Joey reveals chaos on farm

| 09/12/2009

(CNS): Boatswain’s Beach, the home of the Cayman Turtle Farm, has been described as chaotic, out of control and badly thought out by the former managing director of the facility. During his appearance before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to answer questions arising from the auditor general’s report about his salary advances, Joey Ebanks also revealed a laundry list of problems with the Turtle Farm. He said his time there was all about fighting fires and that some fundamental mistakes were made during the establishment of the facility, from the name change to the kind of attractions to be featured.

Ebanks said that from the beginning he faced massive problems at Boatswain’s Beach, not least the fact that the Office of the Complaints Commissioner had found the farm management guilty of maladministration regarding a 40-year-old problem over planning. He said there was no finance department at the facility, no accounts had been done and there was no real business strategy to direct how the facility could be sold now that it was built. 

Ebanks suggested that the lack of a comprehensive business plan for the facility led to a lot of mistakes, and while he believed that the Turtle Farm could still be a fantastic attraction, some of the elements were ill-conceived. “It was not a great idea to have a marine life lagoon when the wildlife is already free all around the island,” he told PAC, adding that trying to keep the lagoon clean was impossible as the algae was unstoppable and no one wanted to swim with fish in a dirty pool when surrounded by beautiful turquoise oceans.

He also said changing the name from the Turtle Farm to Boatswain’s Beach was a mistake as the facility lost its connection to its own history and that trying to re-establish a new brand was an uphill struggle. Ebanks said he had developed a number of ideas that could have saved the facility, but the board was reluctant to adopt the various private-public partnerships and initiatives that he and his team came up with that would have seen parts of the attraction leased out to experts who could provide services, such as water slides and other amusements.

The former MD revealed that he had pursued a proposal from a waterslide company in Norway that was willing and able to set up a park at Boatswain’s Beach, which, he said, research had revealed was among one of these most popular attractions with tourists. He also said that the Butterfly Farm, which has since closed down, was looking at the possibility of moving its operations into the aviary.

However, Ebanks pointed the finger at the board for not acting on the ideas. He said the then minister Charles Clifford had liked his proposals and understood that the attraction in its current form was just not viable, but he had left the decisions down to board members and did not compel them to take action to try and stop the bleeding of the park’s massive operating losses.

During 2007 the attraction was losing about CI$650,000 per month, he said, and that was down to the amusement elements of the facility and not the original farm, which Ebanks said was still turning a profit. He explained that around 80 per cent of the revenue was coming from the Turtle Farm operation (the sale of meat), despite the breeding problems, while 80% of the operating costs were generated by the rest of the facility.

Ebanks also criticised the board for their lack of interest, as he said for months on end there would not be enough people turning up for meetings to make a quorum and sometimes he could not raise a single board member to dealwith critical problems. He described one occasion when he did not have enough funds to meet the facility’s pay-roll, but because he couldn’t track down a single member he had to go to the bank and organise an overdraft himself on good faith so he could pay staff.

Although Ebanks told the committee that he thought there was still an opportunity to create a tourism destination at the location alongside the farm, it needed private partners. He said the Turtle Farm could benefit from the dolphinarium and Andres Ugland’s plans for an antique auto museum and boutique hotel nearby if the facility offered things such as a water slide park, ice world and other popular tourist attractions. The farm still attracts around 400,000 visitors per year, but he said the new facility was redeveloped to attract many more and the current entry fee is hopelessly inadequate for the current numbers for it ever to be a viable concern.

The premier, McKeeva Bush, has said on a number of occasions that the failure of the attraction over the last few years since its refurbishment is down to the previous administration’s decision to reject the development of a pier in West Bay which could have delivered cruise passengers from the ship by tender directly to Boatswain’s Beach.

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  1. Anonymous says:

     his ideas are good but why did he take the money?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Joey you are as big a super star in Cayman as Tiger Woods in the USA! I have never seen so much press in my life! Joey for leader of the PPM! I would love to see him and Mac square off!

    • Anonymous says:

      That is so true! I have never seem someone attacked in this manner! and nothing about past chairmen of work permit boards!

  3. Fallen Angel says:

    Mr. Ebanks, take heed:  "A closed mouth gathers no foot."

  4. Who de cap fit says:

    "The best defence is an offense."  Who said those words?  We don’t really know, but it may have been a former managing director caught pulling off a similar prank.  Managing… Director.  Those two words sum up what Mr. Ebanks position entailed and what was expected of him.  By his own admission, he was capable of doing neither for the same calamaties befalling the Turtle Farm/Boatswains Beach were still taking place when he suddenly left the position.  During his tenure as Managing Director, the facilitiy continued to bleed money, and now that he has left he is trying to give the impression he really did care and was attempting to do something about it. But the only viable solutions he came up with were to grant himself salary advances and buy his friends drinks. Then he lays the blame everywhere but at the feet of the director, a position he was obviously inadequate to hold.  You can not give people positions such as this just to keep them off the streets because they’re a friend of friend, or to give them something to do.  They must also be capable. Somehow I think Boatswains Beach will be better off without him.

    • Anonymous says:

      Boy DEM you really hate this guy.

    • Anonymous says:

      Turtle farm,Cayman airways, the dump, the schools,crime,goverment spending,etc. etc.

        Who is to blame?  People who think that because they are Caymanian they automaticlly have the intelligence and experiance to do anything correctly all evidence to the contrary. This is your problem Cayman!  Are you smart enough to fix it?  Then shut up and do it.

        Or just continue your crying and watch all you had dissapear.

  5. what a mess says:

    I can only agree with all the other posters here.

    This is all an attempt by Joey to produce a smoke screen to avoid answering the more important questions of :

    1) Why did he "borrow" money "interest free" from a Govt. entity that was not only losing over $650,000 a month…but was paying interest on same?

    2) Where did the money (over $50,000 in cash) suddenly come from? Afterall he had reason to "borrow" for 16 of the 18 months employed there.

    Everybody with any sense knew from the beginning that "Boatswain Beach" was a dumb name and that said establishment was bound to fail. Just like changing the name of Pirates Week is another foolish idea.

    But this does nothing to answer the questions above…which i thought was the purpose of the PAC summons/hearing!


  6. London Kid says:

    The failure started with the premier, Mr. Bush and his UDP Govt back in 2001/02!!

    The decision to reject the development of a pier in West Bay was a spot on. from the PPM. The UDP Govt felt that by marrying the Boatswain’s Beach with a pier would be “Walla”! Waste of time from its infancy. Sell it to DART & count your/our loses and move on.

    Joey, you’re still young, but you have dug your own political carrier hole. You should have stuck with CUC as an energy constant after the elections in 2005. Don’t even bother to show up in the 2013 elections to stand for office.  


  7. Don't worry I wont stay says:

    Curious about something.

    Joey mentioned the lack of interest of the Board Members.

    Are The Boatswains Beach Board Members compensated?

    What about other boards? Some certainly should be because of the work load, Immigration, Permanent Residency… Not so sure about others.




    • Former auditor says:

      Where were the auditors? Did they do a letter of weakness on the company? If not why not? Over to you Dan as I understand the audit was subcontracted to a big 4 firm. That reminds me was Carlyle McLaughlin not on the board? The same man that audited FCB.

      This crap would not have happened in my day.


      • Dan Duguay Auditor General says:

        Happy to respond. The audit was subcontracted to a big 4 firm although we retain control of the audit and I sign the final audit report.

        The simple fact is that the last financial year audited is for the year ending June 2006. This audit opinion was signed in October 2009. The Turtle Farm, like many other government entities, is several years late in submitting financial statements for audit and subsequent disclosure to the public.

        Audits are designed to detect issues such as loans given to employees. However, if audits are several years after the fact, it is impossible to give up to date information on issues such as this. This is one of the main reasons that my Office has consistently pushed for up to date financial reporting for all entities.

        For the year ending June 30, 2006, we did submit a management letter to the Board of Directors detailling problems found in the audit. This is standard at the conclusion at the end of any audit.

        On the issue of loans and advances, there was no issues reported to the Board. This was because the audit showed that there were no significant advances and no violation of existing policy.

        • Lachlan MacTavish says:

          Thank-you..Dan Duguay…….

          Question for voters & residents…….if many og the CIG departments are FOUR years behind on solid financial details how in the name of (*%$%^&^%$%^ does the CIG know when it is getting in trouble. Seems like budgets don’t mean anything, no real strategies in place and being 4 years behind means ya don’t know when things are gettin out of control. So what we are saying here is the Turtle Farm started loosing    680KKKK a month and know one really knew what was happening. 

        • Former auditor says:

          Excellent response but what about the audits for 2006-9. Where are we on those? Glad that letters of weakness are still around. Audit firms get very nervous on these as they do not wish to lose the client.Presumably there is going to be interesting content in those for the past few years like no proper feasibility study? Holy mo.No surprise tho.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good point. I was wondering about the same thing. Where was the board the whole time, what are they doing to try and get this place sorted? Looks to me like they are asleep at the wheel.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for clearing this all up for us Joey…!!! But I am confused…. how does exemplifying the difficulties that you faced at the farm, explain away the funds that you so merrily borrowed from an establishment that could not afford it?

    Are you expecting that if we know what obstacles you faced at the farm, that we will be happy to overlook your indiscretions? and exactly how does that explain your Borrowings? Could you not see that you were also adding to the problems you mentioned….. Or… did you just exploited the systems shortfalls to your advantage?
    This whole thing reminds me of a certain Former University President.
  9. Anonymous says:

    Only a Smoke screen, Joey……only a smoke screen!

    Joey, where did the $50,000 cash come from? Why did you take it in the first place?

    The Cavalier attitude to the situation and lack of public apology from Joey just shows his true character. Thank you Northsiders for not electing him – you obviously knew something before we did.

    I ask that the powers that be please not let this go under the carpet. We need to get rid of this sort of thing from public life.

    • Anonymous says:

      Joey acted unethical in his capacity of MD and he should be held responsible under the law. He should be  prohibited from sitting on any other boards in the future due to his inexecuable behaviour. He saw the loop holes in the sytem and he used and abused them. He is a disgrace to the Cayman Islands. Northside, I hope that you never allow him to slip through the cracks and win an election. What an abuse power would take place. He  has no conscience.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Don’t forget this is a man who thinks (or at least says he does) that going to the Boatswain’s Beach bar and buying cigarettes with public money will attract custom.

    I really hope the police will get involved here.  This goes way beyond the usual shambolic, wasteful use of the public’s money that we have (sadly) come to expect on this island.  And all this is in the press at a time when we are trying to convince the UK that we can be financially responsible!

  11. Anonymous says:

    "The worst crimes were dared by few, willed by more and accepted by all." – Cornelius Tacticus (Ancient Roman Historian)

    Taking a page from McDinejad’s book and using the old fallback tactic of making yourself look better by pointing out the faults of others? Nice one, Joey.

    Part of the Board’s function is to ensure good corporate governance and that the strategy of the business is sensible and is being implemented by Management.

    The ability of the Management to receive excessive advances and lack of a clear implementable strategy point to a failing of the Board and abuses by the previous MD.

    When are we going to find out who was ultimately responsible for approving the advances? Why this policy has not been changed after the UCCI /Hassan Sayed fiasco?Why is this slackness still going on?

    Deafening silence… again? Of course, no one is responsible.


  12. Anonymous says:

    Joey’s concerns about the Boatswain’s Beach problems would carry more weight had he voiced them earlier without the $50k advances.

    It may all be true but still smells like a red herring to me.

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is a smokescreen tactic to deflect attention away from the issue at hand.

  14. John Evans says:

    Some of this is old news re-visited. The start of a lot of these problems pre-dates Joey Ebanks appointment.

    We had a lot of information about problems at the Turtle Farm when I worked for Net News (including non-payment of staff wages and serious problems with the buildings) but any negative stories were killed off because, at that time, we were dealing with a major advertiser.

    I can remember nearly two years ago our pay cheques bouncing because a Turtle Farm cheque for advertising was returned – at that time there were clear warning signs that the Boatswain’s Beach project was on a downward spiral but nothing appeared in print because we needed the advertising.

    The only real way for the CIG to recover this is to accept all the costs to date are lost and start the books off from scratch. Trying to boost numbers by throwing more money after bad or pulling in private partners simply to try and finance debts that are clearly unrecoverable will just make the problem worse.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Any thing that it run by a government ALWAYS turns out badly. This makes CAL look like a fine tuned machine!

  16. Anonymous says:

    The great rip off big wheels and big deals the usual Caymanian Politician whats new?

    • Anonymous says:

      Caymanian Politician??  More like a wannabe Caymanian Politician but the wise North Side people knew what to do and they did it.

  17. ruttering says:

    OK, so he had huge problems and appears to have tried very hard to overcome them but that is irrelevant and still doesn’t answer the questions:

    1) Why were the proper procedures to obtain salary advances ignored?

    2) Where did the cash come from that he used to repay that money?


    • Lachlan MacTavish says:

       The Turtle farm will never ever make money. The country paid so much for it that it will never be in the black. The CIG obviously cannot run or get it under control. Loosing 680k a month is obsurd. Sell it at a lose to the private sector, stop throwing good money to bad, write off the millions as a bad decision , lick your wounds and move on. 

      It is ridiculous to continue to pour money into this project

    • Anonymous says:

      Joey said he arranged Bank overdrafts to meet staff salaries, while he was sitting on over $50,000 of the entities money.

      Could he not have arranged an overdraft for his personal needs, or was it better to have Boatswains Beach pay the interest on the overdraft while he took the entities cash free of interest for his personal use.

      No matter which way I turn this I still see the same results.

  18. Anonymous says:

     The willingness of the government to sink massive public funds into an enterprise no-one could be bothered to run with even a vestige of professionalism or due diligence is truly astonishing.

    • anonymous says:

      That actual marine turtle conservation takes a back seat to all other activity is such an abomination that most tourists leave in shocked disbelief.  For years I’ve been reluctant and embarressed to send visitors there. 

      The irony is that if actual turtle conservation were carried out on a meaningful level, there would be no end of international endowments, bursaries, and private sector sponsors available to sustain the place, and add to Cayman’s prestige.   


  19. Anonymous says:

    so many problems but i still borrowd $50k interest free for my own personal use…… Boatswain Beach is a prime example of the wasteful civil service… this would never happen in the private sector

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s not part of the civil service 9:07. If it was he couldn’t do these things. Where was Joel Walton and his Board? nowhere as usual

  20. Anonymous says:

    So since he can seeall the problems that Boatswain Beach was having, why add to it by sucking on the coffers?

  21. GR says:

     As MD, wasn’t it’s Joey’s task to prepare and implement the necessary business plans and controls?

    • anonymous says:

      Business plans are only required in real businesses when there are shareholders to answer to.  In this case, the scheme is highly reliant upon the Cayman people continuing not to care or question so long as there is an uninterrupted supply of turtle meat.

      We met with turtle farm staff several times in 2005 to get a quote on hosting a special event there, and they did not bother to return a quote.  Their inaction summed their regard for normal commercial enterprise and we proceeded elsewhere. 

  22. Richard Wadd says:

     Perhaps the Payroll wouldn’t have been an issue if the Account wasn’t ‘short’ about CI$50,000.00.

    • Common Sense 101 says:

      This guy is amazing!! The more he comments the more foolish he looks!  Perhaps this is why he was reluctant to appear before the PAC.

      It sounds like his attitude was that since the ship had a huge leak and was quickly sinking, he decided to take all he could and jump off leaving his sailors!  What a Captain!

      I don’t know what his position is at CUC but hopefully it is not at management level.  He is a good example of why some Caymanians have a difficult time reaching upper level management. 

      Over and over we hear, just give Caymanians a chance at upper management and they will prove themselves. He clearly abused his position (didn’t know what to do with his new found authority) which will only make it more difficult for the WELL DESERVING talented Caymanians to make it to the top.

      This is my last read of mutterings from this dude because he’s really making me sick.