MLA pension info to go public

| 22/02/2011

(CNS): The information commissioner has ruled that the Public Service PensionsBoard must release records requested by Cayman News Service relating to former and serving MLAs who are drawing their pension entitlement. Jennifer Dilbert’s decision comes after a hearing in which she found that the record was not exempt from disclosure under Section 23(1) of the Freedom of Information Law, as claimed by the authority, and it would not involve unreasonable disclosure of personal information. CNS asked for the list of serving as well as past MLAs who have opted to draw their pension entitlement and the period of time they had served in the assembly but the request was denied.

The PSPB claimed that it had a fiduciary responsibility to protect the legal owners of the plans they administer and while the individuals held public office and are paid from the public purse the benefits they earned are personal. It also said that third parties involved in the request had also objected.

However, Dilbert found The PSPB had not put forward arguments to support its position that it would be an unreasonable disclosure of personal information. In her seventh decision the information commissioner said the request related to the public and not the personal life of the MLAs. She said in a 2009 decision by the UK Commissioner pension arrangements were found to be directly linked to an employee’s work at an authority.

“I agree with the UK Commissioner and find that in this case, whether a MLA is drawing a pension relates to the public life of that Member. I do not therefore agree with the PSPB that MLA pensions are personal information,” she found in her ruling. “The individuals concerned occupy or have occupied a position in a public authority, and the information relates to their positions or functions or the terms upon and subject to which the individuals occupy or occupied that position.”

The commissioner also pointed out that there had been procedural problems with the request when it was first made to the Legislative Assembly on 2 June last year. CNS did not receive a response to the request, so after 28 days contacted the commissioner’s office to intervene. They did so and found that the PSPB was the correct authority, not the LA as CNS had presumed, which then accepted the request on 30 June. The Legislative Assembly, although not the right authority was obligated under the law to acknowledge the request before transferring it to the correct place, which it did not do.

“When a public authority receives a request under the Law, it must acknowledge receipt within ten calendar days as per section 7(3)(b) of the Law,” the commissioner stated. “Where the request is for a record that is held by another public authority, or the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority, section 8 of the Law provides that the first authority must transfer the application, or such parts of it that may be appropriate to that other authority as soon as practicable, but in any event no later than 14 days after the request was received,” Dilbert added, stating that the information manager should tell an applicant of the transfer within ten calendar days.

“It appears that the Legislative Department has failed to apply these provisions correctly in the present case, and for future requests, the Legislative Department should ensure that all applications are properly logged, acknowledged and transferred where necessary,” she said.

The PSPB also had issues with procedural matters, the commissioner revealed, over the question of whether there was a legitimate need for an internal review of the request. On the day that the request was refused CNS was told by the authority it had a right to request an internal review of that decision by the PSPB’s managing director. However, Dilbert said this was not sound advice as the managing director had already been involved in the initial decision.

“As such, an internal review by the same person would not only be meaningless and cause unnecessary delays, it would also be contrary to section 34(1) of the Law, which states that ‘no review shall be conducted by the same person who made the decision…’," the commissioner noted in her ruling. “It is critical that the PSPB identify and designate the person who will conduct internal reviews in accordance with section 34(1) of the Law. In the interest of fairness and expediency, this should not be a floating responsibility that is transferred to another person if and when the designated person has already been involved in the original decision.”

The board had already taken the full 30 days before refusing the request but when CNS learned that an internal review was not an option it appealed to the information commissioner. Then when mediation failed a hearing was arranged.

The issue of serving MLAs drawing their pension entitlements while still serving was raised by Ezzard Miller in the Legislative Assembly last year when he described it as “double dipping” and suggested that although not illegal it was morally wrong of members to take a salary and a pension. While he did not know which members who were over 55 had made the decision to take their pension, he said he was aware some members were. The then leader of the opposition Kurt Tibbetts and his opposition colleague Anthony Eden both publicly admitted to taking their entitlements.

“Although I may be entitled, I have no intentions of claiming my pension until I leave this House for good,” Miller told CNS. “I believe it is immoral and unethical and I will be bringing a private member’s motion to the House to change the lawto prevent it happening in future.”

MLAs were first given access to their pensions while remaining in office in 2004 when a change to the law provided for MLAs to claim their pensions once they had served a single term and passed the age of 55, even if they continued to serve in the Legislative Assembly. In the past legislators had died while still in office and were never able to claim the pensions which they had earned through their years of service.

Unlike the civil service there is no official retirement age for politicians, who can stand for election at any age, and since MLAs cannot be certain they will returned to the Assembly from parliament to parliament the law was changed to give them access to their pensions before they retired in case they never did.

Tibbetts told CNS that he had decided to take his pension a few months after his 55th birthday, despite the fact it was not fully vested (meaning he had not served five full terms) because of the uncertain future of being a politician.

It is not yet known, however, if the other two eligible MLAs, West Bay government backbencher Captain Eugene Ebanks and Premier McKeeva Bush, had opted to take their pensions.

See the information Commissioner’s decision below.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: FOI

About the Author ()

Comments (22)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    Civil servants have to work for ten(10)years and more and have to reach an age prescribed by Law before they can be awarded a pension. aConsidering what they receive is nothing or a drop in the bucket for all their years that they have laboured. These people work for a short term and receive shit pots of money. How unfair! when compared to civil servants that work for 10, 20 30 and 40 plus years, Of course, they do not make a salary of a politician. They are stuck with salaries in the same post for years and no one gives them any recognition and upward mobility to have a worthwhile pension- that is why they have such small pensions when they leave the service, and meet so much difficulties when they retire. It is so pathetic that some of these retired Civil Servants in the long run will have to turn for help from the Social Service Department.

    • Owl says:

      The people must support Mr.Ezzard Miller in his quest to put a STOP to this double dipping by Legislators  who are like everyone else and do not deserve this luxury.. When you retire, and work no more, you GO HOME and collect your  pension. whether you are a retired M.L.A. or a retired civil servant or a retired member of the Private sector.  I can understand if one in a specialized area of expertise like the former Lieutenant Governor or Financial Secretary with years of experience in finance, they have a lot of wisdom under their belt. But for  so many retirees to be double dipping into our tax dollars is an injustice and is outright highway robbery and its time we put a stop to you all making out like bandits!As long as you are working  regardless if you are 55 or not, just because you are an MLA  you have no business collecting two salariesl. No wonder the country is broke!

      Just because you’re 55 does not license you to SINK THE PUBLIC PURSE WITH A MILESTONE!

      Bottom line, as long as an MLA is elected, he gets a salary. When he retires, he or she gets their pension. Its only fair.

      FYI in other countries this is considered a FEDERAL CRIME even for civilian retirees to work for a full salary and collect pension. They are limited as long as they are receiving pension. the young people need to work and get paid, not you!. No wonder they are taking the bread out of the mouths of our young people that could have been paid with these millions of dollars spent on double dipping.

      Ezzard, put it on the table.

    • Owl says:

      Mr.Bush works hard, I can understand him taking his pension when he retires.


      Someone please tell me his job description and show me his time card?

      What does he do?

  2. anonymous says:

    What about pensions for the old boys of yester year, Like Mr Craydock Ebanks and others who served were not paid even a salary in those days. I understand that some of them asked for pension and they were well up in age aCNS will you ask Ms., Jennifer Dilbert to find out what happened to the pension due the old MLA’s who died without it and  when will their wives or children be awarded  such pension. It is needed.

  3. Shock and Awe says:

    What’s wrong with collecting a pension from the public while you’re employed by the public?  I mean, look at them, they work hard.  No, not Tibbetts, he’s alseep.  The other one.  No, not that one he’s writing a letter.  The one across from him.  No, not him, he’s getting ready toleave.  The other one.  No, their making plans for lunch.  I mean Bush.  No?  He’s away??  How about the The Deputy Premier?  She’s away too?  Well, you know what I mean.

    • anonymous says:

      Captain Eugene does not need a salary NOR a PENSION,

      Who is his timekeeper, show us his time card, job description and accomplishments.. West Bayers,  you must do better. You voted this man into office  paying him a high salary with our tax dollars and HE DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!. Shame on you.

      • Anonymous says:

        The only time I have heard this man speak is to say a prayer at the LA and this is written. He has never engaged in any Political debates on Laws, Reports or Budgets of the Country – How about that? and yet warm a seat for years to receive a FAT PENSION which is so unfair.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure they would rather us not know this.

    I find it interesting that when justifying Mac’s salary and his numerous over the top benefits, someone made a laughable comment comparing his position to that of the President of the United States!
    Where, by the way, this government pension information is open to the public. And they don’t get their pension while still in office!

    They want to make their own rules behind closed doors to benefit their own position. If we knew everything, I think we would realize why Mac’s security wall was necessary.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is so pathetic. I can’t imagine howthese people can do this in good faith and think it’s okay.

    Pension is for RETIREMENT!!!!!

    The cages are being rattled. They should be shaking in their Italian leather shoes.
    Hopefully we can have a better informed public when it comes time to vote.
    Now we just need some conscientious candidates who genuinely want what’s best for Cayman without trying to keep up with the Jones’.

    We need to make sure our children are better educated in order to take over when the their time comes. At the moment, our young are just spoiled brats look to gangs…

  6. peter milburn says:

    Why all the secresy in hiding what MLA’s make re pensions?

  7. Anonymous says:

    being an mla here has nothing to do with serving the people…it is like winning the lottery with frequent trips and holidays paid for by others….sorry i mean ‘important mobile phone conferences’ in barcelona….zzzzzz

  8. Anonymous says:

    “It is not yet known, however, if the other two eligible MLAs, West Bay government backbencher Captain Eugene Ebanks and Premier McKeeva Bush, had opted to take their pensions.”
    Now wha you think?????
    I’ll bet you a dollar CNS that they have.

  9. Justinian says:

    Other than the fact that it allows Mr Miller (big long sigh) and others to froth about “immoral and unethical”, can anyone tell me if there is any REAL (ie legal) objection to so called “double dipping”?. If someone – anyone, MLA, civil servant, (eg Mr Gomez), Judge, – earns an entitlement to a pension, why should they not collect it and if they continue to work, collect remuneration for the work they do AND their – erm -entitlement?. There is, to me , an odd sentence in this CNS report: “Kurt Tibbetts and his opposition colleague Anthony Eden both publicly admitted to taking their entitlements”.

    “both publicly admitted” – gasp, the shame of it!
    ‘to taking their entitlement” – the horror! the horror! How could they?

    • Anonymous says:

      you bring up a fair point. But the fact is an MLA is entitled to a full pension after EIGHT YEARS. Is there any other job anywhere in the world where a pension is paid out after 8 years. It’s a natioal embarassment.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It is not pensions alone, but term limits needed to be cpnsidered if Cayman is move forward.

    Career politicians loose vison except planning every move for re-election.

    With term limits, new comers will come in with new ideas to help cayman be part of a rapidly changing world.




  11. Cuba1961 says:

    Which party,  or party member originally brought forth the motion in 2003-2004 to have the law changed…

    for therein, as the Bard would tell us, lies the rub.

    "MLAs were first given access to their pensions while remaining in office in 2004 when a change to the law provided for MLAs to claim their pensions once they had served a single term and passed the age of 55,"


  12. Anonymous says:

    CNS I ambacking you 100% on this. Dont stop now, the public wants to see this published. Can you really imagine!! these “DOUBLE DIPPERS” when the country is suffering so much some are reaping a double salary.
    Mr Ezzard Miller I take off my hat to you. You are the only person in that house who deserve a vote.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Is the uncertainty of being re-elected, and the fact that some MLAs died in office without getting their pension an excuse for changing the law so that even after only after 4 years they can get a pension and a salary at age 55. After all if they got reelected they get their salary and if not they get the pension. Logic? Civil servants have to work 40 years to get a full pension, many, many of them died in office. Also I believe they have to reach 60 (NOT 55) before they can retire and be reengaged. Fair?

  14. Anonymous says:

    How can a “serving MLA” be receiving a pension relating to the same employment? Were we not told that the current Govt had dismissed scores of mature civil and public servants who had opted for early pension but had also retained their jobs, ie they were getting double pay. Do we smell a rat here?

    • Lachlan MacTavish says:

       When being an MLA became a road to wealth "certain" elected members took advantage and will always take advantage of any is loophole  that will provide personal gain. As soon as one double dips there will be others that will follow. Once again "certain" elected members taking huge advantage of the wonderful Caymanian trait of forgiveness and toleration. But sooner or later more people should say enough is enough.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why are you surprised at this. Just about every politician that ever lived has lined his pockets some way or the other. Not all of it is downright dirty either but certainly first the job is high paying especially in cayman and second the contacts they develop from such a position.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is not true. In a case when one retires, and is retained their salary is cut in half to equal your original monthly salary on leaving the service . People need to get their facts straight and know what they aretalking about. When one returns to the Civil Service after retirement you are not paid for the job. It is a combination of both salaries to make up your original salary. Again, it could be that you are also started at the bottom of the Pay Scale for that specific post and at times it could be less or maybe two increments up the scale.

      When a Civil Servant returns to work it depends on the CFO and others who liaise the Salary.