Cabinet, portfolio make good on pensions

Overdue pension payments owed by the Cayman Islands Cabinet office and the Portfolio of the Civil Service were made at the very end of December, according to records provided by the Public Service Pensions Board.

Records obtained in early January via a freedom of information request made by the Caymanian Compass indicated that the portfolio owed $96,981.18 in delinquent payments since July, and that the Cabinet office owed $133,648.24 since October.

The Public Service Pensions Board indicated that those payments were made in full by 31 December.

Still outstanding as of 6 January, according to the board, was about $530,000 owed to Planning Department employees, more than $350,000 owed to the Ministry of Tourism staff, and minimal amounts owed for parliamentarian pensions and for Cayman’s UK-based office.

According to Cayman Islands law, government agencies are required to contribute what amounts to 12 per cent on top of an employee’s monthly or bi-weekly salary to the retirement fund managed by the Public Service Pensions Board.

In early November, some 20 government agencies owed more than $4 million in delinquent pension payments. That amount was significantly reduced in November and December, with the current total owed for civil servant pensions being somewhere around $900,000.

Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson was contacted last week and indicated that he would provide a detailed response to the pension issue, and other matters involving past due payments for health care, government electricity bills and the like. That response has not yet been received.

Auditor General Dan Duguay said last week that his office was told not to submit requests for payment to the Treasury Department for pension and health care during the months of August through October because government simply didn’t have the money to pay.

‘My understanding is that it was a cash flow issue,’ Mr. Duguay said.

The Compass has previously questioned Mr. Jefferson about past due payments for government’s various bills and has been informed that all bills submitted to the treasury had been paid.

The Cayman Islands government ended the last budget year with an operating deficit of $81.1 million, and initially projected another operating gap in the current budget year of some $132 million if the Islands continued along the same spending path without cutting expenses or increasing revenues.

The ruling United Democratic Party addressed the situation by raising a number of existing revenue measures and creating several new ones as well. Those were expected to raise about $95 million to help balance the budget.

However, at press time a few of the major revenue-earning measures, including increased fees for work permits, and a new proposed business premises tax had not been implemented.

Cayman’s current budget year ends on 30 June, and a new budget is expected to be proposed sometime in April. To date, government has not released data regarding the performance of revenue and expenses in the budget.