UK concerned about territories’ risk

A UK Parliamentary committee has concluded that officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office aren’t doing enough to manage risks involved in the governance of Overseas Territories, which include the Cayman Islands.

According to a report from the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, there are two main areas of concern: regulation of the banking and financial industries, and responsibility for disaster planning and law enforcement within the territories.

‘In most of the territories, the standards of regulation across areas such as banking, money laundering, insurance and securities are not as good as those in the Crown dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man),’ said committee Chairman Edward Leigh in a prepared statement. ‘The (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), actively supported by other relevant agencies, must do more to help the territories, especially the smaller ones, strengthen regulation.’

‘The UK government must also be fully on top of the risks associated with its ultimate liability for the management of law and order in the territories and for how territories plan for disasters. It is worrying that not all the territories have such strategies.’

However, most of the UK lawmakers’ concerns expressed in a December meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts were not specific to Cayman’s situation.

The Cayman Islands were generally given among the highest marks by the UK committee in terms of progress with banking and financial regulation since 2000. In fact, a review by the International Monetary Fund done in 2005 stated that Cayman was the only overseas territory to bring successful prosecutions for illegal financial activity.

Cayman also has a well-developed emergency preparedness strategy, a fact that was noted in the UK committee’s report.

However, the topic of law enforcement; who pays for it and who’s responsible for it, was an issue of general concern for the committee.

According to committee recommendations: ‘The (FCO) has responsibility for managing risks such as crime and disasters, but does not have direct control over funding which is provided by territory governments. The (FCO) should go beyond its usual reliance on persuasion and be more prepared to require money from territory governments in areas where the UK has constitutional responsibility.’

In another recommendation: ‘The (FCO) acknowledges that policing standards in the territories fall short of its expectations, yet has used external inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary on only three occasions. Territory citizens should not have to accept less efficient use of police resources, nor less professional oversight than citizens in the UK. The (FCO) should lay down the policing standards expected of the territories and test whether they are met on a more consistent basis.’

The ruling People’s Progressive Movement government in Cayman wants elected ministers to have a greater advisory role in terms of policy direction for local police. The PPM has proposed the creation of a Public Safety Advisory Council under its constitutional reform plan. The group would consist of both appointed and elected members of government and would act as a sort of oversight board for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

There has been tension over the past year between the elected government and police service commanders mainly over what lawmakers said was a lack of information concerning various police operations. Recently, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts has been attending internal police briefings at the governor’s invitation.

Governor Stuart Jack also recently ordered the temporary removal of three top RCIPS commanders, including Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, following an investigation of apparently bogus corruption allegations. The three commanders were removed to ‘facilitate’ on-going enquiries into matters which were not related to the initial investigation.

Mr. Jack has not specified what the on going enquiry involves. There are nine UK police officers in Cayman now looking into various aspects of the case.

Cabinet ministers have offered little comment about the ongoing situation with Cayman’s police force.

UK House of Commons members opined that the balance between the appointed governor and elected government when it comes to law enforcement has always been a delicate one when it comes to overseas territories. The UK committee chairman remarked that the issue ‘is what caused the American Revolution in the first place.’

‘I do not think the answer is to repatriate the financial responsibility,’ Sir Peter Ricketts said in response to a question from the committee chairman. ‘At the end of the day, it is a question of prioritisation and I think it is up to the governor and…his ministers to decide the prioritisation that gives enough resources to law and order.’