those jobs deliver would still be provided would not help. He also pointed to the significant social consequences of sending home hundreds of civil servants without finding them other work, as government would be responsible for any Caymanian out of work as a result.
 
With myriad problems in government still to address, the deputy governor said he could not explain why change took so long but pointed to some improvements in the last few years. He also indicated this was a new administration and under the leadership of the premier both sides of government were committed to "making things happen".
 
The major issue of accountability and transparency, as well as serious conflicts of interest in the government companies and statutory authorities, featured heavily in the OAG's reports and the premier and deputy governor emphasized the need to regain control and responsibility for these authorities. Despite having some autonomy, they were still government and better ways of mandating how they behaved were needed, the men agreed.
 
McLaughlin went further and indicated that in some case the creation of authorities had not been an improvement at all and that some functions may be better served back in the hands of core government.
 
Manderson said there would be repercussions regarding the authorities that had not responded to the OAG's survey.   
 
Check back to CNS later for more on the auditor's review of the governance of SAGs and government's response to the even greater accountability and performance problems facing them.

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Search ends as diver lost at sea

| 22/01/2014 | 17 Comments

Cayman Islands (CNS) Updated Wednesday: After three days of looking for 57-year-old David Byles, who went missing following a dive on Sunday morning, the local authorities have called off the search. Inspector Ian Yearwood, who made it clear yesterday that no one expected him to be found alive at this stage, said Wednesday that everything possible had been done to try and recover the body. The police have been in contact with Byles' wife and the decision to end the search was discussed with her. Thanking all the volunteers who helped, the senior officer said their assistance had been invaluable. With the recovery of Byles' tank, his BCD and clothing, Yearwood explained the decision to stand down the search.

"It’s always a difficult decision to call off any search, but having reviewed the search patterns followed to date, tides etc, it’s clear that we have done as much as we can do at the moment in our attempts to recover David’s body and bring some closure to his family. Our thoughts are with his wife and family at this time,"  he stated..

Some 28 people were involved in the search, including local divers and police personnel, who were searching yesterday and this morning in the Barracuda Wall area. Police and divers had recovered Byles dive tank, BCD and an item of clothing on Monday but there has been no trace of Byles.

The US national was visiting the Cayman Islands with his wife on vacation from North Carolina. The couple, along with several others, were on a dive off Seven Mile Beach on Sunday but after surfacing safely 100 yards from the dive boat, Byles disappeared. 

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CIG failing on governance

| 22/01/2014 | 15 Comments

(CNS): Values and ethics are not embedded and are only being applied selectively in government, Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick has found after an audit of Cayman’s governance systems. In a much wider review than the focused assessments of government spending, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) released five reports Wednesday that reveal a catalogue of problems. Swarbrick said that while the governance framework is sound, government is simply not following or properly implementing the rules as designed. Government is failing to tell the story of how it spends public money and is not being accountable. He also said there was no strategic policy development to support its strategic policy statement.

In other words, the auditor general has found systemic and structural problems in government that are impacting overall governance caused by a variety of problems. The upshot is the public purse remains open to abuse. Fundamental controls that should ensure lawful expenditure are not robust enough to prevent that abuse and are not good enough to even say if budget appropriations are accurate. No one can be sure that the money legislatures vote for government is the money that is really required or spent. 

In the reports the auditor general makes 12 recommendations, which he said would present a significant challenge to government, which is now said to be working on improvements.

Although the existing laws provide a good basis and framework for good governance and management of public resources, Swarbrick indicated that the legislation, such as the Public Management and Finance Law, the Public Service Management Law and aspects of the Constitution are not being properly implemented.

Swarbrick’s team found the ethics meant to guide decisions and the behaviour of public servants was not embedded and in some cases the governance systems are too complicated for public servants to fulfil. Government, he said, had become focused on the activities rather than the outcome of those activities. Among the many criticisms and problems identified, he found that roles and responsibilities are not properly outlined and that government has failed to adopt a framework to hold its companies and statutory authorities accountable, and they are being badly managed.

See the reports posted below and check back to CNS later for more on the findings and government’s reaction.

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Local trustee stole $437K

| 22/01/2014 | 101 Comments

(CNS): A 46-year-old local woman employed by Bodden Corporate Services Ltd has admitted stealing US$437,300 from a client of the law firm when she was a trustee of an offshore entity. Between September 2008 and August 2011 when she lost her job, Patricia Glasgow pilfered cash from a trust in 74 separate fraudulent transactions where she forged another trustee's signature. However, despite the theft of almost half million dollars over three years, the court heard that Glasgow was still not able to make ends meet and was defaulting on her mortgage. As a result, she had received $10,000 in 2012 from the UDP government’s Save the Mortgage Fund created with funds from the Dart-NRA deal.

During a sentencing hearing on Tuesday afternoon Justice Charles Quin was told that Glasgow’s theft came to light when she was made redundant by her employers and the client who had established the trust died. Investigations quickly led directly to Glasgow, who was arrested in June 2012.

When interviewed by the police, she said she was being blackmailed by a Jamaican person by the name of Samuel Parsons, who had explicit pictures of her that he had threatened to expose unless she paid him money. Glasgow claimed that she had asked the client who owned the trust for a loan and she had been given permission to borrow “as much money” from it as she needed.

However, there was no documentation to prove the loan and Glasgow had forged another trustee’s signature on each occasion that she took money over the three year period of the offending. The police could get no details on the alleged blackmailer and although Glasgow told the financial crime officers she had always intended to pay the money back, she had not kept a record of the amounts she had taken.

As the investigation progressed, while police could find no evidence of the blackmail or the alleged blackmailer, as Glasgow said he had stopped blackmailing her because he had returned to Jamaica, the crown had no evidence as to what Glasgow had done with the money. Once charged in November 2011 with the theft, Glasgow at first pleaded not guilty and was due to be tried later this year. However, in November last year she changed her plea to guilty.

In Tuesday’s sentencing hearing the prosecuting counsel asked the judge to make a compensation order against Glasgow for the entire sum. Although Glasgow claims she has no money, the crown revealed that during the course of the proceedings against her she sold her house to her brother for $220,000 but made no attempt to use the proceeds to pay back any of the stolen cash. The crown stated that this also reflected the lack of remorse shown by Glasgowover the theft.

The prosecutor said Glasgow paid off the $113,000 mortgage on the home and the $10,000 Save the Mortgage grant to government but the remaining cash was also given to her brother for various loans and expenses and what the court heard was monthly maintenance for her son, who is 20 years old and works at a bank.

During the presentation of the case to the judge for sentencing, few mitigating factors were identified. The breach oftrust, period of offending, the fraud, damage to her employers, as well as her work colleague whose signature she had forged, in addition to the loss suffered by the trust were highlighted as aggravating circumstances in the case. The damage to the reputation of Cayman when employees of corporate service companies are stealing their client’s money was also significant, the crown claimed.

Defence counsel Ben Tonner struggled to present mitigating factors on behalf of his client but noted that she was of previously good character. He denied that Glasgow had stolen the money out of greed and indicated she had not lived an extravagant lifestyle but had financial difficulties living in an expensive island as a single parent, which was compounded by the blackmail.

He admitted that the sale of the house during the proceedings was an “unsavoury situation” but he urged the court not to impose a compensation order as he said it would amount to a double sentence. Whatever the reasons, he said, his client did not have the money anymore and the crown had produced no evidence that she still had any of the stolen money or the proceeds from the house.

Tonner pointed out that his client knew very well that she would be going to jail. But then when she was released she would be facing a financial order that would be impossible for her to meet and therefore the courts would be setting her up to fail and she would be returned to jail over the same crime.

Glasgow is also facing civil action in relation to the theft by Rochester Ltd, the company created to manage the trust in question, which was established as an environmental and animal protection fund. It has sued both Glasgow and her former employers BCSL for $439,300, according to court documents.

Following the submissions by both attorneys, the judge stated that he would deliver his sentence on 3 February as he bailed Glasgow for what is likely to be the last time before she is taken into custody to begin serving the sentence that Justice Quin will now impose.

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