Questions were raised in Public Accounts Committee proceedings last week about a law enforcement consulting firm hired to assist with corruption investigations within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
According to an audit done by Cayman Islands Auditor General Dan Duguay’s office last month, the BGP Training and Consultancy firm – a UK company – was officially hired in September 2008 to help officers with the Operation Tempura investigating team conduct briefings with individuals who had come forward to report incidents of alleged officer misconduct.
However, Mr. Duguay’s report noted that BGP apparently received payment starting June 2008, and that the company was eventually given some CI$585,700 through January 2009 without a contract ever being bid or the matter coming before the Central Tenders Committee.
‘BGP Training and Consultancy was only established in 2007,’ Opposition party MLA Moses Kirkconnell said. ‘That puts some flags up.’
Mr. Kirkconnell asked RCIPS Commissioner David Baines during a Wednesday meeting of the Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee if the commissioner had ever heard of BGP.
Mr. Baines had not.
‘But I have heard of similar organisations, essentially retired police officers who can provide expertise,’ Mr. Baines said.
Mr. Kirkconnell asked Mr. Baines if the hiring of BGP in this instance was of concern to him. Mr. Baines was only hired as Cayman Islands Police Commissioner as of 1 June, 2009 and was not in charge of the service when the decision to hire the consultancy firm was made.
‘If you want consultants, you tend to go with what you know best,’ Mr. Baines said, adding that BGP’s appointment in this case did not surprise him.
Auditor General Duguay’s report stated that BGP and its principals were personally known to Operation Tempura’s former Senior Investigating Officer, Martin Bridger, and UK Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who at one point was overseeing the operation from the UK.
Mr. Baines said police investigations move in real time and noted it may have been the case that investigators needed the consultants’ assistance immediately, and were simply not able to wait for a formal bidding process to run its course. Ultimately, he said, the problem may have been one of perception.
‘How do you avoid the perception that someone has brought in the old boys’ network?’ Mr. Baines said. ‘I think that question sits squarely with the Metropolitan Police.’
Mr. Duguay told the committee that, in certain circumstances, the standard bidding process can be bypassed. He said those cases generally involve expert services that cannot be readily provided anywhere else.
‘It was explained to us… that this firm offers unique services,’ Mr. Duguay wrote in his report that evaluated Operation Tempura spending. He later pointed out that auditors did locate at least one other company that does engage in this type of work.
The auditor also pointed out that government was required to explain why services for sole-source contracts are not available through other companies and how value for money is being obtained. He said this was not done with the BGP contract.
Payments to BGP were initially authorised by Mr. Bridger and were approved for payment by Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks, then the chief officer for the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs.
‘We understand from our discussions that both these individuals had knowledge that the expenditures were being made in excess of the contracted amount, and later, without a contract in place,’ Mr. Duguay wrote in his October report.
The auditor’s comments on the BGP contract ‘did not provide proper context’ regarding the situation which led government to hire the firm.
Government officials said the contract, by its very nature, required information to be recorded and dealt with in a secure and covert manner and that throwing the process open to public bidding might have ‘undermined the whole operation’.
The government also pointed out that the work undertaken by BGP was triple what had initially been envisioned.
‘This investigation was unique to the Cayman Islands and developed in such an unpredictable way that it was not possible to treat [it] like a normal project,’ the government wrote in its response to the auditor’s report.