Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and Cayman Islands Auditor General Dan Duguay both said Friday that police should investigate debt financing arrangements that were made for the Boatswain’s Beach project.
Mr. Tibbetts made a request to Governor Stuart Jack last week urging him to order the probe.
In an e-mailed statement, the Governor’s office said Mr. Jack had already spoken to Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan about the matter.
‘The RCIPS (Royal Cayman Islands Police Service) are currently looking to see whether there are grounds for an investigation,’ the statement read.
A recent report from Mr. Duguay’s office stated more than half of the US $2.8 million paid to companies that helped arrange the project’s financing had little or no value to Cayman Islands residents (see Caymanian Compass, 10 July).
Mr. Kernohan confirmed RCIPS was reviewing the Auditor General’s report.
Mr. Tibbetts called the issue a matter of national importance.
‘This report…is the most recent and perhaps the most damning report in a growing body of evidence of maladministration by the former Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush and his UDP government over the period Nov. 2001 to May 2005,’ Mr. Tibbetts said during a Friday press briefing.
Mr. Duguay said he had difficulty thinking of any situation that showed ‘such a cavalier attitude toward the expenditure of such funds’ in almost 30 years of government auditing. On Friday, the Auditor General said he would write Commissioner Kernohan to ask the RCIPS Financial Crimes Unit to look into the issue.
‘We feel that, where there’s any concerns like this, we would rather that it go to the police,’ Mr. Duguay said in a telephone interview Friday.
Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush has previously defended the financing arrangements for the Boatswain’s Beach project, also known as the Cayman Turtle Farm (see Compass, 13 July).
‘I have absolutely nothing to hide,’ Mr. Bush said in the Friday article.
‘All matters relating to the financing were dealt with by the then-board of directors, of which I was chairman,’ Mr. Bush said in a prepared statement that was released Wednesday. ‘During this entire process the board of directors maintained the highest standards of transparency, sound corporate governance and at all times utilising the necessary professional and legal counsel to ensure that all matters relating to this financing were dealt with correctly.’
Repeated calls to Mr. Bush were not returned Friday. An employee at the West Bay MLA office said the opposition leader was off island and not due to return until this coming Thursday.
Speaking at Friday’s press conference, Mr. Tibbetts sought to widen the concern about how Mr. Bush’s administration handled financial details of several high-dollar matters.
‘The Auditor General carried out three audits on the Affordable Housing Initiative…a special report on the Cayman Islands government’s property insurance settlement with Cayman General, a special report on the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal….and this most recent special report…for Boatswain’s Beach,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘In each of the cases mentioned above, the AG determined that there was significant departure from the principles of good governance.’
Mr. Tibbetts said the consequences of what he called ‘gross maladministration’ were both ‘grave and very tangible.’
‘The actions of Mr. Bush and his government cost this country millions of dollars in unwarranted expenditure, money which would otherwise be available to fund many of the projects, which this country so desperately needs.’
Mr. Duguay declined to comment on Mr. Tibbetts’ statements.
‘Making a conclusion based on all these reports is not really my role,’ he said.
In Friday’s front-page article, commenting on the Turtle Farm financing arrangements, Mr. Bush said other people on the board of directors were authorised to ‘handle all aspects of the financing with no direct involvement of myself in the process.’
Another member of that board was Tourism Minister Charles Clifford, then the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Tourism.
He has a different recollection.
‘I am very familiar with what happened on the Turtle Farm board, and there were clearly some very reputable individuals on those boards who had some very clear opinions,’ Mr. Clifford said Friday. ‘But you get down to the personalities, in the case of the Turtle Farm and the Port Authority, the personality of the chairman. And of course, the same was true with respect to the housing trust.
‘There was a reason (those ministers) sat as chairpersons of those boards…because they wanted to direct those decisions. And they did so.’
Several elected Cabinet members on Friday agreed there should be greater accountability generally for both current and former public officials in cases like the Boatswain’s Beach financing situation.
‘The Auditor General’s terms of reference are limited to determining whether the government received value for money,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘We understand that in circumstances such as these, barring the discovery of criminal offences, the options for holding public officials…accountable are limited under the current systems and constitutional framework.’
Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said there were two main issues of concern. First is the length of time police investigations take; second is holding public officials accountable for acts of maladministration, which fall short of being criminal in nature.
For example, Mr. Tibbetts said the Auditor General had referred certain details concerning his review of the Cayman Islands Affordable Housing Initiative to the RCIPS for further investigation. Friday, police said that investigation was still on-going.
‘We are gravely concerned at this apparent inordinate delay in resolving this matter and have conveyed this concern to His Excellency, the Governor,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.
‘Investigations of this nature are extremely complex and can be time-consuming,’ said RCIPS spokesperson Deborah Denis. ‘While the evidence gathering process cannot be rushed, we are hoping it will conclude shortly.’
In cases that do not involve alleged criminal acts, Mr. McLaughlin said the Auditor General can bring problems to light, and the Public Accounts Committee can publicly censure officials. But he said the process should go further, and needs to be permanently established in the constitution.
‘Allow the system – not the new administration who everyone will say has a beef with the last administration – to hold accountable those who misuse government funds, or who are guilty of maladministration,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘If we don’t do that…you can rob the country blind as long as you do it in a way which is incapable of being proven in a criminal court.’