Today’s Editorial July 31: A continuing debacle

Once again, this issue of the helicopter that isn’t has come up, this time during the Public Accounts Committee meeting on Wednesday.

For those who might have forgotten, the Cayman Islands Government purchased a helicopter from a UK police department in July 2007 for $1.8 million dollars. It then spent another $1 million dollars shipping the aircraft to the United States and retrofitting it for usage here.

For unknown reasons, the helicopter has remained in Louisiana, accruing monthly storage fees, bringing its cost to the taxpayers of this country to at least $3 million dollars.

Helicopters are supposed to be up in the air, but the delivery of a $3 million helicopter shouldn’t be metaphorically up in the air for two years, especially when the government that paid for it is going through a financial crisis.

Someone – and it would seem this would ultimately fall under the authority of Governor Stuart Jack, who has responsibility of the police – needs to settle the issue of the effectively invisible helicopter once and for all.

As Auditor General Dan Duguay said during the Public Accounts Committee meetings this week, either the helicopter needs to be brought here or sold.

It is ludicrous to have made a significant capital investment for something that was supposedly needed urgently for the protection of this country, and then to have it sitting in storage, of no use to anyone. In the meantime, the $3 million spent on the helicopter could have been put to plenty of good uses, even within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Services itself.

Whether the perceived need for the helicopter was enough to justify its purchase in 2007 is really beside the point at this time. What matters is whether the helicopter is really needed now; whether it can serve the function required by the RCIPS; and whether the Government can afford to bring it here and pay the estimated $1.1 million per year operating costs. If the answer to any of those question is no, then the helicopter should be sold.

Of course, it remains to be seen if the Cayman Government could actually recoup everything it has spent to purchase the helicopter. But if it can’t be brought here in the near term, it’s probably better to stop throwing good money after bad and just sell it for as much as possible.

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