Independent members put pressure on officials

| 10/06/2014

(CNS): The PPM government has three weeks to go before its appropriations from the current 2013/14 financial year end but it is making slow progress towards the full passage of its new budget. Finance Committee chair Marco Archer has cut out the long lunches and has members following his stringent time keeping but his efforts are up against some intense scrutiny coming from the opposition benches. The independent members for East End and North Side, in particular, are pressing officials for details on almost every line of the budget, ensuring spending plans for the more than half a billion dollars of public money are aired and the cash justified. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

Finance Committee began on Thursday of last week, but so far appropriations for just one of government’s nine ministries and portfolios have been completed and a second one close to the end.

MLAs spent two days scrutinizing the premier’s Home and Community Affairs Ministry last week before work began on the planning minister’s appropriations on Monday. Despite working for some ten hours, the committee did not complete Kurt Tibbetts’ ministry and will still need to deal with his equity investments and transfer payments when the committee reconvenes Wednesday after the break Tuesday for Cabinet.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and his West Bay CDP (former UDP) colleagues, as well as Independent MLAs Arden McLean and Ezzard Miller and even some of the government’s own back-benchers have been probing officials about what the appropriations are for and the success of government programmes and asking ministers about the policies in the various departments that fall under their responsibility.

Miller told CNS there were two main reasons why it was important that members of the Legislative Assembly quiz the ministers and their civil servants over the allocation of public cash.

“It is the one and only time per year that we, as representatives, get an opportunity to ask questions about the government’s programmes and what they are supposed to be doing,” Miller said.

He explained that although government may be trying to rush the process because they left it so late to bring the budget, members had a duty to continue the scrutiny.

“The public has a right to know these details and unless you are familiar or know your way around the more than 250-page documents it is hard to determine what the appropriations represent,” he said, as he confirmed that he along with other members would continue the detailed questioning of government.

The UDP government changed the Public Management and Finance Law in 2010 to remove the April deadline for the delivery of the budget to the parliament, facilitating some 11th hour budgets and cutting back on the time left for Finance Committee to question government’s spendingplans. 

Several times during the previous administration the committee sat into the small hours of the morning in the wake of the budget delivery. This led to many members missing the opportunity to grill those who are responsible for spending tax-payers money as they refuse to sit at two and three in the morning. Since taking up the post of finance minister, however, Archer is running the committee more efficiently but by doing so he has provided members with a more convenient opportunity than his predecessor did to probe civil servants and the Cabinet members.

The Finance Committee is expected to reconvene on Wednesday at 10am in the Legislative Assembly with the last few appropriations for the planning and agriculture ministry. Following that Osbourne Bodden, the minister of health and the man responsible for the dump, along with his staff will be taking the hot seat.

The proceedings are being aired live on the government TV channel CIGTV and being rebroadcast in the evenings on Radio Cayman.

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  1. Grateful says:

    Thanks Ezzard and Arden. Keep up the pressure. This hopefully will keep them honest. We need that so badly.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am all for transparency, and this scrutiny will take alot of time to complete. however, do I expect the doodling duo of Miller and McLean to complain at the end of the budget-scrutiny process that the Government took soooo long to complete the entire budget process? Yes, I do.


    If they do, then Miller and McLean both need what Ellio got! A Slap-Wap-Bap to the Trap.

  3. Anonymous says:

    scrutinize everything, especially Ministry of tourism budget that thing is inflated

  4. Anonymous says:

    I feel so much better now, not.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank God Cayman has Ezzard and Arden fighting to protect Caymanians the rest have sold us out

  6. Anon says:

    There are about 40 people at planning of which about 6 staff work more than 20 hours per week. FACT!

    • Hey nonny nonny mouse says:

      Poor planning then.

    • Anon-you-must says:

      It's not just planning! This goes on in every Department and Authority in Government! And just so there's no confusion, those who commit these acts are not persons in the lower echelons of these departments, but those that are being paid outrageously high salaries. SHAME SHAME!