Archive for June 25th, 2013

Aruba to run solely on sustainable energy by 2020

| 25/06/2013 | 29 Comments

aruba wind farm.jpg(CNS): The Aruba Tourism Authority the claims that 70 square-mile island is on track to become the world's first sustainable energy economy and achieve the goal of running on 100 percent sustainable energy by 2020. The Vader Piet Windmill Farm, built in 2009 on the island's northern coast, consists of ten 180-meter high wind turbines that currently produce 20 percent of Aruba's electricity. Plans are in progress for a second wind farm, which will double the energy capacity and continue to decrease Aruba's carbon footprint. In June 2012, Prime Minister Mike Eman and entrepreneur Richard Branson announced a partnership between Aruba and the Carbon War Room, an initiative that seeks to reduce global carbon emission. 

Promoting the Caribbean Island's green credentials in a release Tuesday, the ATA said the partnership would transition the island to 100 percent renewable energy while eliminating any reliance on fossil fuels and will create a model for other countries to replicate.

The island's constant supply of sun, eastern trade winds and ocean currents allow for research and field-testing of renewable energy technologies. The islands tourism authority noted that in recent years, sustainability efforts within the travel industry have progressed from a niche consideration to an industry-wide priority; 96% of Conde Nast Traveler readers believe hotels and resorts should be responsible for protecting the environment in which they operate.  

"The opportunities for renewable development on Aruba are really extraordinary … Aruba could truly be a model to the world in terms of a sustainable place to live and work," said Harvard Professor George Baker.

Aruba's private sector is also committed to preserving and protecting the environment, which is evident in the island's several certified and sustainable hotel and resort properties. EarthCheck, the premier international certification alliance for sustainable travel and tourism, complies with the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Greenhouse Gas Protocol, and the International Organizationfor Standardization (ISO) 114064 range of standards for greenhouse gas accounting. To date, six resorts on-island are certified by EarthCheck and eight are on the road to achieving certification.

In addition to pursuing alternative energy initiatives, locals and visitors alike join together for the Aruba Reef Care Project, the island's largest volunteer environmental initiative. The project has attracted more than 800 people annually since 1994 and results in cleaner reefs, public beaches and shallow waters.

Bianca Peters, a Dutch expert in sustainability in Aruba's Department of General Affairs, commends the One happy island's green initiatives and the probability for significant global impact. She said, "I decided to come here because of how the people in Aruba think. The energy here is amazing, we can make things happen — especially sustainability — because of the scale of the island, all the natural elements Aruba has, and the enthusiasm of the people living here. I believe living sustainably is the future for the world."

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Gangs remain key cop issue

| 25/06/2013 | 51 Comments

baines cop.jpg(CNS): The police commissioner has said that his officers remain perpetually occupied dealing with gang-related issues even though it has been some 20 months since the last gang-related slaying. Speaking to CNS ahead of a multi-agency seminar on gang culture, hosted by the police Tuesday, David Baines said that although it does not make headlines, fights, gun possessions and escalations of tensions when known gang members are released from jail regularly occupy his officers. With the need for police to constantly get in between the local rival factions to prevent the eruption of serious violence, such as that seen in September 2011, Baines said that the gang issue in Cayman must be tackled by other agencies as well as the police.

“It features for us on at least a weekly basis as it constantly bubbles up and we are routinely executing warrants relating to local gang members,” he said referring to the impact on the RCIPS. “From simple bar fights escalating to guns where we need to get between the conflicts, we deal with gang related issues all the time, even when it is not making headlines.” He said that while there may not be any shots fired at each other, homes and cars are still shot at and the police are constantly trying to contain potential gang conflict by keeping rivals apart.

The RCIPS hosted the seminar "Partnerships in safety – The Gang Culture", which was attended by representatives from the prison service, the legal department, immigration, education, community rehabilitation and other relevant government agencies. The goal, Baines said, was to bring together all those that have a part to play in the prevention and identification of gang members.

The commissioner said the more people who know more about gangs who are working in the community, the more they can help with the intervention and prevention at a much earlier point and try and steer young people away.

Baines talked about the multi-agency approach needed towards gang crime and how it can start very young. He pointed out that management and strategic decisions across government, like the one made by the education department to close the Alternative Education Centre, was an important factor. He described it as a place that had become a recruitment ground for young gangsters.

There are a few very toxic individuals who are beyond assistance and who will end up in only one of two places — jail or a slab at the morgue, he said, but there are many more young people who are currently at risk but who could be saved from disappearing into the gang culture by early intervention.

During his opening statement at the start of the day-long seminar, the senior cop said that gangs and gang violence cannot be stemmed by police action alone, and while there is no silver bullet to solve the problem, the more informed agencies are they better they can recognize the threat and respond.

“Collectively, we may just stop thespiral of gang violence we saw so blatantly in September 2011,” he said, referring to a spate of five gang-related shootings that injured one and claimed the lives of five others in West Bay, George Town and East End over a nine day period. He said that all six of the men shot during that time were students of the Alternative Education Centre after being excluded from mainstream education.

He explained how, in the wake of the shocking violence, questions were asked about what could have been done to prevent it and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reviewed the RCIPS responses and capabilities.

“One recommendation was to extend awareness of all stakeholders in young people and youth issues and focus on the education and awareness access to all professional agencies,” Baines said, as he explained the background for the seminar and the special guest experts who had come to Cayman from Canada and the US to help examine the gang culture.

“At the close of the day, you will have a better understanding of gangs and gang culture, the specifics and differences of gangs within the Cayman Islands, and most importantly, an improved ability to identify gang activity and its associated behaviour,” he told delegates. “With that knowledge comes the responsibility to spot the vulnerable and do something about it or by ensuring the right agencies are informed and involved.”

He added that the Caribbean has a growing reputation for violence and gangs, but recognizing the problems and initiating anti-gang actions in Cayman could prevent the islands from becoming “another blot on the tourist warning list of where not to go”.

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West Bay man convicted of street robbery

| 25/06/2013 | 7 Comments

(CNS): A 25-year-old West Bay man was found guilty by a panel of jurors last week on charges of robbery. Chaz Leo Powery was sentenced to four years in jail for his part in a crime which he had never denied. Powery admitted that he attacked two fellow West Bay residents near to the Alfresco's Restaurant on Town Hall Road last December and robbed them of a backpack containing $350. His defence was that he had committed the robbery because someone threatened his life and those of his family. However, the prosecution successfully convinced the four men and three women selected as jurors for the trial that Powery acted on his own initiative, leading them to return a guilty verdict.

Despite the best efforts of Powery's defence attorney, John Furniss, the evidence against him was reliable enough to convince the jury that his account was false. Powery had claimed that he was approached by a person who forced him to rob the couple walking on the side of the road in West Bay in the early morning hours.

Phillip Messner and his girlfriend, Essen Atally, had been living in the Cayman Islands for a few years and were walking along the road to Messner's home at Calypso Cove when they were verbally intimidated by someone parked on the side of the road. Atally advised Messner to just ignore them and keep walking.

Unfortunately, when their journey was about to end, Powery grabbed Atally from behind and placed a knife to her throat and they fell over the wall which separates the beach from the main road by the beach side of the local restaurant. Atally began to shout to her boyfriend to contact the police, which caused Powery to get off his victim. He then hopped back over the wall only to strike Messner twice in his face. The blows caused Messner to drop his phone and the bag that he had been carrying, which allowed Powery to take his valuables with ease.

During cross examination, Messner explained, “I felt very afraid and helpless because she was in danger." 

The jury heard that Messner told Atally to run away and she stated that she ran along the beach in fear for approximately two minutes before returning to the road side and approached the scene with extreme caution. A passing cyclist saw Messner's bloodied face and his terrified girlfriend and was helpful enough to call the police. The couple said that the police responded to the incident almost immediately and assisted them to the best of their ability.

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Cash mismanagement rolls on

| 25/06/2013 | 26 Comments

(CNS): The auditor general unveiled three new reports Tuesday, and while all three address different issues regarding the public purse, the common denominator is the continued mismanagement of resources. The first is a public interest report on air ambulance services, which reveals a catalogue of issues and risks, not just financially but with patient health. The second follows up on the financial reporting and performance of statutory authorities but also looks at the management of these government companies and reveals political interference, conflicts of interests and questionable decisions by boards and management. The last report is a departure for the AG’s office as it focuses on recommendations to restructure government so it can finally achieve fiscal transparency.

All three reports, which are now public documents, highlight the continuing issues the Cayman Islands government has, with its administrative arm unable to deliver financial transparency more than nine years after the implementation of the Public Management and Finance Law.

In these reports, Alastair Swarbrick and his team point to the failure of leadership in the Ministry of Finance, which should be responsible for the delivery of government accounts as required under the law, poor management and decisions by boards and other public sector staff and the continued political interference in many areas of the public sector, circumventing processes and placing public finances at risk and value for money in question.

Although Swarbrick points to improvements when it comes to some of the statutory authorities and government companies (SAGC) in fiscal reporting for the last financial year and the submission of accounts, in some cases this is nothing more than a move from accounts that were completely unauditable to ones that the AG has issued long qualified opinions.

While some SAGCs, such as the stock exchange, CIMA and the marine authority, have from the beginning complied with the PMFL, many other government entities have persistently fallen woefully short of compliance and continue to do so. However, even SAGCs that have complied with the PMFL in terms of timeliness and quality of the reports have other management issues that have caused Swarbrick concern, which he has documented in the relevant report.

The auditor general said that the leadership provided by the previous and current deputy governor is behind much of the improvements that have been made but he makes it clear that after nine years the fundamental question about why there are still no consolidated accounts for government is down to the failure of senior public sector staff in the ministry of finance.

In a departure from the office’s usual type of report, "Restoring Financial Accountability: A time for change?" makes a host of recommendations for government to consider that could reduce costs and help government entities achieve the elusive goal of financial transparency. The suggestions aim to help government deliver to legislators and the public reports that they understand and that reveal exactly how much government spent on what projects on an annual basis in a timely manner.

Of the many recommendations Swarbrick makes, he said core government should consolidate its reporting and stop trying to achieve the clearly impossible objective of internationally compliant sets of accounts for every ministry, portfolio, authority or company. However, in a written response to the government auditor‘s suggestion of consolidation in the report, the deputy governor disagrees with Swarbrick, stating that he believes consolidation would not be as transparent.

At Tuesday’s press briefing, where Swarbrick unveiled the three latest reports, he pointed out that at present, given the poor standard of financial management, there is no accountability at all. A consolidated set of accounts setting out the spending of each ministry and portfolio which is clear and accessible for the man on the street as well as the politically elected arm of government, he said, would be far better than the current unsustainable situation.

Swarbrick said he hoped that he would be able to change the deputy governor’s mind about his recommendations, which he admitted strayed into the management of government. He pointed out that as his remit is to advise government on, and help it achieve, value for money, any examination of strategic financial management had to look at the overall functions of government.

Speaking about each of the reports in turn and the motivation for them, Swarbrick said that the office had opted to examine the air ambulance service because of the concerns his office found during last year’s examination of CINICO and overseas medical costs. The report highlights a number of concerns about the unlicensed operation of a ground handling service for air ambulances and the management failures over the service, which he believes could put patients at risk and which currently costs the public purse well over $800,000 per year.

“This service is critical to the healthcare of the people of the Cayman Islands and I hope my report will provide the impetus for the necessary improvements,” he said.

Discussing his examination of the statutory authorities and government companies, he said that while there has been progress, only eight of the 26 entities had managed to get their financial statements completed and audited by the deadline provided in the law and more needs to be done. He also details concerns regarding the internal controlsand governance frameworks, including how Boards of Directors are mismanaging the activities of these organizations.

“Statutory authorities and government companies still have a long way to go before I will be satisfied that the Legislative Assembly is getting the accountability it needs for the public funds being spent by these entities,” Swarbrick said.

Still concerned that the information provided to the LA was poor, with only 15 of the 26 entities having tabled annual reports for the year ended 30 June 2011, he said that in most cases those reports still don’t measure up and are too late to be of use.

In his recommendation report asking the rhetorical question about the time for change, Swarbrick said he wanted to offer his thoughts on the steps government could take to rectify the now almost decade long problem of a complete breakdown in financial accountability. He added that senior managers could benefit from taking a fresh look at how they manage public finances.

With the government’s current review of its primary legislation for managing government’s finances,he makes suggestions to simplify systems to provide greater accountability. Given the complexities of the current laws, he adds that there are better ways for elected officials to hold the senior government administrators accountable.

“While it is not my role to recommend changes to the public finance laws, I have provided a number of suggestions that the government should consider when they look at amending the current laws and regulations,” said Swarbrick. After the Government has struggled to provide timely and credible financial statements and annual reports to the Legislative Assembly for the three years he has been on the job, Swarbrick said it was time to offer his position on how government can achieve greater accountability.

“I hope the government uses this opportunity to make the necessary changes to its financial laws and procedures to provide accountability for its activities and outcomes. The Government should recognize that the way it does business has not been working,” Swarbrick added.

All three reports are available in PDF format at www.auditorgeneral.gov.ky .

Check back to CNS throughout this week for more detailed stories on each of the reports.

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Female charged in $2M theft

| 25/06/2013 | 6 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS Financial Crimes Unit has charged a 52-year-old Canadian national with the theft of some US$2.1 million from an elderly resident in the Cayman Islands. The charges come at the end of a more than eight month long detailed investigation after the suspect was first arrested at her home in George Town by the FCU. The woman, who is in Cayman on a student visa, is accused of eight counts of theft, obtaining property by deception, forgery and money laundering in what appears to be a major fraud perpetrated against an elderly and wealthy resident. Believed to be one of the largest thefts against an individual in the Cayman Islands, a spokesperson for the FCU said it was a major complex investigation.

Although remaining tight lipped on the details of the case, which is now before the courts, a senior investigating office on the case confirmed that the woman was known to the victim.

She has not yet been named by police but the officer in charged confirmed that the accused woman was expected to appear in Summary Court next Tuesday, 2 July, when she will be named. Given the size of the theft and the associated charges, the case will likely be immediately transmitted to the Grand Court.
 

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Kilpatrick interviewed for job

| 25/06/2013 | 62 Comments

homeoffice10a.jpg(CNS): The apparent departure from the long tradition of selecting governors for the overseas territories from the diplomatic core, as is the case with Cayman’s new governor, may be a sign of what is to come. Although Helen Kilpatrick, following an interview for the post here, is coming to this jurisdiction from the Home Office rather than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, officials said the new governor for Anguilla has been posted to that territory from the UK Cabinet Office. The top jobs in the overseas territories are open to all senior public servants and future governors will be much more likely to come from diverse backgrounds as attitudes in the UK towards the territories’ needs change.

The postings are no longer just handed to those approaching retirement as a reward for their years of service to the FCO but have become a genuine career choice for senior UK bureaucrats.

Kilpatrick applied and interviewed for her new job, which she will take up in September following the current governor’s departure to Mexico this summer. Although she is the first governor to be posted to Cayman without diplomatic experience, her qualifications as a financial expert and working in local government are probably going to be far more valuable in her new job than an understanding of diverse cultures, language skills or even diplomatic tact.

Officials from the governor’s office denied that Kilpatrick was selected purely on the grounds of her accountancy qualifications and finance experience or as a result of Cayman’s financial management problems, but said her skills contributed to her winning the job.

“It is not unusual for governors to be drawn from departments other than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,” officials told CNS, adding that aside from the new governor in Anguilla, the current governor ofn Montserrat came from the Department for international Development (DFID).

“The Governor-designate, Helen Kilpatrick, was selected because of her all-round capabilities. She was considered to be the strongest of the candidates that applied for the position,” a spokesperson stated, adding that her experience and background in finance and accounts was not the main reason she was selected but it was taken into account.

“She was selected as she was considered to be the strongest of the candidates that applied for the position,” the official added.

Related article on CNS:

Accountant to be CI governor

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Minister denies that Snowden entered Russia

| 25/06/2013 | 0 Comments

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US did not seek "confrontation" but Russia should hand over Mr Snowden. Correspondents say Mr Lavrov's comments suggest that Mr Snowden remained air-side after landing at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, and so has technically never entered Russian territory.

"We are in no way involved with either Mr Snowden, his relations with US justice, nor to his movements around the world," Mr Lavrov said. "He chose his itinerary on his own. We learnt about it… from the media. He has not crossed the Russian border.

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Rivers meets staff at workforce agency

| 25/06/2013 | 27 Comments

(CNS): Despite the distraction of the challenge to her eligibility to be elected to office, the new education and employment minister has begun visiting the departments under her remit earlier this month.  The first stop for Tara Rivers was the National Workforce Development Agency (NWDA) and the Department of Labour and Pensions (DLP), where she met the staff and discussed the day-to-day challenges that they face. “Prioritising the NWDA and DLP on my schedule reflects the importance that I place on dealing with labour related issues,” the minister said.  

She said her term would feature regularmeetings between the ministry and departments to identify needs, as well as to inform policy directives and discussions with Cabinet. “I want to ensure open communications as we work together to address any challenges that may emerge,” she explained. 

On the campaign trail getting Caymanians into jobs with liveable wages was a promise made by Rivers and her Coalition for Cayman colleagues. In the national plan published by the group, which denied it was a manifesto, the C4C promised to create a transparent work permit application system by improving the existing National Workforce Development Agency(NWDA) database to include all job vacancies, job seekers and social welfare recipients who are able to work. The C4C also committed to increasing the resources of the NWDA to address the needs of the job-seeking population.

 

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