Archive for December 2nd, 2014

Reports delay two year old dangerous driving case

| 02/12/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The trial for Fitzroy Roach (31) who has been charged with killing Beverly Elaine Ramsey (58) in a road smash more than two years ago has been delayed again. The trial is now set to start on 22 June next year. Roach is alleged to have been responsible for causing the death of the local taxi driver and mother of a senior serving police officer as they drove on Esterley Tibbetts Highway when the Nissan box truck he was driving stuck her Hyundai van. The incident happened on 16 October 2012 close to the AL Thomson roundabout at about 6am. The court heard Friday that the trial has been delayed as a result of problems relating to accident reconstruction reports.

Set to last seven days before a judge sitting alone Roach has denied driving dangerously and driving without being qualified. On the day of the road crash Roach was arrested on suspicion of DUI but no charges relating to driving under the influence have been brought. Roach was bailed to return to court for the trial next year.

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Minister confirms local thanksgiving holiday

| 02/12/2014 | 27 Comments

(CNS): The minister for culture has announced the formal recognition of Caymanian Thanksgiving in the local calendar. Osborne Bodden told the Legislative Assembly last Thursday that as Cayman had developed so rapidly, with shifts in sectors of employment from seafaring and agriculture to tourism and finance, Caymanian culture was at risk of being diminished. He said that officially recognizing the day would strengthen and promote the cultural identity of the islands, especially for the younger generations, as well as building a cultural bridge with expat communities. There will not, however, be an addition to the list of public holidays because the holiday will fall on the first Sunday of December, Bodden explained.

Many Caymanians from earlier key generations of Cayman's culture and history were, he said, “departing this world”, taking their knowledge, skills and traditions with them, while many younger Caymanians were unable to identify characteristics of Caymanian architecture or sing traditional Caymanian songs.

However, one aspect of Caymanian culture that everyone could recognize is the food, he said, and its promotion would provide incentives for local business and food producers by bringing local restaurants into closer and more regular interaction with the focus of the holiday on the Sunday meal. 

The benefits of promoting the islands culture would also be a boon for tourism, the minister said, as holiday makers from the US and Canada would be interested in seeing Thanksgiving “Cayman-style”.

North Side MLA Ezzard Miller questioned whether there should be potential household limits for consumption of turtle, and whether the premier would also have to “pardon a turtle” for the promotion of the holiday, much to the amusement of the House (a reference to the tradition in the US where the president pardons a turkey every Thanksgiving).

The independent member also queried whether or not the cost of turtle meat could be reduced for the holiday, which is approaching this weekend.

His wish appeared to have been granted as the Cayman Turtle Farm issued a release Friday stating that the meat would be on sale this week at a reduced rate. From Monday through to Thursday the farm has reduced the price of turtle stew meat and menavelins by $2 per pound, but officials said steak meat is not being reduced.

Cayman Thanksgiving is a weekend-long national celebration to honour Caymanian heritage, culture and way of life. It is a time for fellowship among family, friends and neighbours while allowing an opportunity for our Caymanian community to express gratitude for our many blessings on the passing of Hurricane season. This weekend celebration will culminate on the first Sunday of December, centered around a traditional Caymanian meal.

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Dart’s waivers exceed $11M

| 02/12/2014 | 103 Comments

(CNS): The public purse is light by well-over $11 million on the development of the Kimpton Hotel on Seven Mile Beach by Dart Realty and its construction company DECCO due to duty and fee waivers. The results of an FOI request by North Side MLA Ezzard Miller also show that the developer was given the red card permit to construct the hotel well after work had started on the building, something the independent member said no one else would get away with. Concerned that government authorities are simply overlooking infractions because of the size of the developer, Miller told CNS that enough is enough and government had to stop bending rules to suit powerful individuals. 

“We have got to put a stop to this. As government bends over backwards for these developers, Caymanians get nothing in return,” he said.

Miller pointed to the massive waivers given to Dart on the hotel project, which he said he did not believe were justified. He queried exactly how many jobs had been created on the hotel project for local workers and exactly how Caymanians would benefit from the more than $7 million waived.

The FOI request, which was granted in full and given to Miller within the lawful timeframe, revealed that planning fees of almost a quarter million dollars were waived for Dart’s development, as well as a whopping $2.65 million waiver on infrastructure fees. In addition, almost $1.7 million on building permit fees were scrapped and over $2.7million was waived in affordable housing fees, which Miller described as "outrageous".

However, answering a question in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday posed by East End member Arden McLean about the size of the waivers so far, Finance Minister Marco Archer said that, as at 26 November, the concessions regarding fees, duties and taxes had now reached $11.8 million. In addition to the revelations in the FOI response, there was also $2.4 million in stamp duty waivers, and import duty waivers of more than $1.2 million. 

Arden McLean asked if the cost of the waivers were to offset the cost of the road. Archer responded that, to the best of his understanding, he believed this was the case.

Although Dart has committed to a major project that is expected to generate jobs and which includes covering the cost of the Easterly Tibbetts Highway Extension into West Bay, in addition to the significant duty and fee concessions, the developer has received and a stretch of the West Bay Road, turning a huge swathe of his land into beachfront property, multiplying its value by many millions of dollars.

As government continues to negotiate with Dart over the ForCayman Investment Alliance, which was entered into by the UDP administration, the developer is still receiving significant duty waivers, despite the minister of finance’s promise when he came to office that he was going to examine the duty and fee waivers and put an end to the government giveaway.

However, when answering the East End member's questions, Archer said that he could not predict how muchwould be given away to Dart as a result of the agreement.

Miller declared that this government was continuing on with the disaster created by the former administration.

“The ForCayman Investment Alliance was the worst thing to happen to this country,” he told CNS, as he pointed to the massive fee waivers and the infractions that the planning authorities were simply ignoring. “How did Dart get a red permit weeks after he had already started the hotel?” he asked, noting that a local trying to build his house without a red permit would have been stopped. Miller even queried whether the planning department would have bothered to issue a permit at all if he had not made the FOI request.

In the wake of the controversial planning law changes, which government ushered through the Legislative Assembly recently, Miller said he is exceptionally concerned that the changes are all designed to meet demands of developers and that laws are being manipulated for these investors against the best interests of the local population..

Given the massive waivers that Dart has received, Miller said he wanted to know exactly how many Caymanians were given jobs on the Kimpton project and what the people of Cayman are getting for their $11 million.

According to the premier, half of the people working in government earn less than $3,300 per month. The duties and fees on the Dart project if they had been collected could have created almost 300 jobs in the public sector.

See FOI request posted below

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Charities demand action against OTs at JMC

| 02/12/2014 | 14 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands delegation along with other overseas territory representatives in the UK this week for the annual Joint Ministerial Counsel meeting with the FCO were greeted by demonstrators from UK charities that want to see more action against offshore secrecy. Christian Aid campaigners say that a year after what it described as “Britain’s tax havens” agreed to consider lifting the secrecy around who really owns the companies domiciled in the territories have made “alarmingly little progress”. As leaders from Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands as well as Cayman met in London the charity said government needs to fulfill the UK Prime Minister’s promise to end secrecy and “set a new standard for transparency”.

Joseph Stead, Senior Economic Justice Adviser at Christian Aid, said: “Over the last year, so little has changed that it is hard to believe the Overseas Territories were genuine in their commitment to consider public registers of who owns companies. In April the Prime Minister reminded them that ‘the rest of the world is watching’ but they seem to be stalling in the hope that their promises will be forgotten.”

At last year’s meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council the territories had agreed to hold public consultations on creating public registers of who really owns companies but there has been no reports or conclusions made public.

The issue has been one of significant controversy not just in Cayman but in other financial service centres as well. Although, Wayne Panton, the financial services minister has initiated a consultation process he has made it clear that there will be not be a public register accessible by all in Cayman before the on-shore jurisdictions do the same thing. Cayman has argued persistently that unlike the US, the UK and other onshore financial centres, the Cayman Islands already collects the information regarding beneficial ownership. However, the charities continue to note that it may be collected but it is rarely accessible.

With none of the territories coming up with a plan on how they intend to make that information more accessible after some ten months of consultation the charities say it is not good enough.

“It’s clear that secretly owned companies in the Overseas Territories are used for international corruption, money laundering and tax evasion,” Stead stated in a release from the charity.

“The BVI, the Caymans (sic) and Bermuda are in the World Bank’s top 20 jurisdictions for cases of grand corruption. They need to be among the first to change. The failure to clean up the Overseas Territories risks being a blot on the Prime Minister’s record of getting tough on tax dodging. While the Overseas Territories stall, the UK is one of a growing number of EU countries supporting public registries across the EU to counter money laundering." 
The legislation to create a public register in the UK was scheduled to be debated in the House of Lords Tuesday and there are concerns in the offshore industry that the pressure from the UK will increase on the territories to do the same once Britian comes up with a publicly accessible register.

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Sir John A Cumber’s girls win Group A

| 02/12/2014 | 0 Comments

(CUC-PFL): This past Saturday, the young ladies from Sir John A Cumber Primary secured a place in the CUC Girls’ Primary Football League (GPFL) semi-finals and in the CUC Primary Football League (PFL), the boys’ Under 9 and Under 11 teams secured their place in the Champions Cup Playoffs following wins over Cayman International School. In the GPFL, Stoyanna Stewart scored four times in the first half and Allison Juarez added a fifth in the second half to defeat Cayman International School in this exciting Group A encounter. With the win Sir John A Cumber Primary secured top spot in Group A and a place in the GPFL semi-finals to be played Saturday, December 6.

In the PFL Under 9 match-up, Sir John A Cumber’s Drequan Kirchman grabbed a hat trick in the first 10 minutes, Tyler Beckford scored in the 16th minute and Joakhim Seymour rounded off the scoring in the 27th minute in their 5-1 victory over Cayman International School. Toby Johns scored Cayman International’s lone goal from the penalty spot in the 19th minute. Although coming up short in this game, Cayman International’s Under 9s still advance to the Under Champions Cup along with Sir John A Cumber Primary.

In the Under 11 game, Sir John A. Cumber defeated Cayman International School 3-1 thanks to goals from Tarran Ebanks in the 5th Minute, Lewey Bodden in the 15th minute and Jaden Whittaker in the 43rd minute. Cayman International’s Andrew Weber narrowed the deficit in the 54th minute after some sustained pressure on the Sir John A Cumber goal, but that would end the scoring.

Other PFL results from Group A included Savannah Primary 7 vs St Ignatius Prep 1 (Under 9) and Savannah Primary 1 vs St Ignatius Prep 1 (Under 11). In the other Group A game in the GPFL it was Savannah Primary 2 vs St Ignatius Prep 5.In Group B of the PFL, it was Red Bay Primary 0 vs Cayman Prep 3 (Under 9); Red Bay Primary 1 vs Cayman Prep 1 (Under 11); NorthEast Schools 0 vs Prospect Primary 5 (Under 9); NorthEast Schools 7 vs Prospect Primary 3 (Under 11); Triple C 2 vs South Sound Schools 0 (Under 9) and Triple C 2 vs SouthSound Schools 0 (Under 11). In the only GPFL Group B game it was Red Bay Primary 0 vs Cayman Prep 2.

The 2014/2015 CUC PFL and GPFL Playoffs begin this Saturday, December 6 with four games each in the PFL Under 9 and Under 11 Champions Cups and two semi-final games in the GPFL. In the PFL Under 9 Champions Cup it’s Cayman International School vs Prospect Primary (9:00 am); Sir John A Cumber Primary vs Red Bay Primary (9:00 am); Savannah Primary vs NorthEast Schools (10:00 am) and St Ignatius Prep vs Cayman Prep (10:00 am).

In the GPFL semi-finals it’s Sir John A Cumber Primary vs Cayman Prep (11:00 am) and St. Ignatius Prep vs NorthEast Schools or Prospect Primary (11:00 am). In the PFL Under 11 Champions Cup it’s Truth For Youth vs NorthEast Schools (12:15 pm); Sir John A Cumber Primary vs Triple C (12:15 pm); Savannah Primary vs. Cayman Prep (1:30 pm) and St Ignatius Prep vs Red Bay Primary (1:30 pm).

The Under 9 and Under 11 Consolation Cup games will begin on Saturday, December 13.
All games will be played at the Annex Field.

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CIG to use spending muscle

| 02/12/2014 | 24 Comments

(CNS): The finance minister has said that government will soon be doing a better job of utilizing its spending power to cut costs. During his address last week in the Legislative Assembly on government’s Strategic Policy Statement outlining its future fiscal plans, Marco Archer said that his ministry would be leading an initiative to “leverage the immense buying power of the Cayman Islands Government”. Sticking to his theme of fiscal prudence, he said the introduction of a centralized procurement system would help to keep core government expenses down. Keen to rein in spending on goods and services, Archer said he wanted to optimize every public dollar spent.

“To ensure public sector expenditures remain in-check and further enhance the prudent management of public sector finances, the government will be taking steps to improve its procurement regime,” Archer stated.

The news comes more than a year after Deputy Governor Franz Manderson announced plans for the creation of a government procurement department headed up by a procurement director, based on recommendations made by the auditor general. In September last year Manderson told the Public Accounts Committee that Cabinet had given the go-ahead and budgeted some $350,000 to create the specialized office that would deal with everything from developing new laws about the procurement process to establishing business cases for public projects.

Last week Archer said that government was taking steps to improve its procurement regime and the Finance and Economics Ministry had recently concluded the recruitment of the director of the Central Procurement Office.

He said, “Standardization in specification and policies are expected to yield numerous benefits, such as reduced costs, reduced future maintenance on vehicles, machinery and equipment, greater transparency in the procurement process and greater compliance by private sector merchants wishing to do business with the government.”

Pointing to the need to keep operating expense in check, Archer said the ministry would move “swiftly to develop the policies and procedures that will be used going forward to ensure that the citizens of this country receive optimum value for every dollar spent”.

He said he expected public spending would remain relatively static over the next three years with an increase of just 1% between the current 2014/15 expenditure budget and the SPS financial targets for the 2017/18 year. The minister also noted that the tight spending regime was before any other efficiency gains that may result from the implementation of any of the Ernst & Young report recommendations for cutting the public sector.

Despite inflation, keeping government expenditures constant was a result of increasing efficiency, he said.

Last year the deputy governor said the centralized procurement department would address the numerous concerns that had been raised by the Office of the Auditor General over how government manages procurement.

Manderson said at the time that the recruitment process for the procurement director had already started. He had told the PAC that the future goal in managing projects would be to get things right from the start, and it will be this office that will establish the business case for any project before it goes to tender. The plan at the time was to include the Central Tenders Committee in the new department, which was to be renamed the Procurement Committee.

See related story on CNS: Procurement office in works

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