Archive for October 1st, 2014

Woman makes 11th hour plea in firearms case

| 01/10/2014 | 12 Comments

(CNS) Updated with amendments: A woman charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm made a last minute admission Wednesday and pleaded guilty to the offence two days after her trial was set to begin. Julia Lewis, from Prospect, who had previously denied the allegations entered a guilty plea after closed door legal arguments. Lewis was arrested in August 2013, along with two other men, following a single vehicle collision close to Countryside shopping village. At some point after the smash a .38 calibre handgun was found by police and Lewis was later charged with its possession. Lewis, who is the mother of two young children cried quietly in the dock as the court discussed extending her bail until the sentencing hearing on 9 October. However, the young mother was remanded in custody.

The law for possession on an unlicensed gun calls for a mandatary minimum sentence of ten years in prison after trial with a possible maximum reduction to seven years for a guilty plea. It is understood that Lewis’ defense attorney Nicholas Dixie will be arguing exceptional circumstances for his client during her sentencing hearing later this month.

The jury which had been selected Monday was dismissed by the judge following Lewis change of plea.

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CO gave nod for card use

| 01/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The former chief officer in charge of McKeeva Bush’s ministry when he served as premier gave the OK for the personal use of government credit cards on the basis that the money was paid back, a crown witness said Wednesday. As the trial of Cayman’s former premier over the abuse of a government credit card resumed, the court heard that Carson Ebanks gave the nod for Bush’s personal use of the card when the chief financial officer had queried the cash advances taken in casinos while he was traveling overseas. Josephine Sambula said that when she raised the matter with her boss, Ebanks told her that as long as the money was recouped there wasn’t a problem.

As the crown’s final live witness in the case against Bush gave her evidence, she said that she had thought it was "unusual” to see the cash withdrawals and had brought it to the attention of Ebanks. However, Sambula said that when she was told that it was not a problem, she did not raise the issue with the premier. Instead she had begun the system of sending memos to the then premier’s office with his credit card statements to ensure the money for any personal charges Bush may have incurred was collected, she confirmed.

When asked by the crown prosecutor, Duncan Penny QC, if she felt this meant that anything goes with regards to the cards, she said, “No, I wouldn’t say that”.

However, she said that when asked Bush had always paid promptly for what he owed, and although she was unaware that he was giving blank cheques to his staff to cover the expense, she was aware that he was paying back his credit card debts regularly. 

Sambula also confirmed that when she did the reconciliation in November 2012, when the investigation into the potential abuse of the card by Bush began, she found that the premier still owed over $9,000.

Asked about the missing cash, Sambula said she spoke with her deputy financial officer, who had sent emails and correspondence to Bush’s office in 2010 relating to the sum, but she admitted that it had not been followed up for some time. However, Sambula said that when she spoke to Bush directly about the outstanding sum, he immediately sent his driver to the bank, she told the court, and he returned with the cheque for the full amount.

During the course of her evidence Sambula also revealed that in April 2009, just before Bush was re-elected as government leader in May, she had sent a memo to all staff in April. In that memo she said she set out the policy regarding travel, hospitality, entertainment and credit card use for ministers and senior staff who were obliged to go overseas on government business.

The memo, which she said was widely disseminated, outlined the rules relating to what government would and would not pay for regarding expenses. She explained that it was drawn up as a result of the changes relating to the implementation of the Public Service Management Law.

The General Orders, which previously provided the guidelines for public servants in every aspect of their work, including travel and hospitality expenses, had been replaced with the personnel regulations. Sambula said the memo was to clarify the government policy in relation to expense claims. The memo included directions regarding credit card use, which set out that the government’s corporate credit cards were for official use only.

Asked why she had addressed the cards in the memo, she said it was because government “was trying to limit personal use” on the cards.

With a considerable amount of the crown’s evidence concentrated in documents and various facts agreed between the defence and the crown, Penny closed his case following Sambula’s evidence by listing and reviewing the admissions to the jury and a significant amount of documentation.

The case before the jury was adjourned until Friday, as both legal teams are expected to engage in further legal arguments on Thursday before Bush is given his opportunity, should he choose to take the stand or call any witnesses, to answer the charges.

Bush is accused of make numerous cash withdrawals on his government credit cards while gambling in casinos and faces eleven counts of misuse of the card. The former premier and now leader of the opposition has categorically denied the charges, calling them a political witch hunt and a conspiracy to oust him from office before the 2013 general election by the former governor and bureaucrats at the FCO.

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CIFA commits to training local coaches

| 01/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Football Association has said it is keen to fix what it describes as a shortcoming in local football by training and certifying coaches. Following a four day D License coaching course in the Cayman Islands held by CONCACAF and attended by 29 coaches, who are already involved at the club level, Bruce Blake said, “CIFA is committed to developing and certifying all coaches.” The recent course combined intensive classroom sessions with practical work on the field, focusing on coaching techniques for those instructing children aged 6-12.

“From volunteer to professional, every coach in the Cayman Islands, who is interacting with the youth, should know how to teach the game correctly,” said Blake. “This can only be achieved through proper training, certification, and assessment of our coaches.”

The course was conducted by CONCACAF instructors Lenny Lake from St Kitts & Nevis and Neil Ellis from the United States and centeredon creating engaging exercises that encourage greater participation in the game, while introducing fundamental technical skills.

“The instructors made us see football in a whole new light,” said George Thomas, who manages the Roma United Football Club. “The information enhanced our ability to teach our players and develop the right skills from a younger age.”

Gisela Gamba, player-coach with Sunset Football Club and Assistant National Women’s Coach added, “Anyone aspiring to become a coach should take at least one course. Every day I see people volunteering as coaches, they have the best intentions, but they don't have the basic understanding on how to coach young kids, or how to play football.”

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Bush trial to resume with remaining crown witnesses

| 01/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Following several days of closed door discussion between the legal teams, the trial of McKeeva Bush was expected to resume Wednesday morning in Grand Court 1. The opposition leader and former premier is facing 11 counts of abusing his government credit card by taking cash advances in casinos while gambling into the early hours. The crown is expected to call its remaining witnesses this week before completing the presentation of its case against the political veteran. Bush has denied the allegations and described the charges against him as a political witch hunt. Emails sent by the former governor have confirmed that Duncan Taylor was keen to see Bush’s political demise.

Despite acknowledging the use of the card in casinos, Bush insists there was no formal government policy to stop him from using it for personal reasons during the time in question. Civil service witnesses have also testified that Bush gave blank cheques to public servants in his office to ensure all his personal debts on the government card were covered.

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Chamber: CS can’t cut itself

| 01/10/2014 | 39 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce is calling on government to partner with private sector experts to implement the rationalisation of the civil service. In a long statement supporting the Ernst and Young report and the recommendations for government cuts, the Chamber Council said that it was concerned about conflicts of interest and suggested the civil service team wasn’t capable of carrying out the rationalisation. Chamber President Johann Moxam fell short of supporting all of the report’s recommendations, such as the privatization of schools, but the business representatives appear to be backing the idea put forward of a government fire sale.

“The Chamber supports the rationalisation of the public sector. Education and health care are large complex systems delivering services to various members ofthe public and are closely connected with multiple related services,” Moxam said. “Parts of education and parts of health care could be more efficient, outsourced or rationalised. However, without a full, specific and detailed privatisation model to consider, the Chamber cannot say that it categorically supports the wholesale privatisation of either health care or education. At this stage, more research and analysis will need to be undertaken.”

While the Chamber urged government to consider the 55 recommendations in the controversial EY report, the Chamber did not specify exactly what government entities should be the first on the auction block or how government should go about making the first transition. However the Chamber criticised government for putting civil servants in charge of implementing the changes.

“The Council questions the decision by government to assign a team of civil servants to lead the implementation of the recommendations that are to be accepted,” The Chamber stated in its long response to the report. “We are concerned by the potential conflicts of interest and whether the team will have the requisite change management skills required to carry out this challenging process. We would have preferred to see some independent private sector involvement that can offer relevant expertise in, or oversight of, the implementation process.”

The Chamber said creating a new department rather than simply outsourcing the implementation contradicts the aim of the report. “The implementation phase should not be led by bureaucrats who may lack the objectivity to guarantee the success of this initiative,” the Chamber stated.

A month after the report was delivered to Cabinet the government remains silent about the recommendations and early indications are that the PPM members of government are less than impressed with the $150,000 report. Despite claiming in-depth analysis and research, some of the suggestions appear vague and have little justification. Sources tell CNS that government is unlikely to adopt more than a few of the recommendations.

Nevertheless, the Chamber said it would be pressing government to find the political will which has been lacking in the past to implement the changes.

“We want a government that is fiscally responsible, accountable, and transparent with a clear plan for the future. We also want to ensure that we have the financial resources and reserves to invest in key infrastructure projects and to prioritise them accordingly,” the Chamber stated. “The Council supports measures to reduce the cost of government, improve performance and relate efficiencies, increase enforcement, privatise non-essential services, introduce and apply reasonable regulation and eliminate waste and unnecessary bureaucracy.”

The Chamber asked Cabinet to “be brave and bold” in the selection of recommendations to adopt.

“Evaluationof the recommendations should not be hindered by internal forces that may attempt to sabotage reform, to protect old and antiquated systems or to centralise power or to build up internal empires,” the Chamber added in its response to the EY report. .

But with significant numbers of civil service jobs at risk, many unrealistic recommendations and significant unintended consequences associated with them, government is likely to find a lack of support not just in the public sector, but in the wider community for the vast majority of the 55 recommendations. Privatizing schools, giving health care debts to collection agencies, charging full fair for Cayman Airways flights or selling crown land may not all find favour with the public and selling the Turtle Farm or Radio Cayman may be easier recommended than done.

See Chamber response in full below.

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