Archive for September 19th, 2014

Mac handed in blank cheques

| 19/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The jury heard that the former premier handed over at least one, if not more, blank cheque to his office staff in 2010 against whatever personal debts he owed on his government credit card. As the crown continued to call civil service witnesses Friday in the case against McKeeva Bush for abusing that card, the issue of how Bush paid back his personal use was addressed. The court heard that as a result of budget pressures and the requirement in 2010 that government actually met its statutory obligation to submit its accounts on time, the system of sending memos with credit card statements to the premier to mark his personal expenditure fell apart.

When Wendy Manzanares, a government accountant, took to the witness stand, she explained that she had been forced to do a reconciliation of the premier’s credit card accounts in October of 2010 at home and out of office hours because the unit was so stretched.

She said she had gone back to the date of issue of the card, which was in July 2009, because the management system had fallen so far behind. This was down to a combination of resource and staff shortages, budget preparations and the need toget the financial statements to the auditor general by the statutory deadline, the accountant explained.

Bush had been sent memos with regularity until around March or April 2010, the witness recalled, but she admitted that those stopped when the unit became under increasing pressure to complete the priority work of the budget and the government accounts.

During her evidence, as she was questioned by both crown prosecutor Duncan Penny QC and defence attorney Geoffrey Cox QC on the fourth day of live evidence in the Bush trial, Manzanares explained that she had created a spread sheet to ensure funds were recovered.

This document was designed to reconcile Bush’s credit card account from the issue date and she used the original statements for the basis of the information as well as the government computer system, which indicated what payments Bush had already made for personal use.

Focusing on cash withdrawals, she explained that past evidence had suggested these were more often than not personal payments and she made a list of those against the payments the premier had previously made to government and was left with an outstanding debt of about $10,900. When this was completed she forwarded it all, along with the statements, to his personal assistant in order for the premier to acknowledge if her assumptions about personal use were accurate and to then address the outstanding balance.

In her evidence on Thursday, Bush’s former PA said she had no recollection of receiving the reconciliation, despite Manzanares' account that, as well as the email, hard copies were delivered to the premier’s office. Manzanaresstated that she had followed up on those reconciliation documents, but as time went on, given what were described as more pressures in the office along with more staffing problems, the issue was forgotten.

However, in November 2012, two and a half years later, when the police began their investigation, the issue was raised again. It was at that time that Bush is understood to have paid the outstanding amount back. Bush was said by his attorney to have explained to the finance unit that he was unaware of the outstanding sums and claimed to have never seen Manzanares' original reconciliation of his account that detailed the debt. It appears that Bush believed by handing over the blank cheques he had dealt with the personal debts.

Manzanares also confirmed that until the memo system broke down, where statements were sent to the premier every month asking him to mark the personal use and pay it back, he had made good his outstanding personal use promptly.

The court heard that if he was away, especially on back-to-back trips and did not see the statements, he was known to have left blank cheques in those circumstances as well to cover whatever his outstanding balances were, trusting staff to get the calculations right and then make the payments. The government accountant said she was aware that Bush had left personal cheques for employees in the finance unit to fill in against outstanding balances, though she had never filled in the cheques herself.

The case against Bush includes 11 counts under the common and anti-corruption laws in connection with what the crown says is an abuse of office. The prosecution claims he used his government credit cards to draw cash advances in casinos to gamble on slot machines between July 2009 and April 2010, breaching the public trust by using his position to get a free line of credit for his gambling.

Bush has denied all of the charges and has persistently claimed he is the victim of a political witch-hunt at the hands of the FCO.

The court adjourned at 3:30pm Friday until Tuesday morning at 10am, as a result of further closed door arguments expected to take place Monday between the defence team and prosecutors.

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Breeze Fusion in November for good causes

| 19/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(Radio Cayman): The 8th Annual Breeze Fusion Walk/Run is coming up on Saturday 1 November starting at 6:30am from Smith’s Cove. Originally conceived as a family oriented event in 2007, this year’s fundraiser features an increase in the distance to a more competitive 5k or 3 miles, as well as a children’s race. Breeze Fusion is organized by Radio Cayman/Breeze FM and the Phoenix Athletic Club, assisted by Coach Jerry Harper and service club volunteers. As is customary, part proceeds will go to the National Council for Voluntary Organizations, a charitable organisation dedicated to the care, education and well-being of children and families in need of support. (Left: 2013 Male Champion Dominique Corbin with Radio Cayman's Kathy Miller)

The second beneficiary this year is John Gray High School’s “Helping Hands Program”, through which JGHS provides—among other things—hot meals, uniforms and school supplies for any grade 7 to 11 child, who needs this assistance.

So far, sponsors Cayman National, ROMA United Sports Club, Maedac Supply Company through their WATA brand and Grand Old House, already confirmed their support. 

Event registration is still an affordable $15.00 for adults, $10.00 for students under sixteen and is ongoing at radiocayman.gov.ky and caymanactive.com/breeze.  All participants receive an event t-shirt & goodie bag.  Trophies go to the overall male & female finishers in the run, along with medals & prizes to the top competitors in each age category for both the run & walk, with random prizes also up for grabs.
 

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Moses supports development plan for Sister Islands

| 19/09/2014 | 0 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS Business): Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell, who has responsibility for the Sister Islands, says the Cayman Islands’ new National Conservation Law adds significant protection from unsuitable or inappropriate developments. Kirkconnell told CNS Business that he considers that the current planning laws are robust enough to prevent unsuitable development in the Sister Islands. However, the DP also said he supports the establishment of a strategic development plan for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman to ensure that future developments on the two smaller Cayman Islands continue to align with the overarching economic, social, environmental and heritage objectives for the islands. Read more and comment on CNS Business

 

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Police arrest a third man in Webster killing

| 19/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS have arrested a 30-year-old man from West Bay in connection with the fatal shooting of Solomon Webster on Sunday 7 September. A police spokesperson said Friday that a police operation involving firearms officers, Drugs and Serious Crime Task Force, Operations Support Unit and Criminal Investigation Department on Wednesday 17 September in the West Bay area, resulted in the local man’s arrest on suspicion of accessory after the fact to the murder or manslaughter of the 24-year-old Special Olympian gunned down in Daisy Lane. Webster died after he received a gunshot wound to his groin area. Police have already charged Jose Sanchez (27) with the killing and possession of an unlicensed firearm.

The RCIPS charged 60-year-old David Lauer earlier this month also with accessory after the fact to the murder or manslaughter of Webster.

Lauer and Sanchez were remanded in custody following their first court appearance in connection with the killing and both men are due to appear in Grand Court on 26 September
 

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Artists work on block for much needed gallery cash

| 19/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands National Gallery’s third annual art exhibition and auction in support of its education programmes and collections fund opened this week and the public is encourage to go along over the next two weeks and bid on work by some of Cayman’s leading local artists. The exhibition is open until Tuesday, 30 September and will culminate in an invite-only reception and auction on 1 October 2014. The annual Big Art Auction distributes 50% of funds to the artist and 50% to the gallery to ensure the project remains sustainable and benefits both parties.

“Education is central to the NGCI’s mission of promoting the appreciation and practice of the visual arts of the Cayman Islands, and we offer more than 25 outreach and education programmes monthly, across all three islands, and accounting for 60% of the organisation’s annual output,” said the gallery’s director, Natalie Urquhart. “Museums and galleries like NGCI are now considered to be amongst the most effective places to enrich what is being taught in school, as our collections are representative examples of what is taught in the classroom.”

She explained that art on display is surrounded by contextual and interpretive materials and storytelling, arousing interest and curiosity by bringing Caymanian history alive.

“NGCI programmes go far beyond teaching art skills to include cognitive development, cross curricular learning opportunities (maths, literacy, social studies, and history), teambuilding, confidence growth and so on,” added Urquhart.

The auction includes work by Alejandro Angel, John Bird, John Broad, Randy Chollette, Hannah Cook, Davin Ebanks, Kaitlyn Elphinstone, Teresa Grimes, Guy Harvey, Bendel Hydes, Greg Lipton, Miguel Powery, Mikael Seffer, Joanne Sibley, and CE Whitney.”
The Gallery has also acquired a lithograph from Francisco Goya’s famous Los Caprichos series and which was recently exhibited in the National Gallery Metamorphosis exhibition which will also be auctioned.

“It was quite a coup for NGCI, as Los Caprichos is widely considered to be oneof the most influential series of graphic images in the history of western art,” said Urquhart. “We were thrilled when the local collector decided to generously donate one of the lithographs in the series to raise funds. It is an extremely rare opportunity.”

Anyone interested in purchasing work on display at the Big Art Auction 3 or supporting the National Gallery’s Collections Fund please speak to an NGCI staff member or call the National Galley at (345) 945 8111.

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Local football boss lands regional FIFA job

| 19/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): One of Cayman’s football administrators has been appointed as the Technical Development Officer for the CONCACAF region.  Marcos Tinoco, CIFA’s Acting Technical Director and Administrator who also served as the national coach from 2003 to 2007 and from 2010 to 2014 in several official capacities will, in his new job, be working presenting best practices in technical development and managing FIFA’s player, coaching and development initiatives in the region.  “I am happy to serve the region and continue to give back to the sport,” Tinoco said.

Tinoco is joined by Former Trinidad and Tobago Technical Director Anton Corneal and FIFA Consultant Rodrigo Kenton on the FIFA Development Office in the CONCACAF region.

“The appointment is designed to help promote and develop the game in the region. I am grateful to the Cayman Islands Football Association for the opportunity work in a place that became my home. I will miss the daily interaction with players, coaches and officials but in my new role I will never be too far away.”

CIFA First Vice President Bruce Blake described Tinoco as a trusted and valuable member of CIFA’s team.

“His contribution to player development and football administration in the Cayman Islands cannot be measured and is greatly appreciated. We look forward to receiving his advice and guidance in his new role,” added Blake.

 

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Job ads still in question

| 19/09/2014 | 168 Comments

(CNS): With many local job seekers still experiencing difficulties looking for work, CNS readers have identified more advertisements that raise serious questions about employers’ compliance with the labour and immigration laws. Several recent ads have included requests for specific nationalities, a post for a maintenance person with their own car, salaries that are completely disproportionate to the required qualifications and pay that in many cases would fall far below the minimum wage of $5 per hour, if it we had one. Despite government’s promise to remove barriers to work for locals, many job ads are clearly still being tailored to fit imported cheap labour.

Concerns are not just from job hunters. One of government’s own backbenchers told CNS he was very disappointed to see some employers continue to show complete disregard for the law and the people of these islands.

“There is no doubt in my mind that these ads are being tailored to discourage Caymanians from applying for jobs,” said Al Suckoo, the government backbench member for Bodden Town. ”It is also disappointing when one considers that the government just spent a week in the LA debating and passing some significant motions that recommended changes to the Labour Law to try and stamp out some of the most blatant cases of discrimination and abuse against Caymanians and others in the work-force.”

Suckoo stated that in its efforts not to be too heavy handed, government has given employers time to adjust to the new administration and to understand that it will not turn a blind eye to these immoral and illegal practices. But, he said, it was now time to demonstrate that the government is serious about tackling discrimination against Caymanians.

“The practice of drafting ads that are completely unreasonable in what they are asking for, especially when one looks at the salaries offered in most cases, is not only unethical it is illegal and I want to remind employers that they could receive fines as high as $20,000 from the immigration department for these offenses,” he added.

Suckoo said he will be discussing some of the latest infractions regarding recruitment practices when the political arm of government next meets and will ask Cabinet to direct the immigration department, via the chief immigration officer, to take strong steps to ensure that this stops immediately.

The rookie Bodden Town MLA has already spent a considerable amount of his early political career in the Legislative Assembly debating this issue and has made it his business to address the marginalisation of local workers while in office. He recently described the struggles of the Caymanian middle class during a debate in which he seconded a successful motion by Winston Connolly to have some of the cash collected by immigration from work permits ring-fenced for training Caymanians.

“I am growing more concerned by the day that we are evolving into a society with only the very wealthy and the poor,” he said. “We all can co-exist here quite happily, but I will not have my time as a representative marred by a failure to address this growing problem. These are the Cayman Islands. What happens here must be for the benefit of Caymanians.”

The examples of tailoring or simple exploitation are still common and despite a commitment to enforcement by the PPM government there are still many obvious infractions. A recent advertisement for a “Filipino Nannie” was a clear breach of the immigration law but other infractions are far more subtle. A recent ad for an office administrator at an insurance broker asking for someone with a degree in commerce, more than five years insurance office experience including accounting with a salary of just $800pcm is more illustrative of the posts being tailored to existing permit holders and to deter applications from local job seekers.

Local activist Sandra Catron, who has been monitoring some of the practices of local employers, told CNS that she remained awestruck at these advertisements.

“Cleary the job requirements and salary offered are not in sync with each other and that makes any reasonable person question the very authenticity of the recruitment process. To think that an educated person with 5 years’ experience could and would actually work for less than CI $1000 per month is incorrigible,” she said this week as another array of ads were published with salaries that were completely below what would be considered reasonable. Catron says she wants to know if government is going to make employers accountable.

“As a society we cannot sit back and allow these employment injustices to occur without addressing them. There is a trickle down affect where abuse of anyone eventually impacts us all. So if for no other reason than self-preservation, we should all be concerned to raise the bar," she added.

With the advertisement for the office post attracting more than a 100 comments on social media it is clear that the community is not only concerned that employers carry on doing this but that they are getting away with it as the authorities are failing to stop it or hold anyone accountable.

Recent samples of recruitment ads that raised eyebrows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CIG can save cash as Union Jack gets to stay

| 19/09/2014 | 39 Comments

(CNS): The local government doesn’t have to worry about finding the budget to replace its Union Jacks as the flag has survived after Scottish voters elected to remain in the Union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The historic independence referendumwas not quite as close as had been anticipated during the last few weeks of voting where the “Yes” campaign to independence appeared to have gathered pace. Nevertheless, over 1.6m Scots voted to leave the United Kingdom when the 32 council areas counted their votes through the night. The final result was split at 55.3% saying ‘No” to 44.7%. Twenty-eight out of the 32 council areas votedto remain in the union, leaving just four in favour of independence.

Following the poll result, Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond conceded defeat but pointed out that the number of people who voted for independence showed the scale of support for change.

While David Cameron believed the result settled the issue for a generation he said there would be changes in the political union for both Scotland and England, including the possibility that MP’s sitting in Westminster will not be able to vote on tax and benefit issues directly impacting England.

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GTPS custody system poor

| 19/09/2014 | 33 Comments

(CNS): Another independent report has criticised the conditions, as well as the procedures, at George Town Police station’s custody suites. An independent report conducted by the Bermuda Police service surrounding the arrest and suicide of PC Raphael Williams concluded that the standards at the George Town Police station fall far short, not just because of the state of the cells but because officers are not following proper procedure. The report found inconsistent records, illegible notes, missing information and confusion over the management of medicines for suspects in custody. The visiting police service also noted the serious liability presented to the RCIPS by the state of the cells.

A redacted verision of what had been a secret report was released on Thursday by the governor’s office, following the conclusion of the coroner’s inquest on Friday, when the jury returned a suicide verdict.

The Bermuda officers were asked to undertake the independent investigation by the police commissioner following the death of PC Williams and a complaint that was filed about his treatment. The author, Robert Cardwell, reviewed the circumstances surrounding William’s arrest, the evidence against him, his time in custody, the treatment he received and the circumstances of his death and largely rejected the allegations that had been made about the chain of events.

The report concluded that the investigation had been above board but Cardwell and the two offices from Bermuda who assisted him raised several concerns about the custody system and suites.

The report reveals a catalogue of sloppy procedures regarding the record of Williams’s time in custody which raised concerns for the Bermuda officers. Describing the various problems in the system, the officers noted in the report:

“This does not meet the threshold for any kind of high standard or best practice for maintaining accountability for custody of arrested persons.”

Not for the first time the custody system was described as poor and echoed complaints heard on numerous occasions in the local courts when what should be important records kept by police at the point of arrest of suspects have been found to be incomplete, inadequate and illegible.

The Bermuda police also found that the cells still being used by the RCIPS at the George Town lock-up, as they await the completion of the new custody suite, were in an appalling state.

“The custody suite at the George Town Police Station is dated and undesirable to the needs of a contemporary police service where Human Rights are paramount and maintained whilst in custody,” the author noted. “Significant threat of liability is presented to the RCIPS as there is no natural light in the custody facility, the cells can best be described as wire cages that afford no privacy, do not contain access to running water or a toilet facility and the air temperature does not appear to be regulated and controlled.”

The visiting officers also noted the potential dangers for self-harm to prisoners as a result of the cell layout, and when they toured the facility the CCTVs were not working, as had been the case when PC Williams had been detained in the cells overnight.

The findings of the Bermuda Police reflect those of the UK’s HMP Inspectorate when they condemned the custody suites at GTPS in an extensive review of the prison and police detention facilities in February 2013 more than 18 months ago. 

See full report below.

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