Archive for November 12th, 2014

Haines reaches $800k ahead of final leg

| 12/11/2014 | 6 Comments

(CNS): When Cayman’s veteran marathon runner hits the local pavement on 7 December for the sixth and last race in his incredible challenge Derek Haines will be hoping that he will running for $1million. This will not only be enough to build the much needed in patient facility for the local hospice charity but will also a victory for the 66 year old runner whose goal to run six marathons in one year and raise $1m seemed unimaginable at the start. The arrival of the encouraging $800,000 mark, a month ahead of the final run, was down to a $50k donation from AALL Foundation, which was presented to Haines at the Rotary Club’s weekly meeting on 6 November.

"This is a very generous donation by the AALL foundation and brings the total of donations and pledges to CI$800,000,” Haines had revealed when the cheque was handed over by Mike Austin.

“My thanks go to AALL and to Mike who has been the driving force behind obtaining this donation and has also donated personally. Our goal is to raise CI$1 million, so we still have a way to go, and I am hoping for a further surge of support to take us to the goal by the time I reach the tape in the final race,” he added.

Besides the monetary donations and pledges, support for the challenge has been offered by local companies to supply materials and services. But Haines has his fingers crossed that the remaining $200,000 will be pledged before he ties up his laces for what will be an incredible marathon next month, on home turf after Haines has pounded pavements across Europe and in the US.

“A few folks have said they were watching how things progressed before committing, and I have to admit the challenge did seem a tad ambitious at the start, but I urge them all to join in now. We are so close to success and I know that the new Hospice facility will become a reality. The support of the Cayman community has been inspirational and certainly helps me to dig deep when the going gets tough in the races," he said.

Mike Austin said the AALL foundation is committed to supporting worthwhile charities and the trustees were impressed by Haines efforts to raise funds for the Hospice facility.

“Most people have had experience with CaymanHospiceCare and know that it provides tremendous support to the terminally ill and their relatives and friends. We are pleased to be able to help and I also urge everyone to assist as best they can.

For more information on the $1 million challenge, and to donate, go to:

www.six4hospice.com

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East End man charged but no gun recovered

| 12/11/2014 | 1 Comment

(CNS): One of two men involved in an altercation at the weekend has been charged with a number of offences. However, Aaron Solomon, has not been charged with any gun related crimes despite reports that shots were fired at a house during the incident and police have not recovered a firearm in relation to the fight. Twenty-nine year old Solomon appeared in court Wednesday charged with possession of two offensive weapons —  a golf club and a machete, wounding, intentional harassment, alarm and distress. The incident which took place in the early hours of Saturday morning saw Solomon and his cousin engaged in a violent confrontation in which both men sustained injuries.

Police said Solomon's cousin had retreated to a house after the brawl and shots were fired at the property.

Solomon was bailed by the magistrate on an electronic tag to return to court later this month.

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Government inches towards dealing with disability

| 12/11/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS): The policy document outlining how government intends to improve the lives of people with disabilities was approved by Cabinet last month and officials said this week that recommendations for the 2015/16 budget have been submitted to ministries by an inter-ministerial task force responsible for finalising the plans for the policy’s implementation. A long time in coming the policy was developed by the Cayman Islands Disability Policy Steering Committee. A legal subcommittee also produced a report recommending legislation to advance the rights of persons with disabilities. The law, will include the creation of a council to act as a watchdog for implementation, officials said.

Implementation of the disability policy and associated legislation will set the foundation for the Cayman Islands Government to request via the United Kingdom that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities be extended to the Cayman Islands.

Commending the committee for their hard work over the year, Steering Committee Chair Robert Lewis described the various committee members as “dedicated and highly knowledgeable participants”. Thanking stakeholders from civil society, the private sector and government for their commitment and dedication he said it was about achieving the vision of the policy, which is “ensuring persons with disabilities live  with dignity, are respected and have the opportunity to participate fully in society.“

Stakeholders represented in the process were from Special Olympics Cayman Islands, Rotaract Blue, the Lighthouse School, Sunrise Centre, the Ministries of Education, Health, Community Affairs, the Attorney General’s Chambers, Department of Children and Family Services, Government Information Services, and parents’ groups.

A copy of the approved policy is now available online at www.gov.ky andwww.cabinetoffice.gov.ky and posted below

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Local chikungunya cases jump to ten

| 12/11/2014 | 9 Comments

(CNS): Over the last week results of blood tests from four people have confirmed that they acquired chikungunya in the Cayman Islands last month, bringing the number of patients catching the virus locally to ten. Two of these patients live in Bodden Town and two live in George Town and none of them have a recent travel history to affected countries in the region. But with the disease now taking hold in Jamaica and with 18 people, more than half of Cayman’s 34 confirmed cases of chikungunya virus being acquired there, public officials are expecting more local transmissions.

“The Public Health Department in collaboration with other agencies such as MRCU, continue surveillance efforts for the identification of locally acquired cases,” Dr Kiran Kumar, the medical officer of health stated in the wake of the most recent results.

“With about six positive casesof local transmission in October along with nine suspected cases in the previous week suggest that unless the public protect themselves from mosquito bites and take measures against mosquito breeding especially after the recent rains, we can have more cases,” he added.

Confirmed cases have occurred on all three islands and in residents in every district so far except East End. One person so far picked up the mosquito transmitted disease in St Lucia, two in the Dominican Republic, three in Guyana, 18 in Jamaica and now ten people here in Cayman, as a result of being bitten by mosquitos which had previously bitten other infected people.

During the past week, 21 results from suspected cases were received and just the four local transmissions were confirmed the rest were negative for chikungunya.  

There were another 16 suspected cases of Chikungunya reported to the health authorities during the week 4-10 November based on symptoms and seven had travelled to Jamaica, but nine reported no travel history. The hospital is now waiting on results from a total of 19 blood samples which were sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad over the last few weeks.

Chikungunya causes fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. Officials urge anyone who may be experiencing these symptoms to immediately see a healthcare provider. They also remind the public to use mosquito repellent with DEET on the skin, and wear long sleeve pants and shirts when outside during times that mosquitoes bite, whether in the Cayman Islands or on travels.

As at 7 November 6,280 cases of Chikungunya had been reported from 24 Caribbean countries.

Further information can be obtained through www.hsa.ky. Regional updates can be accessed by visiting the CARPHA website on http://carpha.org/What-We-Do/Public-Health-Activities/Chikungunya.  In addition United States updates are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/geo/united-states.html.

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Gallery promises a surreal time at annual ball

| 12/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): As government budgets supporting local arts and culture continue to fall the National Gallery Cayman Islands, is even more dependent on fundraising and donations to keep providing free community programmes for all ages and backgrounds. As a result organizers are hoping that the community will be enthusiastic in their support of the annual ball a major fundraiser for the gallery. This year the ‘do’ has been inspired by Surrealism, a 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind. Inspired by artist such as Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, René Magritte, Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst the events team is promising an evening to remember, that they hope will produce very real financial results.

The National Gallery’s Events Manager, Meegan Ebanks explain described the gallery as “an inclusive gathering place” honouring Cayman’s artistic heritage.

“It celebrates art and seeks to provide inspiring learning experiences for all of our diverse public. By purchasing a ticket to The Surrealists’ Ball you’ll be directly supporting free art educational programmes and opportunities for all ages and abilities,” she added.
Funds from last year's Bright Young Things Gala have provided The National Gallery with supplies and teaching resources for the NGCI Education Department and helped to fund the multifaceted Family Fun programme. Further, funds raised ensured that admission to all of the NGCI exhibitions remained free of charge and accessible to everyone.

“We’ve planned surreal performances provided by KRI Performing Arts and Oneworld Entertainment, stunning décor thanks to Celebrations, Intec and Flowers Block & Foam as well as unconventional edible experiences thanks to Mise en Place and Jaques Scott Wines and Spirits. Cayman Airways and other local businesses have come together to help us offer grand auction packages unique to Cayman. Last but not least, we can all get HomeSafe by the services provided by The Security Centre. We cannot thank our sponsors and volunteers enough for their support of the event, it is going to be an event to remember,” Ebanks stated.

Guests are encouraged to dress in surreal fashion, and formal evening wear is a must for the soiree. National Gallery staff and volunteers have crafted a Pinterest Page, a social media web sharing application to share visual collections, of surreal fashion inspired looks for you to peruse. Art-inspired headgear and accessories have also been created especially for the event by local designer Colette Byrne and are available for purchase.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what our creative patrons come up with,” Ebanks said. “Professional photographers David Goddard and Tony Mark will be there to capture the surreal inspired looks.”

Tickets tothe event are now on sale and can be purchased individually for CI $185.00 per person or by tables, CI 1,750.00 for a table of ten and CI $2,120.00 for a table of twelve. Tickets purchased after 15 November 2014 will increase in price. For event details contact the events team at events@nationalgallery.org.ky or call The National Gallery on (345) 945 8111.

 

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Serpell wins U16 team spot for Jam show jumping leg

| 12/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Two of Cayman’s young show jumpers went head to head for a place on the Cayman Islands’ team headed to Jamaica this month for the final round of the 2014 Caribbean Equestrian Association’s Junior Show Jumping Competition (“CEA JSJC”). Phoebe Serpell (14) (left) and Isabelle Smith (15) put themselves forward to trial for the place in the under 16 category. Over the course of two rounds, Smith knocked one fence down resulting in four faults. However, Serpell rode both rounds clear giving her the win over Smith and the U16 place on the Cayman Team for the Jamaica leg.

Riders are required to jump 1m height courses overseas on borrowed horses. Although only 14 years old, Serpell elected to compete in this higher height category. The selection process established by the Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation (CIEF) to select the team member involves both riders riding two jump courses of 1m fence heights; one course on their own horse, and the second course on each other’s horse. The idea being that this assesses to the extent possible, riders’ competence in a borrowed horse situation.

Having secured her place Serpell will be joined by Chloe Fowler as the U14 team member. Fowler put herself forward for selection and was uncontested for the place. The duo will head to Jamaica this month for the final round of the CEA JSJC. Cayman is currently lying joint first with Jamaica, who will have the home advantage in this title deciding competition.

Mary Alberga of the Equestrian Centre will accompany the Team as the National Coach.

The CIEF’s next competition in Cayman is on Sunday 16 November and is the first of the national dressage shows for the 2014/15 season.  Experienced dressage coach and judge, Cindy Thaxton of High PointFarm, Georgia, has long supported Cayman’s dressage riders and will be coming to the island to judge the competition and offer clinics to riders to improve their performance, the federation stated in a release.

The competition will be held in two venues for the first time, in order to maximize the number of entries and the make the competition available to as many riders as possible. The first half of the competition will take place at the Equestrian Centre, off the Linford Pierson Highway in George Town from 8am until noon and the second half of the competition will take place at Cayman Riding School on Hirst Road in Savannah from 2pm – 6pm.

Awards for the entire day will be presented at Cayman Riding School at 6pm. Both sections of the competition are free entry for the public and support is welcome. Refreshments can be purchased on site.

 

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Students lock-downed – ‘Prison, No Way Bobo!’

| 12/11/2014 | 13 Comments

(CNS): The Youth Anti-Crime and Trust (ACT) is implementing a “Cayman” version of the UK programme “Prison, Me No Way” called Youth Crime Prevention Day. This is a prevention programme providing young people with the information needed to make positive decisions while addressing the causes, consequences and penalties of crime. This programme took place at the Family Life Centre for almost 200 Year 8 students from John Gray on Friday 7 November between 8:00am and 3:00pm. The theme was “Loss of Freedom” as all of students were subjected to a mock prison setting. It was a full day of 30 minute workshops under strict supervision by the RCIPS, where topics of gangs, sexual abuse, social responsibility and more were addressed.

The students were on “lock down” throughout the day and treated as if they were prisoners, with a police escort to take them to and from each scheduled workshop. In each workshop there were different presenters with expertise in criminal justice and health services, including a drug counsellor, a crisis intervention therapist, police officers, and a registered nurse and STI/HIV programme coordinator. These presenters spoke on topics ranging from guns and gun crime to the effects of drugs and alcohol and life in prison.

During the break where students were allowed to snack, a documentary of George Roper, a prisoner residing in Northward was shown. Roper informed the students of the circumstance in which he lives, the food he eats, along with the freedom and leisure that he does not have. Roper compared for the students the life that he once had with the ‘loss of freedom’ that he now bears. The contrast brought some students to the realization that a life of crime was not for them. The aim of the video was to change the perception of Cayman’s prison being a place that is ‘fun’, where prisoners can watch television and do as they please.

At the end of the day, the young people were given a “give-away” bag, which contained a water bottle, wrist band, magnet, and cell phone holder, so when used by the students can reinforce the message of the day.

Bonnie Anglin, Chairperson of ACT stated, “This day is a minor step in addressing recidivism and behavioural issues that can lead to criminality, but we cannot do it alone. Support is needed from our community.”

With sponsorship and support from Appleby, Rotary Central, and CNB, the ACT’s Youth Crime Prevention Day is sure to be a big step in helping youths to make better decisions and avoiding even the thought of prison.

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Role of the auditor general

| 12/11/2014 | 22 Comments

The auditor general has come in for much undeserved or un-earned criticism from certain politicians in recent times but I feel duty bound to comment on the two most recent acts by politicians during the last meeting of the Legislative Assembly. The first was the statement by the minister of finance in offering his explanation and/or excuses for the latest bad report tabled by the auditor general on the state of government’s accounts or the lack thereof. The second was the “personal explanation” given by the leader of the opposition, who was the minister of finance for the period reported on by the auditor general.

I believe both of these statements were inappropriate and should not have been allowed by the speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

The auditor general's position and therefore the occupant at the time enjoys certain protections under the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009 and he cannot be instructed by anyone, not even the governor and reports only to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Legislative Assembly. The PAC is elected every four years immediately after the swearing in ceremony of the newly elected members of the Legislative Assembly.

In 2013 the most unusual thing happened. Hon. Alden McLaughlin, as premier of the Cayman Islands, nominated the former minister of finance to be a member of the PAC and I understand the other members of the committee later elected him deputy chairman of the PAC.

This has to represent a serious breach of “good governance” best practices, which the PPM government claims to uphold and practice. It has also been reported in the media that the current PAC chairman has written to the leader of the opposition and asked him to resign from the committee, a request that is not grounded in either the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009 or the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly and has been ignored by the leader of the opposition — and rightly so.

The proper course of action would be for the premier, who nominated him in the first place, or the chairman of the PAC, as a member of the Legislative Assembly, to move a motion in a duly constituted sitting of the Legislative Assembly to remove him and elect another member to the PAC.

Not likely to happen; they are afraid of the leader of the opposition's response to such a motion.

This kind of erosion of the authority and importance of the PAC and the auditor general is unfortunate and is part of the wider erosion of the morals, principles and ethics we should expect and get from elected members of the Legislative Assembly.

The proper procedure and process that is required by Standing Orders in the Legislative Assembly and the Public Management and Finance Law (PMFL) for the handling of the reports of the auditor general is as follows:

*All government entities should close their accounts and submit them to the auditor general for his audit within two months of the end of the financial year.

*The auditor general shall express an opinion on the financial statements he received within two months of receipt of the financial statements to the relative entity and to the Legislative Assembly. Such reports are normally referred to the PAC by the speaker.

*The PAC should review the finding of the auditor general and produce a report independent of the auditor general supporting or rejecting his findings. Said report of the PAC should be forwarded to the Cabinet for government’s response to the findings of the PAC.

*The government should respond to the PAC’s report in what is known as the Government Minute, detailing what their response to each of the findings will be, including an implementation timetable.

*The auditor general’s report, the PAC report and the Government Minute should all be laid on the table together and debated by the members of the Legislative Assembly.

Unfortunately, this procedure and process has been eroded and bastardized over the last decade, firstly with the delays in the entities in submitting their financial statements to the auditor general and the severe decline in the quality and reliability of the financial statements.

The PAC several years back, I believe during the first PPM administration, instead of being timely and genuine in its review of the auditor general's reports made the grave error of allowing the auditor general to release his reports to the media two days after he delivered them to the speaker. This appears to have been a compromise made between the PAC and the auditor general, who was complaining that his reports were being delayed in their release to the public, thereby denying information.

The media circus and sensationalism that surrounded these reports from the auditor general without the review to confirm or reject his findings by the PAC and the total absence of the Government Minute to correct the findings of the auditor general contributed greatly to the erosion of the role of the auditor general and the PAC.

The actual absence of any commitment by government to correct what was obviously going wrong with government accounting for its expenditure belies any sense of confidence by the public that government was actually spending the people’s money in accordance with the annual plan and estimates.

A review of the annual reports laid on the table of the Legislative Assembly, so proudly by ministers in the former UDP and now PPM governments, will show the same problems repeated year after year with none of the recommendations by the auditor general being implemented.

The alarming and concerning headlines in the media that around one billion dollars cannot be properly accounted for in a way that allows the auditor general to issue an unqualified audit statement is just the most recent example of this comedy of errors. The acceptance by those responsible of poor performance and incompetence by those charged to producethese accounts in accordance with the PMFL is rather troubling.

The statement of the minister of finance which quibbled with the figures produced by the auditor general and included the statement of actions taken by his ministry, while inappropriate in the process, should provide some small comfort to us, the general public, that he is making positive steps to correct the situation and hopefully the accounts for 2014/2015 will be much improved.

The excuses included in the “personal explanation” by the former minister of finance provided no comfort to us, the general public, as it comes so late after the facts relating to 2011/2012 accounts for which he was responsible under the PMFL. If staffing was an issue, either of incompetence or shortage in numbers, he had the authority under the law to correct it either by funding additional posts or asking the deputy governor to evaluate their performance and replace them if necessary.

After all, he was at the time premier, the same premier who may have been involved in sending three senior civil servants home on full pay and benefits.

There is and has been for at least five years widespread support and recognition that some revision of the provisions of the PMFL is needed. I hear on the radio that this PPM government has commissioned yet another study of the PMFL and we all wait with baited breath for the amending bill to be presented to the Legislative Assembly and the debate that will follow.

There is an urgent national need to have this mess cleaned up and any proposed solution should not allow for continued excuses and procrastination by the most senior of civil servants, up to and including the governor and deputy governor.

However, there seems to be a disconnect between the administering power, the UK, through the FCO, in appointing the deputy governor to manage the budgeting process, which was and is working fairly well and in accordance with the PMFL, but not putting anyone solely in charge and responsible for the financial statements.

The Strategic Policy Statement (SPS), which has been presented on or before December 1st in every year for which there has been no financial statements, is likely to be presented on time again this year by the PPM administration.

Oh why, oh why, cannot the same chief officers and chief financial officers who prepare the SPS keep the accounts of their expenditure in accordance with their budget projections and authorizations for the same year and present proper financial statements to the auditor general for auditing?

It seems rather routine and simple. They prepare a budget which is approved and expenditure authorized by the Legislative Assembly, from which they get monthly drawdowns for specific expenditures as authorized. But they can’t keep proper records of these expenditures.

Why do the persons in charge continue to release funds if there are no accounting records?

Now, here is a novel idea: do not release month three funds unless the first month is accounted for to trial balance. Is it not required that each minister sign off on the last month’s expenditure before the next month’s funds are released?

This correction will require a paradigm shift by both the political as well as the civil service.
It will require both to move away from what George Kennan observed in 1959: “The tendency today is to achieve administrative arrangements geared completely to the workings of mediocrity – arrangements which, as the saying goes, the least talented can operate and the most intelligent cannot disturb.”

They, both the politicians and the civil service, must assert their given authority, accept responsibility and accountability to do the right thing morally, ethically, principally and legally.
Simply put, when the auditor general reports inadequacies in the financial accounting, ALL must accept their authority and responsibility to correct the inadequacies during the current or at the latest the next financial year

All that is required is the auditor general must audit, make recommendations to improve the accounts, the PAC confirms the recommendations of the auditor general to the government and the government implements the recommendations.

At last, success!

The financial statements are improved and are more reliable the next year and the public has confidence that the money is being spent as intended.

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