Civil service cuts need more work

Some government departments meet budget requirements

Despite statements from the Cayman
Islands Financial Secretary’s office Wednesday, some civil service departments
said they had met budget reduction goals for the government’s upcoming fiscal
year.

The civil service was asked in late
March to cut its personnel budget by $19 million – about eight per cent – in
the new fiscal year, which begins 1 July. Last Friday, 9 April, was set as the
revised budget submission deadline.

Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson
sent an e-mail to chief officers and elected lawmakers Tuesday that indicated
total non-compliance with that budget deadline.

“As of noon [Tuesday], two-thirds
of agencies had not made their revised budget submission to [the Budget
Management Unit] and, of the one-third that made a revised budget submission,
none had met all the percentage reduction targets sought,” Mr. Jefferson wrote.

A closed-door meeting Wednesday was
held with chief officers and their financial advisors to discuss the apparent
failure to meet budget reduction targets.

Some civil service members
indicated to the Caymanian Compass that their departments had indeed proposed
at least an eight per cent budget reduction. However, when those departments
were combined with others within their respective ministries that had not
achieved that reduction, the total cuts added up to less than eight per cent.

Moreover, some department heads
have noted that their instructions from ministry officials included directives
not to cut salaries or jobs.

“How else are you going to do it?”
asked National Road Authority Managing Director Brian Tomlinson.

Mr. Tomlinson would know. His
agency cut 22 positions through the end of December.

“It was an excruciatingly difficult
process,” Mr. Tomlinson said of the layoffs, which affected 12 foreign workers
and 10 Caymanians who were on temporary employment contracts because they had
reached the civil service’s retirement age.

Mr. Tomlinson said the NRA lost the
22 staff members either through attrition – the expiry of employee contracts –
or through layoffs.

The employee losses led to an
estimated budget reduction of some 15 per cent, Mr. Tomlinson said.

NRA senior staff felt the
reductions were necessary considering the government’s grim financial forecasts.
The roads authority operates separately from central government, but
essentially has just one major client – the Ministry of Works.

The authority began noticing a drop
off in requested work orders from about 18 months ago, he said.

The managing director said comments
made by Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson that no agencies had met the
budget reductions sought for the upcoming 2009/2010 budget did not apply to the
NRA.

Mr. Tomlinson said he had not seen
the e-mail sent Tuesday evening from the financial secretary’s office to civil
service chief officers and said he did not attend a Wednesday budget meeting
with elected lawmakers.

According to sources that attended
Wednesday’s meeting with Premier McKeeva Bush and Deputy Governor Donovan
Ebanks, no representatives from statutory authorities and government-owned companies
were present.

Statutory authorities and
government-owned companies were also asked to cut their personnel budgets by
eight percent for the coming fiscal year.

During a press conference Thursday,
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush said matters of salary reductions and jobs
cuts would be worked on by Governor Duncan Taylor and Mr. Ebanks.

“We can’t cut it (referring to jobs
and salaries), that’s up to the Governor and the Deputy Governor,” Mr. Bush
said.

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