Archive for October 21st, 2014

CIG accounts mess rolls on

CIG accounts mess rolls on

| 21/10/2014 | 112 Comments

(CNS): The auditor general has focused his concern on two ministries, which have failed to account for more than one billion dollars, in his latest report the ongoing mis-management of public finances and the appalling state of government’s accounts. Alastair Swarbrick said the Ministry of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture has never produced a reliable or credible set of accounts since the introduction of the Public Management and Finance Law while the Finance, Tourism and Development Ministry has failed to account for a broad variety of transactions, calling into question the capabilities of the management and finance staff in that ministry.

Examining in particular the financial years ending 2011 and 2012, he said that the audits of the ministries have raised “significant concerns about the governance and internal control environment.”

With poor controls, a disregard for procurement rules, poor bank reconciliations, inappropriate authorization of invoices, a lack of management review and the writing off of large account balances without approval, he said that the managers in these ministries have no reliable information on which to make informed decisions, legislators have no assurances that the resources they approve are being used as intended and the public remains in the dark about how millions and millions of dollars have been spent over the years.

“Ultimately there has been no accountability for around $1 billion of public funds in these two ministries and a significant increase in the risk of waste, misuse or abuse of public funds,” he said.

Reluctant in the pas, to point the finger publicly at the real problem, Swarbrick has now stated that the incompetence of civil servants tasked with dealing with the management of public cash and the mismanagement by their bosses is one of the major reasons for the appalling state of affairs that remains regarding public finances.

He said the financial management problems are indicative of the failure to ensure competent people and practices are in place.

“The lack of due regard for reasonable controls and the number of transgressions of the laws has led me to conclude that management in certain ministries and portfolios have not discharged their duties to ensure appropriate practices are implemented to protect public funds and that they have disregarded their responsibilities to comply with Cayman Islands laws,” Swarbrick stated in the most damning indictment from the independent public auditor to date.

In the report, which is now a public document, the audit team found a staggering amount of problems with the ministry of the former premier, McKeeva Bush, headed up by Stran Bodden, Sonia McLaughlin and Kenneth Jefferson for the audit periods that the office examined.

“The significance and sheer volume of the matters identified provide clear evidence of significant weaknesses in the inter control environment providing opportunities for mismanagement and abuse of public funds,” the auditors stated in their governance report for the years ending June 2011 and June 2012.

Meanwhile, at District Administration, which was Juliana O’Connor Connolly’s ministry headed up by Kearney Gomez and then Alan Jones during the period in question, the auditors found many similar problems. An absence of information and evidence has essentially prevented the office from reaching any kind of opinion about the accounts or agree that any claims made by the ministry about their accounts were fairly stated.

While Swarbrick focused on the particular problems of these two ministries, he also found a litany of problems with many other ministries and portfolios. Although there were some improvements in the public accounts and efforts to get some form of financial records to his office on time for audit, the quality still leaves much to be desired. Swarbrick noted that the improvements are against the backdrop of the truly dire circumstances that existed a few years ago when ministries were simply failing to do their accounts at all.

However, aside from the continuing problems of government entities simply not having the people in place that can manage the books, Swarbrick’s team found other major management system problems that are contributing to the poor accounting standards and enormous risk of abuse to public funds.

“There continues to be a lack of due regard by senior officials for ensuring that appropriate systems are in place, exposing public funds to risks of waste and misuse,” Swarbrick stated as he pointed the finger at all of government’s chief executive officers and chief financial officers. The auditor urged the members of the Legislative Assembly to act promptly to ensure senior officials do something to mitigate the potential abuse to tax payers' money.

Check back to CNS later for more on the auditor’s latest damning review of the ongoing financial mismanagement in government.

See the financial and performance reporting from ministries, portfolios and offices for the years ending 30 June 2011 and 30 June 2012, report below

Continue Reading

Cruise ship cleared by CDC back at sea

Cruise ship cleared by CDC back at sea

| 21/10/2014 | 9 Comments

(CNS): The Carnival Magic cruise ship has been cleared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and is expected back in Cayman later this week. The ship, which regularly calls on Grand Cayman as part of its cruising itinerary hit the international news headlines last week when it was revealed that a Texas lab technician who had handled Ebola medical samples was aboard. The woman has since tested negative for the virus and was isolated in her cruise ship Cabin for most of her trip. The Carnival cruise ship had left Galveston before the technician was aware she needed to be tested and quarantined.

The CDC released a statement Sunday after reviewing all of the evidence relating to the passenger and said that, “No passengers or crew were exposed to Ebola on the ship.” The CDC added that “the ship was safe to use” with no need to screen passengers. The ship was also sanitized before leaving Texas at the weekend and it is now expected to arrive in the Cayman Islands on Thursday, as scheduled. CDC also confirmed that the lab technician’s Ebola test was negative

The deputy premier and minister of tourism, Moses Kirkconnell said he was pleased the tests on the healthcare worker had returned as negative meaning that neither the ship nor its passengers had been exposed to the virus as originally feared. During the cruise the ship had been declined entry into both Belize and Mexico when the news came from CDC that the technician who may have been exposed to the virus was on-board.

“Although this particular incident has been satisfactorily resolved, I would like to reassure the public that the Cayman Islands remains on high alert concerning the Ebola Virus and all of the relevant stakeholders and agencies are taking precautionary measures to ensure that our Islands are protected from exposure and remain free of the virus,” said the Minister. \\
“In the case of the Carnival Magic, both the Galveston Country Health District (GCHD) and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control have issued public health advisories confirming that the ship poses no threat to passengers and the vessel has been cleared to continue its normal schedule.

“Additionally, even though no requirement for specialised cleaning was imposed on Carnival, the ship has been thoroughly sanitized out of an abundance of caution prior to commencing its next voyage.”

Officials said the tourism ministry had remained in close contact with Carnival for updates on the situation and received assurances from the cruise line that as well as monitoring the health and safety of its passengers the health and well-being of the citizens at the cruise destinations it calls on were also being considered.

Kirkconnell said the cruise line has stated that as an additional precautionary measure, enhanced mandatory screening has been introduced for all passengers, visitors and crews boarding its vessels.

“All guests are required to submit to a series of health screening and travel history questions prior to embarkation and, if deemed necessary, will undergo further medical screening before being allowed to board,” the minister stated as a result of his communication with Carnival. “With these safeguards in place we are as confident as we can be about the safety of the ship and should have nothing to fear from welcoming the passengers and crew to our shores,” he added.

Prior to the United States reporting its first case of Ebola in September, government officials from 13 agencies in the Cayman Islands were already working together to mitigate against the threat of the virus entering our shores, officials stated in a release Tuesday.

However, it was clear from a recent public meeting held by the public health department that Cayman does not yet have a prepared or coordinated plan on how it will deal with screening or quarantining and treating anyone that may arrive in Cayman who has the virus.

Nevertheless, the health minister added that the necessary government agencies were collaborating on a plan. 

“I would like to reassure the public that we are taking all precautions for border control, and measures to combat potential risk will remain in place for as long as is necessary to ensure our Ports of entry are protected,” Osbourne Bodden said, as he thanked Dr Kumar and his team at Public Health and Deputy Chief Immigration Officer, for their hard work as well as Bruce Smith and his team from Immigration.

“We trust that our efforts will pay off, and these islands will not have to test the many protocols that have been put in place, in conjunction with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and others,” he added hopefully. 

He said that the public will continue to receive periodic updates on the global and regional situations regarding the threat of Ebola, as well as the Cayman Islands’ readiness to cope with any local outbreak.

Meanwhile, according to the latest international reports while Nigeria has managed to contain the virus and halt its potential spread in that country, things in Sierra Leone are getting worse as the number of people infected with Ebola, on the other side of the country from where the first cases emerged, is soaring with more than 20 deaths daily.

Hospitals in all of the countries treating patients infected with the deadly, contagious disease are facing mounting challenges dealing with the infected waste generated by sick patients.  Patients generate a staggering amount of what is hazardous material daily, with experts suggesting it amounts to eight 55 gallon barrels of dangerous medical material per patient per day.

A Spanish nurse who was infected while treating a patient in a Madrid hospital has now been given the all clear and has recovered from the disease. While another nurse infected in Texas is said to be doing well in her recovery at a specialized unit near Atlanta. She was one of two nurses infected while treating Thomas Eric Duncan who died last week.


Continue Reading

Armed robbery suspect arrested in GT

Armed robbery suspect arrested in GT

| 21/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Police have arrested one man in connection with an armed robbery which occurred at a West Bay Road restaurant last week. An RCIPS spokesperson said that a 34 year old male from George Town was taken into custody by officers at 8:45pm on Monday evening (20 October) for questioning over the stick-up at Coconut Joe’s bar and restaurant last Thursday, in which money was stolen from both the restaurant and customers after two masked robbers threatened staff and patrons with a hand gun.

The police said the suspect remains in custody as detectives from the GTPS – CID continue with their enquiries and seek the second culprit in at least one of a list of recent armed robberies.

Anyone with information is asked to contact George Town CID on 949-4222, the RCIPS tip-line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers on 800 8477(TIPS).

Continue Reading

$1Billion unaccounted for

$1Billion unaccounted for

| 21/10/2014 | 101 Comments

(CNS): Two ministries are, between them, unable to account for more than $1billion of public money as a result of the continued failure of the financial management systems, abuse and incompetence, says the office of the auditor general. Despite claims of improvement, government accounts remain in a mess when it comes to accounting for the almost ¾ of a billion dollars it costs to run government and its authorities each year. But the latest revelations show that the ministries of tourism and district administration, in particular, have an appalling record of mismanagement and potential abuse over the last seven years, failing to account for the whopping sum.

Check back to CNS later today for more on the government’s accounting situation and details of the auditor’s reports released today.

See related full story here

Continue Reading

Hospital aims to test all seniors for stroke risk

Hospital aims to test all seniors for stroke risk

| 21/10/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): In a major health research project doctors at the Shetty hospital in East end are aiming to test 3000 people over the age of 65 in Cayman to assess and help treat their risk of stroke as well as collect enough clinical data for a medical study on the subject of Atrial Fibrillation or arrhythmia. The project was formerly launched at Health City Cayman on Monday when around 30 over 65s were tested using high tech equipment following an explanation of the project by Dr Irka Ebanks, who will be leading the research study and screenings. The study, the Cayman Islands Atrial Fibrillation for Elderly (CAFE) is the first of its kind in the Caribbean and will deal with both risk and treatment.

Commonly known as Afib the condition is an irregular, erratic or fast paced heart beat which allows blood to accumulate in the lower chambers of the heart because. This can lead to clotting and the clots can enter the blood stream and reach the brain causing a stroke. Although medical experts do not know what causes the problem they know that certain circumstances can place people at high risk.

Those risk factors include; if a person is aged over 65, if they suffer from high blood pressure, if they have coronary artery disease, heart failure, valvular heart disease or congenital heart disease. Other risk factors include if a person suffers from sleep apnoea, hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone), obesity or diabetes. In addition, if they suffer from lung disease, have a family history of Afib or have a history of smoking and alcohol abuse, then they are more likely to suffer from Afib.

Dr Ebanks said it was extremely important to screen people because in many people, AFib does not cause obvious warning signs.

“When symptoms do occur, they often include palpitations, chest pain/tightness, dizziness, breathlessness, fatigue or lack of energy,” she said. “These symptoms do not always immediately indicate Afib, so screening people means patients themselves may be better equipped to understand the warning signs and at the same time we will have the information we need to help diagnose the condition quickly. Speed is of the essence in such a case: the sooner a patient receives medical care following a stroke the better the prognosis.”

There are millions of people around the world with Afib, with 2010 estimated numbers globally running at 33.5 million for men and 12.6 million for women, so it is a huge problem world-wide.

Following the launch on Monday screenings will be held at the hospital over the next few weeks and doctors will also be going into the community to test as many of the 3000 people here aged 65 and over as possible, in order to get enough information to support any research conclusions.

The hospital is urging all seniors or anyone who may have other risk factors to join in the study. The non-invasive testing is being done using Ipad app technology as well as an EKG and simply reads pulse vibrations, and takes under10 minutes to complete.
For more information call 1 (345) 945-4040 or visit


Continue Reading

Stabbing trial opens on Brac

Stabbing trial opens on Brac

| 21/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The prosecution witnesses called so far in the trial of Katie Jo Powell (26) for the attempted murder of Yves Anthony De la Torre (29) have given the court wildly different accounts of what happened in the early hours of 20 April 2013, when the victim was stabbed in the neck, face, chest and both hands. The narrative given by the first four witnesses, all friends of the defendant, were very similar, but did not support the crown’s case that Powell attacked the victim and tried to kill him. It was “not her personality”, said one of the young women called by prosecutor Neil Kumar. De la Torre, the crown’s key witness, maintained that none of the four friends were there when he was stabbed, and said he believed he was going to die that night.

In the Grand Court trial, which began on Monday on Cayman Brac, Kerry Christian, Janice Webb and Amanda Jacobs all testified that they had been out to the Coral Isle Club, located on the south side of the island, on the night of Friday 19 April 2013 and stayed until after the bar closed at 2:00 Saturday morning. Michelle Hunter was also at the bar, Christian said, talking to a guy from Grand Cayman, and “the tattoo boy” (De la Torre).

Janna Parchment asked if they could give her a ride home in the white van driven by Webb and also if they could pick up Powell and her boyfriend, Randy Dixon, who were outside Big Daddy’s liquor store, which is just across the road.

By everyone’s account, Dixon was very drunk. Jacobs said that he had passed out on the ground outside Big Daddy’s. She got out to help him into the car because he couldn’t walk properly.

When they got to the house where Powell was living at the time, next to Tip Top Boutique and opposite the West End Primary School, Christian said she saw two people at the back of the house and told Webb it looked like Hunter and “the tattoo fella”.

Powell, Dixon and Parchment all got out, according to the friends’ account. Jacobs also got out of the van to help Dixon into the house and, she told the court, she saw Michelle Hunter sitting on a seat with her head in her hand next to De la Torre. She did not look sober and was “not completely here”, Jacobs said. She asked Hunter if she was OK and Hunter mumbled a reply, but Webb, who was still in the van, honked the car horn to indicate that she was leaving, and they and Christian left.

In her evidence, Parchment added the detail, not mentioned by the others, that De la Torre and Hunter were both naked. When they asked Hunter, who was “completely out of it”, whathad happened, she didn’t reply but De la Torre said that they had “just got through having sex”, Parchment said. She and Powell found Hunter’s clothes, helped her put them back on and got her into the house.

Powell asked De la Torre to leave, she said, but he just laughed and said he wasn’t doing anything wrong and he was going to stay there that night.

“What the fxxx are you still doing in my yard? Get the fxxx out of my yard!” Powell yelled at him, according to Parchment, who maintained that between them she and Powell told De la Torre to leave that night “about a hundred times”.

Powell then picked up a knife “to scare him off”, said Parchment, who, although she did not actually see this, said she “heard the knife move off the table”. She said that De la Torre grabbed Powell’s hand to try to pry the knife away from her, but she jerked it away.

At this point she went back inside the house to see what Dixon was doing because he was “making a noise”. When she came back outside she saw that De la Torre had gripped Powell’s arms and she was trying to shove him away. They told him again to leave and this time he did, Parchment said, but when asked by the prosecution, said she did not see any blood on him at that time.

They did not call the police because they did not have any credit on their phones, she said. After this incident she went home but later Powell messaged her to say that someone was trying to break into the house. However, it turned out that it was not De la Torre but Hunter, who was somehow outside again.

De la Torre gave a very different account. After his friend Aaron was arrested for drinking and driving on the way home from Barracudas bar, where they gone after they left the Coral Isle, he and Hunter, who had been passed out in the back seat, were stranded. He could only make phone calls where there was Wi-Fi as his phone was registered in the US and so could not call anyone for help.

He said they were trying to get to Spot Bay. Aaron, he said, had been taken away in one police car but an officer in the second police car offered to drive them there. However, instead of doing so, De la Torre said, he dropped them off in front of Powell’s house, possibly because she and Hunter were friends. However, De la Torre did not want to be there, he said, because he and Dixon had issues.

He said Hunter started to stumble towards the house. A black car pulled up with no lights on, he told the court, and someone asked for a cigarette. He walked towards the car because he thought he had some left but it was just an empty packet in his pocket. But as he was walking away, he heard the car door slam and saw Powell running at him screaming about him “ratting on her baby daddy (Dixon) and something to do with her brother”, De la Torre said.

Powell grabbed his shirt, he said, and told him that if he didn’t get out she would stab him. As he walked away, De la Torre said he was stabbed in the neck. As he turned left, she stabbed him in the left side of the chest, he said. Powell then slashed his face as she was swinging the knife upwards, he told the court. He grabbed the knife and the whole of his thumb was cut.

Bleeding from the wounds, he started walking towards his mother’s house on the south side in Danzler Crescent, he said. On the way he passed out twice, once at Tortuga Liquor store and once at Big Daddy’s. Because he thought he was going to die, he recorded what had happened to him on his phone as he walked, he said.

De la Torre told the court that he started walking between 11:30 pm Friday night and midnight and reached his mother’s house at about 4:30 Saturday morning, where his mother and grandmother tended his wounds and called 911.

When asked by defence attorney John Furniss, De la Torre adamantly denied all details of the evidence given by Powell’sfriends. The young women were all equally adamant under cross examination that they had not seen  De la Torre by the side of the road when they dropped Powell off or that she had run at him screaming.

The medical report indicated that De la Torre had lacerations to his neck and face and a deep laceration to his upper chest and wounds to both hands and his thumb. The doctor who examined him said that his condition was not serious and he was discharged the day after being admitted to hospital.

Powell is also charged with the lesser offence of maliciously wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. The judge-alone trial continues Tuesday before Justice Charles Quin.

Continue Reading

Cayman Speaker loses out in CPA chair elections

Cayman Speaker loses out in CPA chair elections

| 21/10/2014 | 36 Comments

(CNS): Juliana O’Connor-Connolly was pipped at the post in a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) vote earlier this month when she was in Cameroonfor the recent 60th General Assembly meeting of the association. In a closed door head-to-head vote Shirin-Sharmin-Chowdhurry was elected the new chair of the CPA’s Executive Committee, the first Bangladeshi to take up the role with the organisation that promotes parliamentary democracy across the Commonwealth. Chowdhurry, who is the Speaker of Jatiyo Sangshad, the Bangladesh Parliament, defeated Cayman’s speaker by just three votes.

O’Connor-Connolly, who has served an elected member for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman since 1996, had a brief stint as Cayman’s second premier in 2013, making her the first woman in that job. She also has a long history as Cayman’s representative to the CPA, travelling around the world for the meetings.

However, with 67 votes to Chowdhurry’s 70, she narrowly lost out in the ballot. The Bangladeshi speaker replaces Alan Haselhurst, a member of the United Kingdom’s House of Commons, and will serve for the next three years as the chair of the 35 member committee. Out of the total 321 votes, 137 voters from 175 members of the association turned up at the general assembly, which is the body authorised to elect the chair.

O’Connor-Connolly, who was nominated to run on behalf of the region by her Caribbean parliamentary association colleagues, had said ahead of her trip to Africa, “I look forward to going with great anticipation to Cameroon, knowing I will be the candidate of the Caribbean. If successful, I will work diligently throughout the duration of the term to ensure that the Caribbean will continue in its rich heritage of transparency and accountability.”

Continue Reading

Cops charge machete wielding suspect

Cops charge machete wielding suspect

| 21/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 27 year old George Town man is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday following an attempted robbery in the early hours of Sunday morning in Shedden Road. He has been formally charged for carrying an offensive weapon and causing fear and provocation with threats of violence after his failed attempted to rob a man at a social gathering in the capital while wielding a machete. Although no one was injury by the suspect his victim suffered a heart attack in the immediate wake of the incident and is currently being treated at the Shetty hospital in East End.

Continue Reading

Haines hopes for touch of Irish luck in run #5

Haines hopes for touch of Irish luck in run #5

| 21/10/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): Despite a troubling, swollen ankle, Cayman’s veteran marathon runner Derek Haines has said he is in good shape and confident of finishing the next race in his incredible marathon challenge for the local hospice. Haines, who will turn 66 years of age just five days before he competes in his fifth marathon of the year, in Ireland, is hoping for a touch of Irish luck to push the total pledged to build a residential care facility for Cayman Hospice past $800,000. Haines will run his penultimate pavement pounder in the six races for the year on Monday 27 October. The public is being urged to help carry him through to his ultimate $1m target with their support especially as this month has been declared ‘Derektober’.

To date Haines has made some impressive times in his first four marathons and no matter what he records on the clock in Dublin, it will be a personal best for him at age 66. However, he will still have chance to beat his time in December when he will be running on home turf for the final 26 plus mile race of what has so far proved to be an awesome challenge.

Haines’ Six4hospice has won the admiration and respect of the community and people have been digging deep to help him raise what is a lot of cash. This month Jacques Scott open their Cocktail week with a Jame Bond 'Shaken not Stirred' night at the Grand Old House with $50 from the $75 going to the fund. Also Blackbeards and Big Daddy's are donating a percentage of their takings during ‘Derektober’.

The 35th Dublin marathon will be a cool change for Haines who does his training in the tropical sunshine as the temperature is expected to be around 12 – 14°C (53 – 57°F) with a light drizzle according to weather experts. The course is a largely flat, single lap, running through the historic Georgian streets of the Irish capital.  It starts on Fitzwilliam Square, heads out of town through the Phoenix Park and then south across the river taking in Bushy Park and UCD before finishing on Merrion Square.

Grateful to everyone who has backed him, Haines said people can make a donation and keep an eye on the fundraising progress on the web site and to follow him in next Monday’s race visit

Continue Reading

CIG on track to pass targets

CIG on track to pass targets

| 21/10/2014 | 36 Comments

(CNS): Government earnings were over $2.5 million more than expected and spending was down $5.5million less than projected in the first quarter of the 2014/15 financialyear. As a result the public purse is on target for a major surplus at the end of this year if government can keep spending down and the economy growing. Already aiming to have almost $121 million left next June when it has paid all its bills government may do even better as it battles to reach the FCO’s aggressive targets to ensure Cayman gets back on track with the management of public finances and debt ratios. With no new debt being incurred central government will repay $25.4 million off is debt load before the year end and it is also expecting to cut overdraft interest and fees to zero.

“At 30 September, 2014, the Government's Operating Bank account balances totalled $67.1 million and the Government is confident those balances will remain positive throughout the entire fiscal year,” the premier announced recently, when he reviewed the country’s finances in his state of the nation address.

Crediting his finance minister who is in charge of the public purse strings, Alden McLaughlin said Cayman was lucky to have the “skill and zeal” of Marco Archer was creating confidence in the economy. “Investors like certainty, and Minister Archer has certainly brought this to the management of the public finances,” McLaughlin said, adding that it was no mean feat to achieve Budget approval from by the FCO on first submission

Meanwhile, the statutory authorities and government-owned companies also enjoyed a positive first quarter of the year collectively experienced an operating surplus of $1.7 million, a million dollars more than expected.

McLaughlin said government has worked hard every day since being returned to office some 18 months ago, to restore stability to the country and the economy.

“Our economic policies are working and the economic indices are pointing to encouraging growth,” McLaughlin claimed. 

With overall economic activity in Cayman Islands growing by an estimated 2.2 per cent in the first six months of 2014 he said that in the first quarter, the GDP grew by 1.5 per cent while during the second it is estimated to be at 3.3 per cent. “The growth rates are the strongest estimated so far for the country during the post-2008 global financial crisis period,” the premier stated.

He added that economic growth had occurred in several sectors including wholesale and retail trade; hotels and restaurants; transport storage and communication; real estate, renting, business activities; and construction.


Continue Reading