Archive for September 21st, 2012

Electric storms cause trouble for power company

| 21/09/2012 | 3 Comments

35.jpg(CNS): Following on from warnings of possible outages this week due to maintenance issues, Grand Cayman’s electricity supplier was struggling to deal with power cuts in most of the districts this morning as a result of local thunderstorms. CUC customers in East End, North Side, Bodden Town, Prospect and parts of George Town were all subject to loss of supply as powerful storms struck the island. All of the power cuts, except in North Side where a broken tree limb hit power lines, were due to lightning strikes. Crews worked to restore power as quickly as possible and managed to get everyone connected again before 10am.

After warnings issued on Tuesday,18 September, that the firm may be forced to shed load as a result of simultaneous maintenance on generation units, a spokesperson from CUC explained that it did not need to cut power deliberately and its generation capacity has been restored to normal levels.

“As a result the company is lowering its alert for potential rolling outages,” the spokesperson stated. “CUC would like to thank those companies who responded to our request to curtail their electricity usage during the peak demand periods on Tuesday. These are Camana Bay and the Cayman Water Company.”

The power firm stated that it was committed to providing a reliable electricity service to its customers, but from time to time it experiences multiple generating unit failures when generating capacity can become stretched.

“In those instances, we will have to cut power to sections of the Island on a rolling basis to avoid a system overload. We aim to keep the duration of each outage to approximately one hour at a time,” CUC stated. “The company normally operates with adequate reserve capacity to cover maintenance activities. However, if there are coincidental multiple generating unit failures, we have to access our reserve and depending on the magnitude of the failures that reserve capacity may be exhausted which would lead to us reducing demand and shedding load until capacity can be restored in a safe manner.” 

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Fraudster admits ‘Punch and Play’ con

| 21/09/2012 | 0 Comments

5520971697_2001292297_b.jpg(CNS): A man admitted in court Friday to altering and attempting to alter two ‘Punch N Play’ cards in order to con Foster's Supermarket out of $5,000 and $2,500 in a promotional prize giveaway in 2010. Paul Langford pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining property by deception after he was given a cheque for $5,000 in December 2010 after he had changed one of the promotional cards to appear as though he was the legitimate winner of the prize. He also admitted attempting to repeat the scam in August when he altered another card to appear to be a $2,500 card win, as well as stealing $100 from the Countryside store.

Langford was charged with a number of other offences, however he entered no pleas on those counts as discussions between his defence attorney and crown counsel continued.

He was bailed to return to court on 12 October for sentencing in connection with his guilty pleas.

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Dart admits to canal plans

| 21/09/2012 | 105 Comments

ETH-Bridge.jpg(CNS): Cayman’s largest developer and investor, Dart Realty, has said that it does have plans to connect the new resort it intends to build on the site of the former Courtyard Marriott to the existing system of canals in the area. Although no details of the proposed waterways have been released, speculation that future canals could be dredged to connect the North Sound to Seven Mile Beach have been confirmed. The admission comes on the heels of news this week that Dart has signed an extended agreement with government over the West Bay Road projects.

As construction work on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway Extension continues, NRA officials who are said to be supervising the road building being undertaken by Dart said that Jairam Building Contractors were installing arch units for a bridge on the section of highway between Raleigh Quay and Yacht Drive that would allow current or future developers to connect the existing system of roads and canals.

A spokesperson for Dart stated that the group had always planned for a bridge to be included on the ETHE to allow future connectivity to theredeveloped Marriott or other hotels that may be developed in the area but there would be no drawbridge for mega yachts. 

“The bridge will allow pedestrians, golf carts and, subject to normal planning approvals for waterways, boats to travel under the ETH.  The bridge is similar to the one at the Ritz-Carlton, except that it is slightly higher. Despite speculation, there is no drawbridge being installed,” Dart said.

Meanwhile, an addition to the agreement signed in December by the NRA, the government and Dart has now been completed. The changes to the original agreement, which was placed in the public domain by CNS recently, have been made as a result of a review undertaken by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers. This final deal, however, has not yet been made public and CNS has not yet been able to obtain a copy of the new deal.

This is only part of a larger agreement that the Dart group and government are still negotiating, which will not only include crown  land swaps along Seven Mile Beach, West Bay and Barkers but the closure of the dump in George Town and the construction of a new landfill in Bodden Town. It is understood that government is hopeful of completing negotiations for the major agreement before the end of next month.

With the addition to the controversial Dart deal, it is understood the company now plans to start work on the new hotel and will, once the relevant part of the bypass is completed, be closing the West Bay Road, despite the continued opposition to the closure of more than 4,000 feet of the coast road.

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Whittaker upset with paltry purse for Rosado bout

| 21/09/2012 | 34 Comments

charles whittaker.jpg(RingTV): In an industry as unforgiving as boxing, one can still find plenty of nice people. Fringe junior middleweight contender Charles Whittaker and Main Events promoter Kathy Duva are two such folks. Unfortunately, outside of the ring, Whittaker might be a little too nice for his own good. The 38-year-old native of the Cayman Islands has taken the scenic route to finally being a step away from a major title shot, as he faces Duva’s charge Gabriel Rosado in the main event of NBC Sports Fight Night this Friday. For a fighter who has suffered a dozen losses, and fights in gyms in the Philippines and nightclubs in Delaware, an IBF title eliminator on national television would seem to be the jackpot. In financial terms though, that’s not the case.

Much of the build-up for Friday’s bout has surrounded Whittaker’s dissatisfaction with his $6,000 purse for the evening.

“A fight like this, an IBF eliminator, on television, it pays more than this. I've fought fights off TV for more than this. I've brought people to the Cayman Islands and paid them more than this,” Whittaker told RingTV.com.

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Captains get stay over Safehaven marina

| 21/09/2012 | 24 Comments

safehaven2_0.jpg(CNS): Local boat captains who are trying to protect their rights at the Safehaven marina have succeeded in drawing a temporary halt to the work at the public dock by local developer Michael Ryan. The boat owners and tour operators came together to file legal action last week after they were told to vacate the site by Ryan and later the Port Authority in order for works to being on a new marina. The captains have, however, been concerned that the new facility, if it is ever completed, will not meet their needs and that there are no guarantees that they will be able to continue to keep their boats there, putting their livelihoods at risk.

Having filedan injunction last week, spokesperson for the group Captain Bryan Ebanks confirmed that they were successful in winning a stay on the work on Thursday in Grand Court until a full hearing, which will now take place in two weeks time when the full details of the case and the various disputes will be argued. 

“Although this is only the first step, it demonstrates what can happen when people work together,” Ebanks told CNS.

MLA Ezzard Miller, who has been backing the captains in their fight to stay at Safehaven, agreed and described it as a significant result. “This is a significant victory because a group of Caymanians have come together and used the courts to stand up against the draconian unilateral actions of the Port Authority,” he said.  "This should inspire others to action, particularly through the courts, for their rights and not simply take what is decided for them and walk away."

Among the many issues relating to the dispute, the most pressing one is that the temporary site the captains were asked to relocate to while the work on the new facility was underway, as well as the proposed new marina itself, are not big enough to accommodate the vessels as the turning space was insufficient.

Justice Williams, who heard the case for the temporary injunction, was persuaded that there was evidence the captains would not be able to operate from the new site. As some of thecaptains have used the Safehaven marina for some 25 years, he also found that there were genuine issues that should be tried.

The case is now set down for 8 and 9 October.

Related articles and court order:

Safehaven captains evicted

Captains plan marina sit-in

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Gasboy II coming soon

| 21/09/2012 | 26 Comments

gas boy.JPG(CNS): Officials from the government’s Department of Vehicle and Equipment Services (DVES) say they are putting together a request for proposals in preparation for a tender in order to replace the current fuel card system for public sector vehicles. Following revelations in two reports over the past year by the auditor general that the Gasboy card system was still open to abuse and poorly managed, the deputy governor has taken the lead on addressing the problems with department heads, while the DVES is in the process of introducing a modern version of the card system.

Answering questions at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the Legislative Assembly this week regarding the findings of the Office of the Auditor General in its follow up on the Internal Audit Unit’s report, a team from the DVES assured the PAC members that things were being better managed but said the blame really lay with the heads of department.

The officials explained that the current system was antiquated and could supply limited information to public sector managers. However, they said there was no way for staff at DVES to know if a civil servant who filled up a vehicle was authorized to do so, or if they were using the fuel for the correct purpose or even if they still worked for the civil service. They explained that cards were cancelled as soon as the DVES was notified that a staff member had left but that could only happen based on information coming from the relevant managers.

During his review of the report by the Internal Audit Unit, Alastair Swarbrick found that, even though his predecessor  had alerted government to the problem in a February 2010 audit, only the specific agencies singled out in the first report had done anything about it.

In the original report Dan Duguay, the previous auditor general, found that some $500,000 could have been fraudulently obtained from government's fuel station in North Sound since almost a third of the transactions reviewed were suspicious. He focused on the top five users of fuel, including public works, the NRA and the police, and drew attention to the failure of the system.

As a result, the Internal Audit Unit did a follow-up, which was recently reviewed by the current auditor general, and the examination of the next ten major fuel-using public authorities were found to have made little effort to address the issue, even though some were in the same ministry as those in the first five.

However, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson subsequently issued an order to all the COs giving them three months to address the issues and gave them new policies on managing fuel use by staff.

The numerous anomalies identified by the OAG included staff members having multiple cards, cards issued to people who had left the service and vehicles supposedly being filled up several times in one day. However, Manderson assured PAC that the issue was being tackled and the agencies identified as problematic were now compliant.

“My office takes the work of the auditor general seriously and I will ensure his reports and recommendations are properly addressed,” he said.

PAC chair Moses Kirkconnell stated that the goal of the committee was to ensure government took note of the waste identified by the auditor general and addressed the problem in order to implement much needed government savings.

Related articles:

Cop Gasboygate investigation stalled

'Gasboy' still being abused

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Cop Gasboygate investigation stalled

| 21/09/2012 | 8 Comments

Dodge Charger (300x263).jpg(CNS): Following the revelations of the first Gasboy fuel card audit by the auditor general in 2010, the police commissioner said at the time that an investigation was opened as a result of the actions of one officer. However, the police stated this week that the enquiry had stalled because that officer had left the service and the island. The RCIPS had been one of the first public authorities to be audited regarding the fuel card system as it was one of government’s largest fuel consumers. A number of anomalies were flagged by the former auditor in the original report. However, his successor found in the follow up report that the police had addressed the risks identified.

“It is fair to say that we recognized the shortfalls and we have complied with all of the recommendations to tighten up processes and procedures,” a police spokesperson stated this week. The police had found that some of the anomalies identified by Dan Duguay in the first report could be explained. In one case, where an officer appeared to fill up multiple times, he had done so in preparation for a hurricane when several police cars were filled up simultaneously.

However, there was in one case cause for concern and an investigation was opened in the wake of the original findings in relation to one officer.

“Our investigation centres around one officer. The individual is no longer with the RCIPS and left prior to the initial report. This individual is now living overseas, however it is our intention to interview this person as and when he/she returns to the island, specifically in relation to excess use of a card relating to one specific vehicle,” the spokesperson added.

Since the audit, the police have taken action to record in detail who is in possession of fuel cards. Only three people in the RCIPS can now sign for fuel cards, the police spokesperson explained, and the RCIPS is working with the DVES to improve and tighten its internal controls and policy development.

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Junior minister ‘delighted’ with new FCO job

| 21/09/2012 | 15 Comments

7995754378_81526b3949.jpg(CNS): The new man at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who is now in charge of the overseas territories has spoken of his delight at joining the Cabinet. The conservative MP for Boston Mark Simmonds was made a junior minister by the prime minister in the recent reshuffle. Simmonds had missed out on a post in the coalition government after the election having been a member of the shadow cabinet but David Cameron brought him into the fold earlier this month with the job of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

“I am delighted to have been asked by the Prime Minister to serve in his Government,’ he said in a recent statement. “There are still many difficult decisions to be made but I am thrilled to be able to make a contribution by improving our relations overseas and ensuring the UK’s interests are protected,” he added.

Simmonds is also responsible for Africa, international energy, consular services, the Caribbean, FCO protocol, conflict issues, climate change and overseas territories.
The new minister also stated that he was pleased with the latest FCO policy to celebrate the OTs by flying their respective flags on significant days marking the new era of positive engagement with Britain and the territories

“The Government is determined to show our commitment to this relationship in a year which has seen a number of important landmarks, including the publication of the White Paper,” he said.

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