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FOI reveals lost document

| 25/09/2014 | 9 Comments

(CNS): The Education Ministry appears to have lost a 2011 report requested under the freedom of information law but has refused to make public an updated 2014 document, despite the fact that at least some of the information is now in the public domain anyway. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is also of the opinion that the applicant, which is CNS, has grounds to appeal the refusal. The information requested pertains to the amalgamation of the primary schools on Cayman Brac – which has since been revealed as one of the proposals made in the Ernst & Young report on the rationalization of government. Unlike the information requested, this was released into the public domain on 9 September in the spirit of openness and transparency.

On 18 February this year CNS requested a 2011 document regarding proposals for cost savings for the provision of education on Cayman Brac; the PowerPoint presentation regarding this proposal produced in 2011; any updated report on the same subject (proposals for cost savings for the provision of education on Cayman Brac) that has been produced since 2011; and the current enrollment figures and teacher/student ratios of all government primary schools and the Lighthouse School.

The ministry released the teacher/student ratios requested but refused the other documents regarding the potential cost savings of amalgamating the Brac primary schools.

The savings of this proposal is now known to be estimated at $600,000 per year. The E&Y report (see below, page 76) also lists the potential educational benefits of the amalgamation, which includes more time per student for PE, music and art, more scope for ensemble music and team sports, and more classes of optimum size (15-25 students).

Furthermore, the reports says, although five teachers’ and one principal’s posts would be lost, the headcount savings could be put towards a speech and language therapist based on Cayman Brac.

Also noted was the potential to use the existing Spot Bay campus for the relocation of the UCCI Brac campus, thus saving rent for the local university.

Potential risks and issues listed by E&Y focused on public perception by Brac residents. The loss of professional jobs on the island “may meet with resistance”, the consultants noted. They also pointed to additional transportation time for some parents, but noted that existing school transportation services could be extended to those affected.

“The loss of certain teachers who are highly regarded by the community may be controversial,” the report said, but outlined how this too could be mitigatedby offering support and career development for younger Caymanian teachers to transfer to Grand Cayman to develop skills and experience.

Nevertheless, while the public now has what information is in the E&Y report, the ministry continues to withhold their recent report on the subject, which might offer the public a better understanding of the proposal, on the grounds that it was prepared for Cabinet. It has also, apparently, lost the original document about this proposal prepared three years ago and, in the FOI response, completely ignored its one-time existence.

The ICO said in its response to the appeal by CNS: “In regards to record keeping, the ICO notes that each Public Authority has an obligation to keep accurate records under the Public Record and Archives Law. In this case existing records appear to have been updated and no record of previous versions was kept. That is the Applicant requested 2011 documents, which appear to have existed at some point, but received records dated 2014.”

CNS appealed the refusal by the ministry on two counts and ICO Analyst Clara Smith in her report to asses the grounds for appeal said that while it was possible that the ministry had grounds for refusal, it had not supplied any documented evidence to support its claims.

Investigating whether the disputed records were, as the ministry maintained, opinions, advice or recommendations prepared for Cabinet, the analyst saidthat the records did not appear to indicate this, nor did the cabinet minutes provided by the ministry regarding this issue reference the relevant documents.

The ICO was provided with a Ministerial Affidavit, and said the minister “indicated that the responsive records were created for her view” (which the 2011 could not have been). However, the ICO noted that meetings of cabinet and subcommittees “were not discussed in the affidavit”.

The FOI watchdog analyst also looked at whether releasing the records would inhibit the free and frank exchange of views, as the ministry maintained.

in her response on behalf of the ministry, the chief officer at the time, Mary Rodrigues, had stated that “… civil servants must be able to share all possible options and provide advice and recommendations freely and frankly to be considered by senior management and by policy makers to ensure decision making processes are robust. Releasing records – particularly before a decision has been made on the proposals – would likely restrict the open dialogue that currently exists within the Ministry to share ideas and opinions which often include ‘thinking outside the box’.”

However, the ICO said that the records did not show the views of individual civil servants; that the names within the documents were those of senior ministerial officers; and that the recommendations were evidenced based practical measures.

The ministry had claimed: “It would not be in the public Interest for public servants to be restrained in the execution of their duties by the fear of the proposals they make – particularly if those proposals are not accepted by the government and contain recommendations that would be unpopular among general population – being made public under that FOI law.”

However, the ICO said that the arguments to support this argument “were not convincing given the specific circumstances of these records. In particular, that the recommendations were made by senior civil servants who should have an expectation of accountability should be addressed. Furthermore, the recommendations were not unusual given the circumstances. There was at least a possibility that the recommendations would have been well received. There is no evidence provided of the actual repercussions for these civil servants that would result in future inhibition.”

Following the ICO report, the ministry has now released the names of government officialsand Cabinet members present at a focus group meeting with parents (understood to be the presidents and vice-presidents of the Brac PTAs) and Education Council members, even though CNS had amended the original FOI request to exclude the names of civil servants involved.

Related articles on CNS:

WEPS tops child/teacher ratio

Cost saving report buried

CNS: The article has been amended. an earlier version indicated that the ICO had made a decision on the matter.

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Governor won’t release report

| 25/08/2014 | 67 Comments

(CNS): Leaving it until the last minute, the governor is seeking yet another costly judicial review in order to keep the report related to the controversial Operation Tempura secret following a refused FOI request. Helen Kilpatrick’s staff posted a statement on Facebook at around 1pm Monday about the decision. The office has already been through one JR, in which an outside judge was brought to Cayman at the local tax-payers’ expense to hear the case. But Sir Alan Moses referred the dispute back to the information commissioner after giving the governor a last chance to expand on just one part of the argument to keep the report under wraps. Some 45 days ago, the acting information commissioner dismissed the renewed arguments and again ordered the document's release.

The report in question relates to a complaint filed by the senior investigating officer on the ill-fated internal police probe which began in September 2007. Martin Bridger’s complaint was dismissed by the former governor, Duncan Taylor, and although the Tempura boss has a copy of the reasons why this was so, he was only given the resulting report under a tight confidentiality clause.

An FOI request was made for that document however and so began what has become the longest and most protracted battle the information commissioner’s office has had with any government entity to release information.

Despite having 45 days to consider Jan Liebaers most recent decision, which was handed down in July, the governor’s office waited until the very last day in law before placing the announcement on the Facebook page and informing the commissioner’s office that an application for another Judicial Review has now been filed.

The statement posted to Facebook from Kilpatrick was exceptionally short and reads as follows:

“I have considered the Information Commissioner’s Ruling of 10 July which ordered the disclosure of a complaint made in relation to Operation Tempura and my predecessor’s response to this. There remain several allegations and cases related to Operation Tempura that are not concluded. I believe that release of the documents at this time could potentially prejudice the progress of these. I am also concerned that releasing the documents at this time could breach a court order, and is not in the public interest. I have, therefore, sought leave for Judicial Review of the Information Commissioner’s decision.”

However, with just one narrow area of law to examine, the governor’s office is pushing the limits of the Freedom of Information law. Liebaers, who will be forced to continue the fight for transparency, said in the wake of the revelations that as the issue is now back before the courts he was unable to comment directly on the governor’s decision.

The governor’s fight to keep the details of the report secret will add to the growing cost in relation to the fallout of the operation, which continues to be plagued by secrecy and controversy. Once again it will be the cash-strapped public purse that will foot the bill for the cost of another outside judge to come to Cayman to hear the arguments as well as the costs of both sets of attorneys to represent the governor’s office and the information commissioner.

Check back to CNS for more on the ongoing issues relating to Operation Tempura later this week.

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ICO presses government over FOI email access

| 20/08/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): Following an investigation into the functionality of government's email address for FOI requests, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that at least ten percent of the email contacts given to facilitate requests in government departments were not working. The acting commissioner has raised his concerns that for public authorities to meet their statutory obligations under the FOI Law, these addresses must function properly and that the public must be clear on who is a given authority’s information manager. With administrative issues still plaguing FOI requests, it seems that even in the first instance some authorities are falling short.

“Any problems with the functionality of the designated email addresses could potentially form a serious obstacle to FOI applicants, and the Information Commissioner’s Office decided to investigate and take remedial action,” Acting Commissioner Jan Liebaers explained in relation to the office’s enquiry.

During the review of the email addresses the ICO found a catalogue of reasons why test emails topublished FOI addresses were ignored, from confusion over which employee was responsible for monitoring the FOI email inbox to spam filters blocking the mail.

In his report Liebers said that messages sent to the FOI email addresses were not being forwarded to the appropriate employees, that when staff responsible for FOI were moved no new staff was delegated, and for some reason few information managers were receiving the request made via FOI emails to their own in-boxes.

“In the view of the ICO there is no level of FOI service disruption that is acceptable, irrespective of the total volume of requests a public authority might receive. Maintaining and monitoring an email address is not a burdensome task and most of the issues encountered could be rectified with relative ease,” he found.

He also pointed out that while the majority of public authorities did receive and respond to the ICO test mail they may still need to improve some aspects of their internal procedures relating to FOI and their designated FOI email addresses.

“All public authorities should remain vigilant and seek to avoid the pitfalls,” he said. “Each public authority should make sure that the FOI-related duties of IMs are fulfilled on an ongoing basis. For instance, when an IM is absent, for whatever reason, a Deputy IM should be in place to answer FOI requests, and when an IM is assigned to other duties or leaves the public authority, a new IM should be appointed, and given appropriate procedural and technical access to fulfill that important role.”

Liebaers made a number of recommendations in his report which included written clear, consistent and accountable internal procedures to ensure that upon appointment an IM is clearly advised of their duties and responsibilities and provided with appropriate training. He said that an IM’s duties and responsibilities must be transferred to the Deputy IM or another employee when the IM takes up another position, is assigned other duties or leaves their position with the public authority, or is absent for any other reason.

He said that emails sent to the public authority’s designated FOI address should go requests are being received by more than one person at any given time in order for government entities to facilitate rather than hinder transparency at the very start of the process.

See copy of the report below.

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Credit card scandal rolls on

| 19/08/2014 | 182 Comments

(CNS): Following the recent revelations by the auditor general over the misuse of government credit cards, hospitality and travel expenses by senior government officials and ministers, samples of credit card statements that illustrate the extent of the abuse have been passed to CNS by a reader. The statements, which come from various government departments, show politicians and public sector employees spending extravagantly on the government dollar while at home and overseas and undoubtedly using the public sector cards for personal use, including expensive purchases for jewellery as well as for general shopping in US department stores. There is no indication, however, on the released records when any personal costs were paid back or whether any minister or civil servant was ever questioned about non-business related charges.

The sample credit statements of government credit cards given to CNS and published below are extracts from the spending records of KurtTibbetts and the card used at times by Arden McLean when they were ministers during the PPM administration between 2005 and 2009 and a record of the spending of Juliana O’Connor-Connolly when she was a minister and premier during the last UDP and minority government between 2009 and 2013.

The documents also include snapshots of the spending records of chief officers Kearney Gomez, Carson Ebanks, Alan Jones and Gloria McField-Nixon. The records have been given to CNS by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous and we are unable to say why this particular group of civil service bosses and these ministers were singled out but CNS is currently working on a number of other FOI request relating to the details of government spending on hospitality and credit cards for public sector bosses, politicians and the governor’s office.

The random selection of credit card statements gives further credence to the allegations of abuse made by the auditor general in his latest reports that whatever credit card policies were in place in the past, both ministers and top civil service bosses were ignoring them.

It is evident that the cards were used to buy booze, despite the understanding that alcohol cannot be purchased on government credit cards. The cards were also used in US department stores, clothing outlets, duty free shops, jewellery stores and specialty stores in the US, such as Bed, Bath and Beyond, making it hard to see what business related purchases could have been made at these establishments.

Credit Card holder D, who from the records released appears to be Arden Mclean, used that card on Christmas Eve 2007 to purchase a $3,500 watch from Kirk’s Jewellers at the Bay Shore Mall in George Town. Meanwhile, despite having a house in her constituency of Cayman Brac, the credit card records show the now well documented but as yet unexplained record of Julianna O’Connor-Connolly spending thousands of dollars on rooms at the Brac Reef Resort and the Alexander Hotel during her time in office as a minister and then premier between May 2009 and March 2013.

All of the records also show an extravagance when it comes to the places civil service bosses and ministers were staying when travelling, with Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton Hotels coming up frequently. When it comes to meals out and entertaining, bills appear to have been submitted with little consideration for the public purse as the officials wined and dined in expensive restaurants at home as well as overseas.

See released records attached below and related story links here:

CIG runs up $8.6M travel bill (9 June 2014)

ACC to look at travel audit (11 June 2014)

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AG’s outside lawyers costly

| 06/08/2014 | 20 Comments

(CNS): Although both the Attorney General's Chambers and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) have an army of lawyers commanding some of the highest salaries in government, the two offices are spending as much as a half million dollars a year instructing overseas counsel. According to a freedom of information request about the travel expenses for both the public prosecutor and government's lawyer and their offices, one of the biggest tabs for both these chambers is the employment of overseas counsel for civil and criminal cases. While the ODPP usually pays legal aid rates when they instruct overseas lawyers for major criminal cases, lawyers instructed by the AG appear to be even more costly to the local taxpayer.

The records show that last year the DPP spent over $170,000 on barristers, usually British, to represent the crown in seven serious prosecutions. Despite the significant salaries of the DPP and her deputy, who are both Queen's Counsel, the office is still spending cash employing costly overseas counsel to lead the crown's cases.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General's Chambers, which are no longer involved in criminal cases and now only appear in court in order to defend government, also spent almost $350,000 on overseas lawyers last year to represent the government in civil cases, despite the salaries of both the attorney general and the solicitor general, as well as their collection of well paid lawyers. A previous FOI request recently revealed that the AG earns over $150,000 per annum and the solicitor general between $120,000 and $150,000, with another two lawyers earning over $100,000.

The attorney general took seven overseas trips last year, though the FOI did not specify where or why, spending some $55,000 compared to $28,000 spent on four trips in 2012. However in 2011 the AG took six official overseas trips and spent $65,000.

See details below of DPP and AG's spending on overseas counsel and travel as well as the breakdown of salaries in the AG's office.

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ICO: Release Tempura report

| 12/07/2014 | 31 Comments

(CNS): More than two years after a freedom of information request was made to the governor’s office and after a drawn out courtroom battle, the acting information commissioner has ordered that a report relating to Operation Tempura be released into the public domain. Following an order by the courts that the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) re-examine a new submission from the governor’s office over the documents, Jan Liebaers found that – except for a single segment on page 13 of the complaint – the records were not exempted under the Freedom of Information Law and ordered the office to release the controversial report about the bungled internal police operation.

The ongoing saga of Operation Tempura is still costing the Cayman tax payer as the governor’s office continues to fight to keep a lid on details of the investigation and in particular a complaint made by the leading investigative officer of the discredited probe, Martin Bridger.

Since this request was made, information about the documents has leaked into the public domain, raising more questions, not about the visiting UK cops sent to Cayman to investigate alleged corruption in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, but the role of former Cayman governor Stuart Jack, the UK’s overseas territories security advisor Larry Covington and Cayman’s Attorney General Samuel Bulgin.

Accusations that these men knew all along about a clandestine entry into the office of a local newspaper to look for evidence of corruption is now at the heart of the issue of the Tempura fall-out, along with allegations in this complaint of cover-ups and lies and about how the costly internal investigation was managed. Accusations about the judiciary and inconsistencies by the governor’s office and the legal department are also believed to form part of the allegations in the complaint.

Once again the governor’s office has 45 days to release the documents, which three governors have now fought to keep hidden from the public view — Stuart Jack, Duncan Taylor and the current governor, Helen Kilpatrick. The governor can, however, once again appeal to the courts and continue the costly endeavour of keeping the document secret.

In his ruling Liebaers said that although the judge who heard the judicial review of the original ICO decision to release the documents, Acting Justice Sir Alan Moses had narrowed the matters in question to a review of whether or not the documents were exempt under section 20. Nevertheless, the information commissioner revealed that the governor’s office came up with more exemptions in its new submission, which he refused to consider.

“Despite the explicit, singular focus of the current reconsideration the Governor’s Office also asks me to consider additional exemptions which it claims are relevant, namely the exemptions in sections 16(b)(i), 16(b)(ii) and 17((b)(ii),” he wrote in his ruling. “I will not consider the new exemptions raised for the following reasons. Firstly, this reconsideration stems directly from the Judge’s unambiguous Order, which is very clear to the effect that my reconsideration should only be concerned with the application of section 20(1)(d).”

Liebaers emphasised the importance in this case of the public interest. The documents in question relate to a report on the reasons why Duncan Taylor, the governor at the time, dismissed a complaint made by the senior investigating officer and an attorney on the Tempura case.

“The allegations in the instant case were not merely of concern to the complainant but to the public in the Cayman Islands,” Liebaers writes. “The public … was entitled to know that the summary dismissal was the result of a conclusion reached after thorough and reasoned consideration.”

The commissioner pointed out that the public interest in ensuring that the summary dismissal of the compliant was reasoned and transparent was more important than the possible damage caused by repeating the allegations in the compliant in the public domain.

“Public authorities need to be, and need to be seen to be, accountable for the decisions they make, except where the information that would be revealed is itself exempted, which it is not in this case. The matters at stake do not only relate to the personal affairs of the complainant, as the Governor’s Office claims, but are of great public concern,” Liebaers stated. “I consider the public interest in knowing the reasons for decisions made by public authorities significant, and specifically so in regard to the Governor’s response to the allegations against the judiciary.

CNS has contacted the governor’s office to enquire if the report will finally be released of if the Caymanian tax payers will be picking up the tab for another costly courtroom battle.

See Liebers full decision below or visit www.infocomm.com.

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Cost saving report buried

| 26/06/2014 | 57 Comments

(CNS): Cayman News Service has appealed a decision by the Education Ministry refusing a freedom of information request to release a 2011 report demonstrating how a substantial amount of money could be saved annually by amalgamating the two primary schools on Cayman Brac. Publication of the report and a related PowerPoint presentation, which was shown to a select group of parents in March this year, was blocked by Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues, who bypassed the ministry’s FOI manager and responded directly to the request, refusing on the grounds that the 3-year-old document contained proposals that have not yet gone to Cabinet for consideration. 

It is not clear when the PowerPoint presentation was made and for whom, but CNS understands that in March 2014, it was shown at a meeting of government officials, including Deputy Premier and district MLA Moses Kirkconnell, Sister Islands members of the Education Council and six parents of Brac children who were at the time the presidents and vice-presidents of the three Brac PTAs.

One of the parents who was at the meeting told CNS, “It was decided that it would not be feasible as it would put too much financial burden on the people of the island having to drive to 2 different sites, etc.”

The FOI request, made on 18 February this year, was partially granted and CNS was supplied with figures regarding the student/teacher ratios of primary schools in the Cayman Islands, as well as the Lighthouse School.

However, the documents regarding the amalgamation and what savings to the public purse could result were refused. Because the request was answered by the most senior officer at the ministry, the appeal was made to the Information Commissioner’s Office on 25 March, but no conclusion has yet been reached.

In her refusal letter, Rodrigues said it was not in the public interest to release the documents.

“[T]here must be space for public servants to provide advice and opinions and make a wide variety of policy recommendations for the consideration of Cabinet and Cabinet must be able to consider and make decision on these recommendations in a conscientious manner. As the proposals have not yet gone to Cabinet for consideration, it would be inappropriate at this time to prejudice Cabinet’s deliberation and potentially confuse the public regarding what policy direction the government intends to take by releasing the requested records.”

The chief officer also found that disclosure of the documents might “inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation”. She claimed that civil servants “must be able to share all possible options and provide advice and recommendations freely and frankly to be considered by senior management and by policymakers in order to ensure decision-making processes are robust.”

An additional factor against the disclosure, Rodrigues said, was that public servants might feel “restrained in the execution of their duties by the fear of proposals that they make — particularly if those proposals are not accepted by the government and contain recommendations that would be unpopular among the general population — being made under the FOI Law.”

CNS journalist Nicky Watson said she believed the documents were being suppressed by dragging out the FOI process unnecessarily. “The arguments against disclosure could apply to almost any report in any government entity and certainly does not seem to be in the spirit of freedom of information,” she said. 

“Regarding the parents who have seen the presentation: PTA members have no expectation that their executive officers will provide input regarding important policy decisions on their behalf, in secret, and without consultation with the wider membership, and do not give them the authority to do so,” Watson noted. “Therefore, if the six parents were there in their capacity of PTA officials representing their members, it is reasonable to assume that the education officials would have expected the PTA members present to have passed on the information to, and asked for feedback from, their respective associations, thereby making the presentation, or at least the facts included, a public matter.

“If they were not present in their capacity of PTA presidents or VPs, then the government officials have now made their presentations to six members of the public with no authority or mandate to provide advice on public policy, thus also rendering it partially in the public domain. Either way, the government officials have now opened this presentation to public scrutiny. Having done so, they have negated the argument thatthis informationwas for Cabinet only.”

Watson added, “The original document by the ministry regarding cost savings by amalgamating the primary schools on Cayman Brac was, I understand, prepared in 2011. It is unreasonable to argue indefinitely that this is a matter for Cabinet to make a decision on before it is made public.”

“What I find most concerning is that, as well as saving money for the whole country, I understand that this proposal may include educational benefits to the children of Cayman Brac. The ministry needs to present if to all the parents and teachers on this island, not just a select few, so that they get real feedback from all the people that this would affect. I cannot imagine why they haven't already done so,” she said.

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Road policy proves costly

| 02/06/2014 | 51 Comments

(CNS): The public of the Cayman Islands has been spending big bucks on private paving companies to pave public roads on Grand Cayman since 2010 while the government's paving machine sits in Cayman Brac. An FOI request to the National Roads Authority filed by Cayman News Service has revealed that during this time there have been eleven public roads paved in the Cayman Islands at a cost of $1.7 million dollars to Caymanians. Officials with the NRA said the cost of bringing the government’s paving equipment would have been CI $5,000. However, they were unable to say exactly where the equipment is or what purpose it is serving there.

“I don’t know exactly the equipment’s location and I assume the equipment is being used for paving,” noted National Roads Authority Works Manager, Engineer and Operations Brian Chin Yee.

Of the eleven public roads that were paved over the last four years, seven were done by ARCP, which is owned by Peter Young, while the other four were done by Island Paving Ltd, which is owned by Hubert and Jay Bodden. Former government minister Mark Scotland was the Managing Director of ARCP prior to running for public office, however he said he relinquished his interest in the company during his time in parliament, which ran from 2009 to 2013.

Scotland has now rejoined the company.

He explained why a decision to bring the paver back was not made in more instances at the time.

“The installation we have in Cayman Brac is for the most part a permanent one, which involves machinery and personnel that would be costly to move back and forth regularly,” said Scotland. He added that the real question was whether government should be in the business of paving to begin with.

“The government uses private contractors to do their buildings and it should be the same for roads. The thing with this business is that the material-to-labour ratio is about 80 percent to 20 percent. What it means is that you can easily have people sitting around with nothing to do. This is not good for any business, let alone the government.”

He added that the government doesn’t need the overheads and it was already a challenge trying to downsize.

“As the government, you don’t want to get into a situation where you are paving just to create work for your labour force,” said Scotland, who pointed out that business is extremely slow at the moment and it is worse when government competes with the private sector.

The mMinister with responsibility for roads during the period referred to was Juliana O'Connor-Connolly, who is now serving as the Speaker of the House.

The list of Road works done from 2010 to 2013 is as follows:

2010-2011
Windward – Southward to End – ARCP
Frenchman Drive – ARCP
Elgin Avenue – ARCP
West Bay Rd-Fire Station to Four Way – ARCP
Hell Road – ARCP
Batabano Road – ARCP

2011-2012
WaterCourse Road – IPL
Conch Point Road – IPL
Clifton Hunter Frank Sound Rd – ARCP

2012-2013
Boatswain Bay Road – IPL
Fountain Road – IPL

2013-2014
Linford Pierson HWY – IPL

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Ex top cop payoff to be buried in 2014/15 budget

| 09/04/2014 | 9 Comments

(CNS): Although the settlement between government and the former police commissioner who was sacked during the controversial Operation Tempura internal police probe is currently a state secret, the parliament’s finance committee may be able to shed light on the amount next month. According to officials from the ministry of home affairs the payment to Stuart Kernohan will be coming from the 2014/15 budget set to be before the legislative committee in May. This means the cash will be buried somewhere in a line item and questioning by MLAs during the usual probe over the allocation of public funds may help determine how much more the tax payer has been force to cough up as a result of the bungled investigation.

CNS Filed an FOI request about the budgeting for the payment which was announced at the end of last month and as a result of the home affairs ministry not holding documents they confirmed via email that the money would be paid from the forth coming 2014/15 budget.

As a result the pay-off, which is estimated at around $600,000, far less than original speculation that it was in the millions, will be part of a line item entry in the home affairs ministry’s budget and savvy MLAs should be able to detect the approximate amount.  While it may be combined with other payments questioning of the premier, who is the minister for home affairs and his chief office Eric Bush may lead to a reasonable guesson how much the public purse stumped up for the mistakes of the former governor,  Stuart Jack as well as others associated with the discredited internal RCIPS probe.

Kernohan, a British national, was sacked while suspended from duty, when he refused to return to the Cayman Islands having gone back to the UK as a result of his late father’s then ill-health. Kernohan refused based on a catalogue of reasons relating to how the investigation was being conducted and what have since emerged as serious flaws in communication between the parties which still remain in contention.

The main issue surrounds Kernohan’s insisted that the his entry into Cayman Net News to look for evidence of alleged corruption between the late proprietor Desmond Seals and a high ranking police officer, by two reporters on the paper in collusion with the RCIPS, was authorized by the governor at the time, Stuart Jack as well as the overseas security advisor Larry Covington and the attorney general, Samuel Bulgin.

Kernohan has always stated that he had documentary evidence of this though it has been denied by the FCO officials.

 

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WEPS tops child/teacher ratio

| 27/03/2014 | 34 Comments

(CNS): The  West End Primary School (WEPS) on Cayman Brac has a better student/teacher ratio than the Lighthouse School, which is dedicated to special education needs (SEN) students. WEPS has six children for every teacher, compared to a student/teacher ratio of about 7:1 at Lighthouse. At the Brac's Creek & Spot Bay (C&SB) primary the ratio is about 8:1, compared to 9½:1 at North Side, the school with the most teachers per child of all primaries on Grand Cayman other than Lighthouse, according to figures released by the education ministry following a freedom of information request by CNS. However, the ministry's chief officer has said that the data for Cayman’s primary schools indicates no strong connection between the size of the class and students outcomes.

"In fact, some of our largest classes, in some cases including our maximum class size of 28, have the highest rates of progress and achievement in mathematics and English according to the data, whereas other smaller classes, including some of only 5 students, have the lowest progress rates," CO Mary Rodrigues told CNS.

The figures provided (see below) do not include the Little Cayman Education Service, which has three primary students taught by one teacher and one teacher's aide. The numbers include classroom teachers as well as staff for specific areas, such as physical education, music, art and SEN, some of whom teach at more than one school, which accounts for the fractions of teachers in the numbers supplied.

Peripatetic staff on Cayman Brac teach at two schools over three campuses. Since the Creek and Spot Bay schools successfully amalgamated in 2003, the Reception class through Year 3 have been taught at the Creek, while kids in Years 3 to 6 attend the Spot Bay campus.

The total number of primary students on Cayman Brac is 137, from Reception through Year 6. There are seven classes at C&SB, the smallest being Year 1 with five students and the largest being Year 3 with 16. At WEPS there are only two year-group classes in double figures: Reception with 12 children and Year 4 with ten. Of the rest, there is one class of five students, two of six and the others have seven and nine children.

The schools with the highest student/teacher ratio are Prospect Primary (about 19:1) and Savannah (about 18:1). John A. Cumber Primary has the most students, with a current enrollment of 587 and about 16 children per teacher. Red Bay has a ratio of about 15:1, while Bodden Town and George Town primaries each have slightly more than 13 children per full time teaching staff.

The smallest school on Grand Cayman is North Side with 88 students, and the school has a better student/teacher ratio than the next smallest, East End, which has 108 students and slightly more than 12 students per teacher. 

Commenting on the figures,  Chief Officer Rodrigues pointed out that most researchers support the position that class size is only one factor impacting student outcomes and that teacher effectiveness is a more significant factor in promoting student success.

While there is no clear consensus among international researchers on the impact of reducing class sizes, Rodrigues said, in terms of budget decisions there is consensus that when it comes to raising student attainment, class size reduction policies are not the best option to get value for money compared to others, such as increasing teacher effectiveness.

“Much of the discussion depends upon what the starting point for class size reduction actually is,” she added, noting that in some successful countries, such as Japan, class sizes can be over 40, though most countries maintain primary classes in the low 20's wherever possible.

With regards to very small classes, the chief officer pointed out that some research indicates that reducing class sizes below 10-15 children has no increased benefit and may even have negative impacts. 

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