Archive for April 14th, 2014

National Trust launches after-school conservation club

| 14/04/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The National Trust has launched a new education initiative at a local school with the help of sponsorship from the private sector. The after school programme “Heritage Heroes”  Youth Conservation Club at Triple C School is aimed at middle school students and will teach them the importance of protecting the natural environment, history and culture of the Cayman. Sudents will learn about the Cayman Islands’ unique natural, built and cultural heritage through participating in environmental and historic field trips, community service and practical skills including wildlife encounters, eco-projects, catboat sailing, thatch weaving, kitchen band music and Caymanian cooking.

The Club also boasts its own cast of original superheroe characters based on Cayman Islands’ heritage icons such as Cayman Knight —  Caymanite rock, Orchidia – the Ghost Orchid, Thatch Woman  — Silver Thatch Trees and Ironwood Man — Ironwood trees.  The Trust plans to host an island wide competition for the creation of a 5th original superhero throughout all the schools.

“We would not have been able to reach a new segment of students outside of a traditional classroom setting without the generous support of Walkers and PwC. Their generous co-sponsorship will help foster conservation-minded future leaders who have a strong sense of national pride and identity” said Christina Pineda, National Trust Executive Director.

Andrew Miller, Partner and member of Walkers Charitable Foundatio said the initiative lined up the firms “charitable objectives” adding that it was “extremely important for our youth to know and appreciate the cultural history of our island. We thank the National Trust for implementing such a valuable programme and we know the children will have fun learning all about the heritage of the Cayman Islands.”

Meanwhile, PwC Assurance and Business Development Senior Manager Angilynn Baraud said the firm was “pleased to reaffirm its commitment to educating young people and helping them discover what they can do to make their country more sustainable.”

The Trust aims to expand “Heritage Heroes” to an additional school and offer the programme components to existing youth service organizations such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, Girl’s Brigade and Boy Scouts in 2015.

For more information on “Heritage Heroes” visit our website at www.nationaltrust.org.ky or call 749-1121.

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Pirates’ week team makes early start on raising cash

| 14/04/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With public money thin on the ground and private sponsorship getting scarcer by the year, organisers of the Pirates’ Week festival are making an early start with fundraising for the annual celebration of skulduggery. Not without its critics the week still proves popular and while it may not be a money making venture the annual heritage event brings a boost to tourism at the end of the low season attracting overseas visitors especially for the festival. This year it will open on 6 November and finish on 16 November but Pirates Week fans can help make a contribution long before then by taking part in a special music and food event on 26 April.

Music for your Palate, organisers said will be one of a series of events leading up to the Pirates Week Festival and the money raised will be used to fund the Fireworks and Family Fun Day —  two of the festival’s main family events.

See details below
 

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Crown makes third attempt to prosecute cop

| 14/04/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A police officer accused of blackmail and breach of trust appeared in the dock in Grand Court Monday at the opening of a jury trial for the third time in less than six months. Elvis Kelsey Ebanks is accused of asking a Filipino national for a $500 bribe to avoid a prosecution following the possible theft of a phone at the Auto Spa in Red Bay. Two previous trials were halted as a result of problems with Tagalog speaking interpreters, as the key witness against the local cop has only limited English. Following the selection of a jury, the crown opened its case again against Ebanks who has denied asking for a bribe and told police that the man had offered to loan him money.

The case is set to continue in Grand Court one through this week and next before Justice Charles Quin and a jury of four women and three men

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Self-defense claim rejected in conch shell assault

| 14/04/2014 | 4 Comments

(CNS): A judge rejected a claim of self-defense Friday when he delivered his verdict in an assault case where a victim was hit on the head with a conch shell during an altercation over $2. Following a judge alone trial last month, Alvin Brown from West Bay was found guilty of wounding when the judge said he did not believe his account of the incident, which took place near Al Fresco's restaurant in West Bay last October. Brown had claimed that he and Garfield Powell had argued over the debt and Powery had come at him with a knife, which was why he had picked up the two conch shells and used one of them to hit his assailant on the head.

Justice Williams, however, found Powell's account of the incident, that Brown had launched the conch shell at him in an unprovoked attack, more plausible. During his verdict the judge said the victim's account tallied more accurately than Browns account, with the evidence before the court from CCTV footage obtained from cameras at Al Fresco's Restaurant near to where the altercation took place on Town Hall Road, West Bay.

Following the verdict Brown was remanded in custody ahead of sentencing, which is expected to take place in June.

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Speedy justice in West Bay firearms case

| 14/04/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A West Bay man is scheduled to go on trial for possession of an imitation firearm with intent wounding and interference with a witness within two months of the incident a court heard Friday. Despite the backlog of cases on the Grand Courts dockets, Shaquille Bush will have his case tried before a judge sitting alone on 12 May in connection with an incident in Daisy Lane on 20 March. Bush has denied the charges which relate to allegations that he threatened a woman with a gun, assaulted her and then sent her a text message threatening further harm if she was to give evidence against him. The court heard that the trial date was obtained after the case was swapped with one involving a defendant on bail.
 

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Groceries robbed at gun point

| 14/04/2014 | 35 Comments

(CNS): A woman was robbed of groceries, cash and personal belongings at gun point as she took a short cut home to her apartment in Lakeside Villas, George Town on Sunday night, police have said. The gun man who was dressed in a large hoody was said to have pushed a handgun gun in the victim's back as he demanded money as the 33 year old resident walked home through Courts Road at around 9:35pm. The robber reportedly took the woman's blue leather backpack which contained her shopping, a designer purse, cash, cards and other personal documents. The  suspect was described as tall, very slim male with a skinny face and brown complexion. He was wearing black three-quarter-length pants, a white top with a hoody which appeared to be huge on him because of his skinny build.

Officers from the George Town, CID said the victim was unhurt during the robbery as she walked home from Delworth’s Esso on the junction of North Church Street and Eastern Avenue. According to the details of the report one loaf of bread, one quart of milk, one dozen eggs, two bottles of ice tea, a white Louis Vuitton purse containing CI $120.00, US $30.00, a Butterfield and a Scotia Bank Debit Cards along with other documents were in the back-pack stolen from the victim.

The robbery comes in the wake of a doorstep mugging of another resident at the Lakeside Apartments just one week ago as he tried to get into his home. Police urged the public to be more vigilant and not walk alone or take short-cuts in secluded areas and advised people "to stay in well-lit areas as much as possible" and remain aware of their surroundings and "avoid bushy areas and other potential hiding places."

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Haines bags 2nd medal in 6 marathon challenge

| 14/04/2014 | 7 Comments

(CNS): Just one week after he covered more than 26 miles of pavements in Paris, on Sunday veteran local distance runner Derek Haines took another step towards his mammoth goal of six marathons in one year. Derek Haines not only completed the London marathon, he did it in under four hours with a time of  03:57:01, despite aching legs from the previous week's onslaught. Haines may well have been inspired as more donations poured in for Cayman HospiceCare, the charity for which Haines is planning to wear out his legs around the world to raise $1 million to build an inpatient centre. Since he started the challenge in Paris last week, another $100,000 has now been pledged. Kenyan world record holder Wilson Kipsang won the race and his second title in London, finishing with a course record of 2:04:27. 

The UK’s Olympic champion Mo Farah finished eighth on his marathon debut with a time of in 2:08:21.

Haines was placed 54th overall in his category of 65-69 year olds, but more than 36,000 people hit the streets of London for the race through England’s capital.

Haines will now be taking a well-earned but relatively short break in marathon running terms as he looks ahead to the next 26+ mile race, which will be in June in Pamplona, Spain, where he will be running with his daughter, Lizzy. After that, it’s San Francisco in July and Dublin in October (Haines missed the New York registration), and finally finishing on home turf in the Cayman Islands marathon in December.

Anyone who wishes to help Haines reached the goal of $1 million can donate at www.six4hospice.com.

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Archer aims at ‘clean’ reports

| 14/04/2014 | 11 Comments

(CNS): The PPM administration is taking steps to eliminate some of the roadblocks to getting “clean” reports for its consolidated financial statements from the auditor general, Finance Minister Marco Archer told the Legislative Assembly last week. In July 2013, a report on the valuation of the government’s fixed assets was completed, which had not been done since 2001, and will mean that government’s assets are now on the books at their current values. In addition, the valuation of post-retirement healthcare benefits is underway, and the government is improving its financial management systems to ensure accurate and timely financial information. These steps will eliminate  the disclaimers by the auditor in future audits, he said.

Getting through the backlog of financial statements that were not tabled by the previous UDP government, as required by law, Archer presented the statements for the financial year ended 30 June 2011, and said the consolidated financial statements for the financial years that ended 30 June 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 are currently with the auditor general and would be tabled as soon as the audits were finalized.

However, for the report tabled last week, he said that the auditor general was unable to obtain the audit evidence necessary on which to base an audit opinion, and he said government had “significant work to do to improve the quality of its financial information”.

The minister said that government had not carried out a revaluation of its lands, buildings, infrastructure and leasehold improvements since 2001.  As at 30 June 2011, the net book value of assets subject to revaluation amounted to approximately CI$625 million, which represented just 36% of the total assets reported. 

“As a result, the auditor general was unable to evaluate the reasonableness of the carrying amount of land and buildings, and any associated depreciation or impairment entries recorded within the financial statements as at 30 June 2011 as reasonable,” he said.

Under the Public Service Management Law, the government is obligated to provide post-retirement health benefits to qualified employees, spouses and dependent children , but the audit office was not provided with an evaluation of the extent of those obligations, Archer said, which is one of the issues now being rectified.

The total revenues recorded during this period amounted to CI$732 million with related receivables of CI$38 million, but, Archer told the House, the auditor general “was unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to determine the reasonableness of the reported revenues. Evidence of expenses was similarly lacking, he said.

Acknowledging a number of systemic weaknesses in producing these financial statements, Archer said the Statement of Financial Position, as at 30 June 2011, showed that the entire public sector (EPS) ended the financial year with CI$1.739 billion in total assets, CI$1.241 billion in total non-current liabilities and CI$498.238 million in net assets.

The Statement of Financial Performance for the period shows that during the year the entire public sector earned CI$732.56 million in operating revenue and incurred CI$709.114 million in operating expenses, resulting in an operating surplus of CI$23.446 million.

The Statement of Cash Flows shows that the net cash flows received from operating and financing activities totalled CI$65.533 million and CI$131.076 million.  The net cash used for investing activities totalled CI$94.224 million. The cash and cash equivalents for the EPS totalled CI$259.098 million.

The Statement of Changes in Net Worth shows the total net worth of the government at CI$495.236 million.

While the government was in compliance with the surplus, net worth, cash reserves and financial risk ratios, it was not in compliance with the borrowing and net debt ratios as the debt servicing ratio was at 10.5% (which should not be more than 10%) and the net debt was at 98.1% of core government revenue (which should not be more than 80%).

The Statement of Public Debt shows that the net public debt for the EPS is CI$522.341 million.

The minister said government was “making great strides to improve the quality of its financial information and in turn improve the auditor general’s opinions on the government’s financial statements.”

In the Office of the Auditor General’s progress report, “Financial and Performance Reporting Status Update as at 30th September 2013”, he noted, 39% of the underlying government agencies’ financial statements, which were audited for the financial year ended 30 June 2012, received unqualified or “clean” audit opinions.

Thirty-one percent of the financial statements, which were audited for the year ended 30th June 2012, received qualified audit opinions. The audits of the remaining 30% of financial statements were not finalized and no audit opinions had been issued at the date of the audit report.

However, the financial statements represent the government’s financial position from two financial years ago, Archer noted.

"Government entities are focussing on improving their internal controls to ensure that revenue and expenses are properly recorded, supported and reported," he said. "In addition, the Treasury Department is currently in the process of procuring software that will improve the Government’s efficiency of producing and reporting accurate and timely financial information."

Laying the latest audited report in the House, he told members, “It is hoped that over the upcoming years, as further improvements are made, that the Government’s financial information will become more credible and reliable.” 

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