More money for constitutional review

Another $631,000 has been approved to fund the activities of the Cayman Islands’ Constitutional Review Secretariat through the middle of next year.

If all of that cash is spent, the government will have paid out more than $1.7 million for the secretariat since the spring of 2007.

The most recent allocation was approved late Friday in Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush questioned how much of the government’s overall spending on the secretariat in both the current year, and the upcoming budget year was being paid for public relations services.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said some media efforts were being made as needed in order to educate the public about constitutional reform.

‘There really are no PR contracts,’ Mr. Tibbetts said in response to Mr. Bush’s question. ‘The specific tasks are jobbed out on a specific basis.’

Mr. Tibbetts said money was being spent in general on public awareness, technical support during community meetings, and a further educational campaign following negotiations with the United Kingdom on the revised document.

Assuming Caymanian voters approve a referendum on government’s constitutional proposals later this year Mr. Tibbetts said the funding approved by finance committee on Friday should take the country through to a draft constitution.

Mr. Tibbetts did not specify exact amounts of expenditure by the secretariat.

‘All of the radio stations…all of the print media are involved,’ he said. ‘There is no leaving anyone out.’

Mr. Bush also asked whether any of the $1.7 million that has been allocated to the Constitutional Review Secretariat included the cost of holding the planned referendum.

Mr. Tibbetts said it did not, and that money would be given to the Elections Office through the chief secretary’s budget, which has not yet been reviewed by finance committee.

Deliberate pace

Following the debate on the Constitutional Review Secretariat’s budget, Mr. Tibbetts commented on the deliberate pace of finance committee proceedings so far this year.

Lawmakers met four of five days last week, twice staying an hour and a half later than normal to complete the committee’s work. Only two ministry reviews, works and infrastructure and district administration, had been completed by week’s end.

‘We’ve been really going very slowly,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘At the rate we’re going now, we’ll be in finance committee for a month.’

Mr. Tibbetts urged lawmakers to make questions as precise as possible, and also said that Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson, who’s running the committee, was allowing quite a bit of latitude in the questioning.

Mr. Bush said he believed the opposition party had been cut short in some of its questioning and that the minority party intended to dig as deep into government’s budget as it could.

‘(The government) say they want open information, then try to hide as much of it as they can,’ Mr. Bush said.

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