Archive for March 14th, 2014

Digicel calls for ICTA probe into LIME charges

| 14/03/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): Rivalry between the region’s two major communications firms reached new heights on Friday when Digicel announced it had made a complaint to the Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA) about its competitor, LIME, and its calling charges. The telecoms firm said it had asked the authority to launch an investigation as the firm claimed its rival was unfairly charging some customers. Digicel claimed that it had “detected unusual calling patterns to LIME numbers” across twelve of its Caribbean markets and following an investigation found consumers may be improperly charged for calls to certain LIME numbers. LIME has denied the allegations. Read more on CNS Business

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Politicians get more responsibility for foreign affairs

| 14/03/2014 | 20 Comments

(CNS): The premier and three other Cabinet ministers have been given new responsibilities relating to relevant areas of external affairs, government officials confirmed Friday. As set down in the constitution, Governor Helen Kilpatrick has agreed to delegate certain responsibility to the politicians relating to various overseas affairs. While this does not allow the ministers to sign treaties without first getting permission from the United Kingdom, they will be able to make decisions and policy in their relevant fields that may involve foreign affairs. Section 55 subsection (4) of the 2009 Cayman Islands Constitution gives the governor the power to delegate responsibility to the premier and ministers to handle certain regional and international affairs.

“This is in keeping with the general delegation under the 2009 Constitution of all matters of policy formulation and implementation to the elected government except for the areas of special responsibility, which remain with the governor,” a release from the premier’s office stated. 

Premier Alden McLaughlin has been assigned responsibility for the Caribbean Community, the Association of Caribbean States, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, or any other Caribbean regional organisation or institution; other Caribbean regional affairs relating specifically to issues that are of interest to or affect the Cayman Islands; and European Union matters directly affecting the Cayman Islands. 

The Cabinet Office will coordinate the areas of external affairs delegated to the premier.

Meanwhile, Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell has been given responsibility for external affairs with respect to tourism and tourism-related matters, though these were not specified.

Finance Minister Marco Archer will now have responsibility for external affairs relating to taxation, and Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton will now deal with all external affairs with respect to the regulation of finance and financial services.

Under the Constitution, the ministers must keep the governor informed of any activities relating to external affairs responsibilities and any costs associated with those activities that will be paid for by the government.

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MLA full disclosure stalled

| 14/03/2014 | 38 Comments

(CNS): Although government has passed the Standards in Public Life Law, the full disclosure of members and senior civil servants interests’ and that of their families is still some time away. It is not yet clear how the public will get access to the new register, which will require much more information from politicians and, for the first time, senior civil servants. Currently, members of the public must make an appointment to see the register and are not allowed to make copies but can only take notes. CNS visited the Legislative Assembly this week to see the current list of MLAs’, in some cases extensive, business interests and land ownership and, for the first time, has posted the full details as they currently stand of serving members.

On our visit we found a fragmented, disorganised file that has not been updated since Nomination Day, almost twelve months ago. Members declare things in different ways and do not always make their interests very clear on the forms supplied, which are in most cases hand written submissions.

Wayne Panton, the chair of the Register of Interests Committee, told CNS that as the new law will hand responsibility to the Standards in Public life Commission, he had not called a meeting, though he had directed all members to update their register and ensure it was accurate.

He said, however, that he would look into the current register and ensure it was accurate and that its presentation to the public was improved until the new law’s regulations were complete and the function handed over to the commission.

Although the members' register may have reflected an accurate record of their business interests, property and land ownership, directorships and share holdings, the files are not easily accessible to the public, and despite the new law, it may not improve in the future unless the register is available via a web portal.

Deborah Bodden, a spokesperson for the current Standards in Public Life Commission, revealed that the new register that the commission will oversee may not necessarily be posted online as the law does not specifically provide for them to be made available on a website, only that they will be available to the public. However, nothing has yet been confirmed and the clock is ticking on the law’s requirement that each year all politicians and civil service heads make full disclosure within thirty days of 30 June.

Bodden said options were being explored for some kind of programme to create a searchable database so the public can look for specific details about their MLAs or senior public servants but there was no certainty yet about how the register would be accessible.
Bodden said last week that the regulations were not yet complete and so far, following the departure from the commission of Karin Thompson, who had overseen the long journey to the legislation, a new chair and other members had not yet been appointed.

With the public often suspicious about the motivations of politicians, the decisions they make and the policies they develop, the need to see who owns what and who has an interest in what is an important tool in the fight against corruption.

During the previous UDP administration there was considerable speculation about land owned by some government MLAs and their family members in areas related to projects approved by the government. In addition, business interests were also said to have been passed on to family or friends while they took up their seats in the LA, allowing them to avoid disclosure.

The recent controversies surrounding the potential extension of the east-west arterial road in order to support a proposed retirement community development and golf course in North Side has led to concerns about this administration and that some serving politicians' and civil servants' family members could stand to benefit from this extension and project.

A number of politicians and senior civil servants, including the premier, the planning minister and the former deputy governor, are all said to have family land interests connected to the road or the project.

At present, politicians are not required to reveal any details about the financial or business interests, land or property ownership of their spouse or other close family members, just their own business interests and property or land.

Currently there is no requirement even for the deputy governor, who sits in the LA, or any other civil service head to reveal their interests either. However, Samuel Bulgin, the attorney general, has filed a register stating that he had apartments in Florida, Jamaica and in Cayman, as well as land in North Side.

According to the register, as it currently stands the deputy premier has by far the most interests and property of members sitting on the government front bench.

Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell, who is also minister for tourism and district administration on the Sister Islands, has more than fourteen directorships in companies for which he has shares and receives financial payments, most of which are tourism or real estate related. He also owns more than two dozen parcels of land on Cayman Brac and three lots on Little Cayman.

Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts lists three business interests and several lots of land in Spotts, Savannah, Lower Valley, West Bay, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

Financeial Services Wayne Panton has a number of business interests, including investment and holding companies and property development, as well as Infinity Broadband, the owners of c3, the latest broadband and communication company to receive a license to supply internet TV. He also declares owning land in Savannah and rental properties.

Although Finance Minister Marco Archer declares no business interests, he declares holding land in North Side, Breakers, Spotts and West Bay, while Health Minister Osbourne Bodden declares his gas station in Bodden Town, a George Town shop as well as land and property in his constituency and the Sister Islands. Tara Rivers declares interest in just one business and land in her constituency. Premier Alden McLaughlin declares his own legal practice and just one lot of land in Spotts.

See full details of the business, shares and land interests currently declared by all 18 members of the Legislative Assembly below.

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Burglars break into education offices twice

| 14/03/2014 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Although no money is kept at the Education Department offices in Thomas Russell Avenue, George Town police are now investigating a second break-in at the premises in the last three weeks. An RCIPS spokesperson said that the offenders had broken into the building and searched the offices sometime between 5.30pm Wednesday 12 March and 7.00am Thursday 13 March, having forced their way in, and the only thing taken was one cell phone. Anyone who was in the area at the relevant times or who has information relating to this incident is asked to contact the George Town Burglary Team on 949-4222, the RCIPS Tip-line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477(TIPS).

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Dangerous driving charges against cop dismissed

| 14/03/2014 | 13 Comments

(CNS): A 48-year-old police officer who was charged with dangerous driving after he was involved in a collision on Walkers Road, George Town, in the school zone last year walked away from Traffic Court on Thursday with a clean driving record. The magistrate told Detective Inspector Adeniyi Collins Oremule that he was free to leave court when the crown told the court it was offering no evidence in the case following a review of the file by the director of public prosecutions. The officer was driving an unmarked police car at the time of the smash last April when he reportedly overtook a number of cars in a slow traffic line in order to turn right but then hit another car.

The crash occurred during the time when the school zone was in operation and close to a pedestrian crossing, according to details on the court file.

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Chief Officer retired out

| 14/03/2014 | 50 Comments

(CNS) Updated 1:45pm Friday:Officials have now confirmed that the chief officer in the Finance Ministry will formally retire from the civil service in September but that she is currently on "extended pre-retirement leave". CNS revealed Friday morning that Sonia McLaughlin had left her senior post and at 1:30pm GIS issued a release. However, there has been no official confirmation on the financial secretary taking up her post though he is understood to have assumed her duties in the meantime. McLaughlin has presided over the public finances for a decade, during the time when government has struggled to meet its obligations under the Public Management and Finance Law to produce a set of accounts, reporting what it collects from tax payers and how it spends it.

The announcement of McLaughlin’s departure was understood to have been made to senior civil service staff this week. CNS understands that other public sector workers are also being paid off but no details have yet been released.

Cayman News Service sent questions to the deputy governor’s office on Wednesday morning relating to these lay-offs, as well as asking what was happening with two other senior civil servants that are understood to still be on payroll. We asked Franz Manderson if Diane Montoya and Deborah Drummond remained on the civil service pay roll and what their current circumstance are in relation to potential new posts. Both women were casualties of the UDP‘s shake up of ministries when the party took office in 2009 and neither has been given a full time post since, despite remaining on top tier salaries.

Manderson acknowledge receipt of CNS’ enquiry on the day (12 March) when he received the request and stated that he would “provide a considered response shortly”.

CNS will post all details from the deputy governor as soon as we are in receipt.

See release from GIS regarding McLaughlin's retirement.

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