More government oversight sought

Constitutional review

The government’s constitutional reform plan would create a new oversight board to police public corruption, as well as permanently establish another watchdog group within the Cayman Islands governing document.

The Commission for Standards in Public Life would be designed to ensure the prevention of conflict of interest or corruption.

‘The commission should immediately assist the drafting of a law to impose sanctions on any minister or public official who employs his or her power — for the purpose of obtaining or conferring any material benefit or advantage for the private gain of any minister or public official,’ according to the government’s constitutional modernisation plan.

The commission would supervise registers of interest and conduct investigations into dishonest or corrupt practices.

Currently there are no clear regulations, beyond what exist in the penal code, which set out punishment for corruption or improper influence peddling by public officials in Cayman.

It’s not clear who will sit on the five person commission, but it’s proposed the chairperson and four other members would be appointed by the governor. At least one member would be required to have accounting experience; another would need to be an experienced lawyer.

The government also plans to enshrine the group currently known as the Human Rights Committee into the constitution, making it the Human Rights Commission.

The Human Rights Commission would act, much as the committee does today, as an advocate for those with credible complaints about human rights breaches.

In addition, the government wants to provide constitutional backing for the key responsibilities of the Auditor General’s office.

The AG’s position is already established in the constitution.

However, Auditor General Dan Duguay noted that his office’s specific duties are not clearly defined within the constitution, but rather fall under the Public Management and Finance Law.

It’s expected the constitutional changes, if approved, will require the role of the Complaints Commissioner to be reviewed and possibly reworked to avoid duplicating the efforts of the other three entities.

Complaints Commissioner John Epp said he supports the formation of the Commission for Standards and the Human Rights Commission, and doesn’t believe either will inhibit the OCC’s work.

‘The OCC does not function as an advocate, as would the HRC in a case of a human rights complaint,’ Mr. Epp wrote in a statement. ‘The OCC does not function as a policing agency in matters of alleged corruption. Each commission would be a suitable compliment to the work of the OCC.’