Verbal battles are normal in the Legislative Assembly, but what makes the current tussle so unusual is that it’s between opposition members and one of the official members of the House, Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson.
One aspect of the current scrape deals with how the government accrued some CI$17 million more of operational expenses in the last month or two of the 2008/09 financial year.
The opposition People’s Progressive Movement is calling on Mr. Jefferson to explain. Mr. Jefferson said he will sometime later this week.
Frankly, we can’t understand why Mr. Jefferson cannot explain now. His excuse that he was away from 13 to 25 June and couldn’t be expected to respond so shortly after returning just doesn’t hold water in our opinion.
First of all, Mr. Jefferson helped provide the information that was in a statement issued by Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush on 12 June. That statement said Mr. Jefferson had provided ‘a thorough briefing on the Government’s financial situation’ at a meeting of the new Cabinet on 2 June.
Surely, Mr. Jefferson should have anticipated the opposition – and the Cayman public – wanting to know how the country spent $17 million dollars more than projected in operating expenses in just a short period of time. He should have explained that to the country even before he left on official business on 13 June.
More importantly, what’s Mr. Jefferson’s delay now? He was asked in the House last Friday and he has said he’d issue a statement this Thursday or Friday. Why must the country wait for a prepared statement? Why couldn’t Mr. Jefferson just tell the opposition and the public what caused the large increase in operating expenses, information he’s known at least since 2 June?
It looks to us that Mr. Jefferson has been avoiding this subject, possibly because he didn’t want to become embroiled in the politics of it all.
Well, judging by the verbal salvos being shot across the Assembly floor recently, we’d say Mr. Jefferson is in the thick of the politics.
Ultimately, as a civil servant, Mr. Jefferson has a responsibility to the people of this country, not to any particular political party. If the previous government were asking him to endorse budgets that were unrealistic, then why are we only hearing about that now?
Mr. Jefferson said in Assembly Monday that for far too long the financial secretary had been made a scapegoat by elected politicians, who he said had become comfortable in their belief there would be no reply. He vowed that would change.
We certainly hope so.