Today’s Editorial February 26: The danger of secrets

In the absence of knowledge, people throughout history have invented notions of understanding the world around them.

It is also true that when knowledge is purposefully kept from people, like when governments keep secrets, human nature tends to make them assume the worst.

It should come as no surprise then that two decisions made in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan by the former administration have caused much controversy.

Those decisions, one to award the debris removal contract to MC Restoration and the other concerning the negotiated settlement of the government’s insurance claim with Cayman General Insurance, have both become the subject of special reports by the Auditor General.

Key details of both decisions were kept hidden from the public – at least officially – for long periods of time, leading to all sorts of conjecture and conspiracy theories.

The fact that the Auditor General’s investigations uncovered nothing to support many of the suggestions has not stopped people from continuing to look at both decisions with a great deal of scepticism.

Indeed, the Auditor General found that government did receive good value for money with the MC Restoration contract, even though it might have been able to receive better value for money by awarding the contract to another company.

And while the Auditor General believes the government did not receive good value for money in the Cayman General settlement, the reasons given in response to the report by the government at least show the decision defensible. The Auditor General even states in the report that in the final analysis, he believes the government made a business decision based on what it perceived was the best interests of the country.

There’s an important lesson to be learned in this by the former government, the current government and all future governments of the Cayman Islands: It pays to be open about your contracts.

Had both the MC Restoration and Cayman General Insurance contracts been made public from the start, neither issue would have turned the rumour mill quite as hard and led to a lot of false claims.

In the case of the CGI contract, government was precluded from saying anything about the deal because of a confidentiality clause, something that extremely concerns the Auditor General.

It concerns us too because such clauses work against everything the government is trying to accomplish with the Freedom of Information initiative.

Like the Auditor General, we call on all members of the Legislative Assembly to act in forbidding confidentiality clauses in government contracts. Not only is it in the public’s best interest, it is in their own best interest as well.

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