Strict budget controls announced

At least one Cayman Islands government ministry has implemented strict controls on overtime pay, time off in lieu of pay, travel and even government advertising as officials look to trim some $89 million from a projected budget deficit.

The Ministry of District Administration, Works and Gender Affairs has also ordered workers to stop taking home government vehicles and has eliminated ‘acting pay’ for civil servants who temporarily have to assume higher-ranking positions, according to a 13 August memo from ministry Permanent Secretary Kearney Gomez.

‘The following must be implemented immediately within your respective departments and sections,’ Mr. Gomez wrote in the memo.

The Caymanian Compass is attempting determine whether any further directives had been issued by other government ministries or portfolios. None had responded as of press time Wednesday.

Civil servants were warned in July about pending budget cuts in a circular from Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks.

“A series of cost reduction measures will be implemented across the entire public sector,” the 24 July memo stated.

Potential strategies for cost reductions were discussed at a meeting between civil servants and Governor Stuart Jack earlier this month. Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson stated after the meeting that government would not implement any basic wage cuts and would not “actively seek to eliminate” civil service jobs.

Rather, Mr. Jefferson said a policy of attrition would be pursued whereby civil servants whose contracts ended would have their positions reviewed by ministries and portfolios with an eye toward determining whether those jobs were really needed.

The Ministry of District Administration memo identified several areas where cost cuts would be pursued.

*Overtime: ‘No overtime is to be incurred unless absolutely necessary and has been pre-approved by the ministry.’

*Time off in lieu of pay: ‘No (time off in lieu) is to be incurred unless absolutely necessary and has been pre-approved by the ministry.’

*Official travel: ‘This must be strictly reduced within all departments. Please identify essential travel needs and provide an updated list of these to the permanent secretary.’

*Government vehicles: ‘These must be parked at all government departments at night and will only be used throughout the work day for government-related business.’

*Acting and duty allowances: ‘Effective immediately, there will be no more acting and duty allowances paid to employees.’

*Advertisements: ‘All advertisements for employment must be approved by the chief HR officer. All advertisements for other classified ads must be approved by the chief financial officer.’

Civil Service Association President James Watler said he had not seen the cost reduction strategy memo from the Ministry of District Administration or any other government ministry as of Wednesday morning.

However, some of the cost-cutting ideas, such as elimination of take home vehicles and travel restrictions were suggested to government by the association during the meeting earlier this month.

Mr. Watler urged government to continue to look at the entire budget spectrum, including revenue generating measures, before making final decisions on cuts.