Archive for October 30th, 2012

Six education goals targeted

| 30/10/2012 | 64 Comments

rolllly 3.jpg(CNS): The government is seeking input from the public at large on its new five year strategic plan, in which it has identified six goals for the future of local education. Launching the public consultation period on his policy, the education minister said he wanted to give everyone a voice in the education system. Officials explained that the strategic goals derive largely from current key priorities in education and are meant to sustain the progress made since the inception of the Education Stabilisation Plan. Leadership, early education, higher standards, skills for learning, life and work, safer schools and parents' engagement are the six goals on which the reform of the education system will be based.

“I want everyone to have their say in our education reform and to ensure that the Strategic Plan fits our needs as a country,” Rolston Anglin stated Monday.  “During the consultation, I encourage everyone to fill out the survey … so that we can hear what you think our education system needs to make it better.  If you think your point is minor, we still want to know about it as it may be something crucial that we have overlooked and need to include in the plan.”

This plan, which is now in the third phase of consultation, will be the road map for improving the local education system over the next five years, and according to the chief officer in the education ministry, reflects feedback from a range of focus groups over the last two months.

“There were 13 groups in all, with some 218 participants and some 44 survey participants. As this plan is a transition from the January 2011 Education Stabilisation Plan, it also draws on the feedback from hundreds more of our educators and parents who helped to shape that earlier plan,” Mary Rodrigues said.

Although the usual stakeholders have been involved in the consultation so far, Rodrigues said  that this time students were also involved as well as teachers and parents.

“Too often strategic plans for education are developed just by adults deciding what is in the best interests of our students. We spoke with students from primary schools, CIFEC, the Passport2Success Programme, and the Youth Assembly,” she said. “They were engaged, insightful and ready to share their views on what matters to them, and how we can make things better.”

The plan originally started out with five strategic goals but grew to six after consistent feedback that parent involvement needed its own separate goal statement.

Officials said that a detailed implementation structure has been developed to ensure that the plan translates into results, but now the wider public needed to have its say to make sure nothing important has been missed and to make sure the key elements to improvethe system have been captured.

The public consultation will run for two weeks, ending on Friday 9 November. Anyone who wishes to find out more about the changes that will take place and to give their feedback should visit www.education.gov.ky or email educationreform@gov.ky. Here you will find the draft strategic plan along with other supporting documents and the survey, which the ministry wants as many as possible to complete.

See draft plan here.

Take part in the survey here.

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Cops injured during courthouse arrest

| 30/10/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Two police officers were injured this morning inside the George Town courthouse when they tried to arrest a suspect. According to an RCIPS spokesperson, the two men are  being treated in hospital for their injuries. “One officer sustained a hand injury and the other a knee injury,” as they tried to arrest the man in relation to an aggravated burglary. The suspect is understood to have been attending court on another matter but as he left the courtroom at around 10:00 Tuesday morning the officers tried to arrest him on the burglary charges and a fight broke out in the lobby area of the upstairs courtrooms.

Despite his efforts to fight off the law enforcement officials, the man was arrested, not only on suspicion of aggravated burglary, but also for assault and resisting arrest.

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Nominations invited for 2013 royal gongs

| 30/10/2012 | 22 Comments

queen300.jpg(CNS): With the New Year only two months away, Governor Duncan Taylor is inviting people to submit local nominations for the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2013. As always, the top royal gongs, such as OBEs and MBEs, are considered in the United Kingdom while recommendations for the Certificate and Badge of Honour are considered here in Cayman. Members of the public should submit names of people supported by a persuasive account of their outstanding, innovative, self-sacrificing services or achievements. Royal gongs require performance or service, officials said, that lift them above those of others performing similar services.

People making nominations are asked to make every effort to fully complete all the relevant sections of the nomination forms. Once completed, the form should be submitted, under confidential cover, to the Governor’s Office.  While all recommendations will be acknowledged, the Governor’s Office cannot enter into correspondence about the action taken on them.

Nominations must be received by Monday 12 November and forms can be requested by e-mail from penny.knight@fco.gov.uk. Copies can also be found on the Governor’s Office website (www.ukincayman.fco.gov.uk).  

For any further information please contact the Governor’s Office on 244 2401.

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Teen arrested for theft of car parts

| 30/10/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 19-year-old man suspected of the theft of car parts has been arrested after he crashed into a lamppost while attempting to escape the police. Shortly after 4:30am this morning, Tuesday 30 October, the RCIPS received a report that two men were attempting to steal car parts from a garage premises in Seymour Drive, George Town. When police officers arrived at the scene they saw a Honda Civic speeding away. The officers signaled the driver of the Civic to stop but when he failed to do so they continued to follow the car. The Civic then drove into School Road where it crashed into a lamppost. The driver ran off from the scene but the teenage passenger was arrested on suspicious of theft.

A search of the vehicle uncovered a number of car parts, including a bumper, headlights and indicator. Police enquiries have confirmed that these items had been stolen from Outpost Street earlier in the night.

Chief Inspector Frank Owens is once again urging car owners to be vigilant following the recent spate of car part thefts, and asks that anyone who sees any suspicious vehicles or activity contacts the police.

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Local environmentalist turns to kid’s fiction

| 30/10/2012 | 5 Comments

Martin Keeley_LR (227x300).jpg(CNS): Teacher, environmentalist and storyteller, Martin Keeley, will be hosting a story session for young book-lovers and their parents later this month when he will also be reading from his new children’s book, "Oscar and the Royal Avenue Cats". The local author, who is Director at the Cayman Brac campus of the the University College of the Cayman Islands, where he teaches environmental science, has turned to fiction in his latest work and the adventures of a group of city cats. Previously, Keeley’s work had focused on the environment as he is heavily involved with the National Trust and has been International Education Director for the Mangrove Action Project for the past 15 years.

His initial work on developing and implementing  a primary school text book, "Marvellous Mangroves in the Cayman Islands" (published in 2000), has led to mangroves being an integral part of the Year 5 curriculum in Cayman. And he has led the translation and adaptation of the curriculum to more than eight countries world-wide, from Honduras and Nicaragua to Brazil and Sri Lanka.

Keeley is currently working on the iguana census program as well as the turtle patrol and nesting analysis on the Sister Islands.

Following the success of another non-fiction book, "Fragments: Poetry and Photography" (published in 2011), Keeley began working on his first collection of short stories for children, "Oscar and the Royal Avenue Cats".

In the book every city street is home to a group of city cats, and the small street called Royal Avenue is no exception. Though the rapidly growing metropolis sprouts around it like a concrete jungle, Royal Avenue remains relatively untouched. Most of the original families moved out of the neighbourhood long ago, but one tomcat has lived there for some eighteen years. His name is Oscar and he is the undisputed king of Royal Avenue.

Growing up in a rapidly changing world has made Oscar smart and tough, a real leader. He bears scars from many battles and the other cats on the two-block street all look up to and respect him. As day fades to night, Oscar firmly puts them in their places. These are the adventures of Oscar and his merry band of Royal Avenue cats.

Keeley will be reading from and signing copies of his first collection of short stories for kids at Books & Books in Camana Bay on Saturday, 10 November.

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Accounting for nothing

| 30/10/2012 | 20 Comments

In his latest report the auditor general has attempted to be kind to government over its continued failure to be accountable to the people for the money it has taken off them and spent. No doubt this is to encourage the tiny glimmer of possible improvement after the deputy governor committed to providing leadership on the problem plaguing government since 2004. But kindness is unlikely to help.

The fact that Alastair Swarbrick is only able to report the tiniest of improvements, which remains a far cry from any real accountability, after the government’s proverbial hands have been held in every possible way to get these accounts sorted speaks volumes.

Even after the creation of a task force, specialist teams, overseas intervention, amendments to the law, advice, help and recommendations by the bucket full from the public audit office, pressure from the Public Accounts Committee and even a fair dose of public outrage, nothing has really changed.  The people have no more idea today than they did at the start of this administration where the money went.

Because the starting point was so bad, Swarbrick was encouraging in his report but the reality of the situation cannot be avoided.

While statutory authorities and government companies have for the mnost part made an effort to catch up and provide more timely and better quality information to the Office of the Auditor General, the portfolios and ministries, which spend and collect the bulk of taxpayers’ money, have failed to make any noticeable improvement. This means the consolidated accounts, or entire public sector financial report, cannot be produced. In turn — and this is the crux of the matter — the people cannot hold the government to account for what it has earned and spent.

One of the most fundamental issues for any electorate to understand is how the administration it voted for raises taxes and spends public money. The basis on which many people vote is on this very issue. But the Caymanian electorate has not been able to consider the tax and spend record of its governments for two elections and is about to head into a third.

While we know from the budget documents what government says it has collected and how it plans to spend money, the electorate has no idea how accurate those budget predictions really are or, more importantly, how closely each individual entity is following the appropriations. What we do know is that every year since 2008/09 the government has got its predictions wrong because each of those fiscal years has ended very differently from the forecasts made at the start.

For democracy to really work government must be accountable and transparent, otherwise the electorate, as is the case for the voters in Cayman for the last two elections, are engaged in nothingmore than a lottery. This is not democracy. There can be no choice when no one really knows how well ministers have presided over the tax and spend of their relevant departments.

There is no way for any voter to know when he or she goes to the polls next May if the candidates they select are being effective custodians of the public purse and spending money on successful policies or a they are a bunch of idiots that have no clue what they are doing or, worse, a gang of charlatans robbing the people blind.

On Tuesday in a report by CNS Ezzard Miller, the former PAC chair, repeated his call for the prosecution of, or at least some form of legal sanction against, the relevant senior civil servants who have failed to account for spending for the last eight years or failed to implement the systems that would allow them to account for public spending.

At this point there is no way to know who or what is really causing the problem. It could well be the political masters that are blocking the process because of fear of being exposed of being incompetent or worse. It may be senior civil servants who are afraid of their own inadequacies and failures coming to light. It could even be just one or two individuals who have key roles in the process that continue to undermine the attempts to sort out the situation.

But whatever the real cause, the result is untenable for the public. While Swarbrick may be pursuing a carrot approach in his latest report, the public needs a stick. Whether punishment will work or not remains to be seen as it has never been tried, but giving praise where it is certainly not due gives a distorted picture.

The improvements seen by Swarbrick and his office are academic when the man in the street remains ignorant over what the government is doing with his taxes. While praise should be given where it's due, praising someone for not doing their job properly but doing it ever so slightly better than they did several years ago after significant assistance is unlikely to produce the desired result.

Whether Miller is right about the threat of prosecution being able to help is something we are unlikely to find out since, other than the North Side MLA, there is no political will to pursue that route.

In the end, with the systemic failure of government on such a critically important matter, the only thing left is to give up on ever being able to hold the government to account and to stop kidding ourselves we live in a democracy.

In the interests of honesty, perhaps it’s time for Cayman to call it like it is and be the first country to rename its political system to ‘incompetocracy’. At least then, when we go to the polls next year we will all know where we stand.

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Local swim coaches mix with Olympic winners

| 30/10/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Two of Cayman’s local swimming coaches are honing their own skills in Russia this week at the FINA World Aquatics Convention in Moscow. CIASA Technical Director, Coach Ian Armiger and Coach Katie Lambert, from Camana Bay Aquatic Club are representing the Cayman Islands at the convention which opened with a two day World Coaches Clinic featuring presentations from coaches whose swimmers struck gold at the London 2012 Olympics. Armiger and Lambert are rubbing shoulders with world class coaches at the specialist international swimming event as noted below.

Roman Barnier from France who coached 50m freestyle champion Florent Manadou; Graham Hill from South Africa who guided Chad le Clos to victory over Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly; Todd Schmitz from the USA who was coach to Missy Franklin and Xu Guoyi from China who prepared Shiwen yi for her onslaught of the 400m individual medley World Record, are among those at the convention.

"To interact with many of the worlds’ leading coaches in such an environment is a superb opportunity. Our attendance also helps promote Cayman Swimming and put us firmly on the aquatics map," said Armiger.

The Convention, which lasts for 4 days, culminates with presentations on aquatic developments and an exhibition of the latest equipment for swimming and swimming pools. As CIASA delegates the attendance of Coaches Ian and Katie is fully supported under FINA's Development Programme.

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Prosecute, says ex-PAC boss

| 30/10/2012 | 50 Comments

ezzard june_0.jpg(CNS): The former chair of the Public Accounts Committee has called for those responsible for the persistent failure in government to account for the spending of some $2 billion of public money to be prosecuted. Ezzard Miller said that the latest report from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) reveals that, despite every assistance rendered to the various government entities, the results of the update on public accounting show nothing has really changed. The independent member, who chaired the parliamentary committee for the first two years of this current administration, called the situation a “shambles” and said the report was no different from the five that had preceded it.

“It’s like the PAC was talking to empty chairs,” Miller told CNS following the publication of a report from Alastair Swarbrick’s office regarding the state of government’s financial accountability to the taxpayer.

Prior to his resignation from the committee, following what he described as the persistent failure of the UDP members to turn up for meetings, Miller had warned senior civil servants responsible for producing government accounts that he would be seeking to prosecute those who failed to comply with the Public Management and Finance Law after they had been given numerous opportunities to do so.

However, he said the Attorney General’s Chambers did not seem to have the will to go forward nor was anyone sure exactly who under the law was responsible. With no one accountable, Miller said, there has been no impetus to address the problem.

Despite the claims by the premier that he had presided over an improvement in public accounting, government has still failed to produce consolidated accounts for 2010/11 that can be audited and are unlikely to be able to produce any meaningful account for the 2011/12 year either.

“During the last committee meeting I held I warned the chief officers and financial officers that there was provision under the law for them to be prosecuted and I believe that unless someone is held to account the public will never see a set of accounts telling them what government has done with their money.”

Miller said nothing had changed and it was unacceptable that $2 billion could remain unaccounted for.

“The situationis terrible and the report reveals that one of the worst offenders is the finance, tourism and development ministry,” Miller said. Despite breaking that ministry down there are still issues with the accounts for the premier’s areas of responsibility. “The fact that the finance ministry is one of the worst offenders speaks volumes. The premier’s ministry should be setting the example. This is an appalling state of affairs.”

The most problematic ministry, however, is the one presided over by the deputy premier. Audits for the Ministry of District Administration, Works, Lands & Agriculture continue to be disclaimed, which means Swarbrick’s team was not given enough information to work with and could not complete an audit.

As a result of the persistent failure, the independent member said the electorate would not see any sets of consolidated accounts relating to government finances during an entire administration before another election.

Miller said the latest report by Alastair Swarbrick demonstrates that almost none of the various recommendations that the audit office and PAC has made over the last three years have been implemented and the minor improvements the auditor’s office has seen have not translated into any kind of meaningful information for the voting public and taxpayers.

In the report Swarbrick points to an improvement in the timeliness of the accounts being delivered to his office with most of the government entities obligated to produce reports meeting the statutory deadline. However, in many cases Swarbrick said, information is still missing, which means his office cannot offer unqualified opinions. This has had a knock-on effect on the consolidated accounts, and despite claims that it would produce consolidated accounts for 2010/11, government will not meet that commitment.

The entire public sector financial statements are meant to report all of government’s financial activity in a given fiscal year and is one of the most important documents an administration should produce in order to meet standards of good governance and transparency.

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Local man denies rape and possession of gun

| 30/10/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A man accused of raping a woman at her home last year while in possession of a gun has denied having a weapon or forcing the woman to have sex. Dwight Wright said that he was invited to the complainant’s house, where he had consensual sex and was unarmed. However, the victim said that Wight kicked in the door of her home, as evidenced by his foot print on it and the damaged frame, and then forced himself upon the woman. The victim said she did not scream or try to fight off her attacker, whom she once had a relationship with, because aside from living in a remote area, she felt she would have still come off the worst.

Clearly distressed and reluctant to given evidence at first, the victim told the court she did not want to pursue the complaint as she was so nervous and just wanted to put the incident behind her. However, questions put to the witness by the prosecuting counsel, Trisha Hutchinson, saw the woman relent and repeat the evidence from the witness stand that she had given to the police the morning after the incident.

She told the court how she was watching TV at her home on the evening of 13 June when Wright crashed into her home by kicking in the door. She said he had a small gun in his pocket and although he did not threaten her with it she was frightened about what he might do. Taking her phone from her he forced her into the bedroom where the sexual assault took place. The victim revealed that Wright had persisted with the assault throughout the night and left around 5:30 the next morning, when she called 911 and reported the attack.

The victim told the court that she and Wright were at one time intimate but when she realized there was "something not right about him” and that he was "unstable”, she ended the relationship some four months before the rape happened. Despite this, she said, Wright continued to stalk and harass her, damaging her property, stealing from her and constantly calling her. She said she had reported his harassment to the police on many occasions but little was done to help her.

Under cross examination she admitted that she had called Wright herself on the day in question but she said it was when she stopped returning his calls and texts in the evening that he had then come to her house. The victim also admitted calling the defendant after the incident while she was driving with a female police officer to the hospital for the post assault rape-kit. She said this was totell him she had reported him to the police and that this time he was not going to get away with it.

The victim denied the suggestions placed by defence attorney John Furniss that his client was unarmed and that he had gone to her home at her invitation where consensual sex had taken place.

The case, which is being heard in a judge alone trial before Justice Alex Henderson, continues Tuesday and is expected to last three days.

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