Electric licensing clash heats up

The decision of the Electric Trade Licensing Board of Examiners to refuse seven applications submitted by Androgroup Ltd. with respect to UK electricians has riled the company’s managing director, Alan Roffey.

The applications, which were originally deferred, were refused at an ETLBE meeting last week because UK-trained electricians are licensed by a guild-like organisation, rather than a statutory body, as is required by Cayman’s Electric Law.

Chairman of the Licensing Board Rob Duty said the board had decided to follow the letter of the law.

‘Previous boards used a lot more discretion,’ he said. ‘I’m not saying they were wrong to do that, but we’re going to follow what the law says.’

Mr. Roffey believes the decision is unfair because many electricians have been licensed here in the past based on their licences issued in the UK

‘There is no good reason why the precedent of the last 17 years should be overturned because there has been a change in the membership of the Electric Licensing Board,’ he said.

‘The net effect of this failure to make a reasonable decision… is that UK-qualified electricians are prevented from working in the Cayman Islands because the present ELB does not consider them qualified under the Law.

‘The truth is that UK-trained electricians have formed the backbone of the [Cayman] industry since the arrival of Peter Phillips over 40 years ago,’ he said.

Mr. Roffey said he found it ironic that Kenny Hay, one of the members of the ETLBE, obtained is first licence in the Cayman Islands based on accreditation received through the UK system.

‘Mr. Hay himself would have been prevented from working in the Cayman Islands by this new ruling had Andro Electric Co. Ltd. not established the precedent back in 1986 so that he and a number of other UK-trained electricians who have made Cayman their home were qualified to work here,’ Mr. Roffey said.

Mr. Duty said the precedent did not change the board’s stance.

‘We cannot change what was already done,’ he said. ‘We’re going to follow the law.’

However, Mr. Duty said the board did recognise that the current law has problems, which is why it has begun a thorough review of the Electric Law.

‘We had the first meeting of the Electric Law and Regulations Review Committee last week,’ he said.

The review is likely to take several months, and it would then be up to the Cabinet to accept or refuse the board’s recommendations and enact any amending legislation.

‘We tried to set a date and we’d like to be finished with our part by the end of the year, but it’s a lot of work,’ Mr. Duty said.

Mr. Roffey questioned the need to review the law again, since it was just reviewed in 2004.

‘It’s still causing problems,’ Mr. Duty said, referring to the dilemma facing Androgroup Ltd.

While the board conducts the review, Mr. Roffey said his business is being affected, and noted that it took more than three months for the ETLBE to refuse the applications.

‘Androgroup Ltd. is damaged by the delay and it is damaged by the loss of time and expense it will take to challenge this decision.’

One of the challenges will come through the Office of Complaints Commissioner, with which Mr. Roffey has already filed a complaint concerning the matter.

Mr. Duty confirmed he had received a letter from the Complaints Commissioner and that after calling a board meeting to discuss how to respond, he was preparing to write a response this week.

Another possible recourse being considered by Androgroup is a judicial review of the ETLBE’s decision.

Mr. Roffey said that the ETLBE had members that were the principal owners of most of Androgroup Ltd.’s major competitors, and he wondered why Androgroup, as the largest electrical contractor on the island, did not have representation on the board through him.

Mr. Duty said Mr. Roffey would have to take that matter up with the Cabinet.

‘We are appointed by the Governor in Cabinet,’ he said. ‘We are not appointed by ourselves.’

Mr. Roffey said he intends to bring it to the attention of the Cabinet minister responsible that the ETLBE should not be made of up members who were active in the industry it is charged to regulate.

”These issues are actually about a standard of education,’ he said. ‘I have always held the view that the Electric Licensing Board should be put into the hands of education professionals such as those at the University College of the Cayman Islands.

‘The College should set and regulate the exams, grade the papers and decide who shall be licensed based on the results,’ he said.

‘Professional educators are also in a better position to research and find out which other education establishments throughout the world represent the standard to be licensed here.’

Mr. Duty also refuted any suggestion that the board’s decisions had anything to do with competitive jealousies. He noted that Androgroup Ltd. was not the only electrical contractor that had licence applications refused.

Since the Electric Law is not going to be changed anytime soon, and UK-trained electricians will not licensed in Cayman by the current ETLBE, Mr. Duty suggested what companies that need to hire foreign electricians could do.

‘They should find people from countries that issue licences through statutory bodies, like the United States and Canada,’ he said.

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