Audit: Poor relief law ignored

Crown must put lien on homes

The
law that requires government to put a lien on the properties of individuals who
receive poor relief payments was apparently ignored for years because of a
“cultural aversion” to the legislation.

That’s
the finding of a recent Internal Audit Unit report on Cayman’s Department of
Children and Family Services. The report noted that a number of people on the
poor assistance dole actually owned property that had not been vested in the
Crown.

Auditors
bluntly noted: “The department was not in compliance with the law”.

“In
our review of individuals receiving permanent poor relief assistance, we did
not see any documentation that a lien has been placed on any property,” the
report stated.

Section
4 of the Poor Persons (Relief) Law (1997 Revision) reads: “in the event of any
poor person in, or coming into possession of any real of personal property,
such property shall vest in the Crown and it shall not be lawful for the poor
person, so long as he continues to be a poor person, to dispose of or otherwise
deal with the same without the permission of the governor.

“We
were advised that this provision of the (Poor Persons Relief) Law has never
been implemented by the department,” the audit report continued. “Discussions
with Department of Children and Family Services officers also indicate that
there is a deeply rooted cultural aversion to property liens in order to
preserve the family land for future inheritance.”

Auditors
concluded that applicant protests, sometimes supported by “constituent heads”;
was hindering enforcement of the law.

The
government budgeted nearly $7,000,000 for permanent and temporary poor relief
payments in the 2008/09 fiscal year, the budget year covered in the audit
report. In its response to the audit, the Department of Children and Family
Services noted that since 2006, “several persons” declined pursuing poor relief
payments precisely because they did not want to have government liens placed on
their properties.

One
such highly publicised situation occurred within the past year when an elderly
George Town resident, Evalee Pars, got upset when government asked to put a
lien on her house in exchange for the standard $550 a month poor relief
payment. 

The
department also noted that other poor relief clients had been removed from the
dole once it was determined they had received cash from the sale of their
homes.

“In
the past years, we have terminated several persons whom we knew came into money
as a result of family property sales,” the family services department stated.
“These recipients had been approved prior to the requirement for liens, which
was put into force by Cabinet in 2006.

“Regrettably,
due to apparent poor management of those funds by the individuals, several of
them are once more dependent on the government.”

Auditors
also found that the Children and Family Services Department was unable to follow
its own guidelines, which set limits on the amount of time poor individuals can
receive temporary relief payments.

According
to the department, temporary relief payments cannot be made for more than six
months a year, and cannot total more than $10,000 in any 12-month period.

However,
since updated regulations to the Poor Persons (Relief) Law had not been
approved by Cabinet at the time of the audit, department time limits on the
temporary poor relief were squelched.

“The
fact that we had existing policies, which laid out certain conditions was
deemed improper,” the department noted.

During
the 2008/09 budget year, auditors found that about one-third of poor relief
recipients it reviewed had received rent payments for more than six months. In
88 per cent of cases where auditors reviewed the issuance of food vouchers,
that assistance had continued for the entire year.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. You have got to be kidding me!!!! Cultural aversion??????!!!!!! I am being told that I am paying for the poor to live while they are sitting on thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property. Whether or not it is family land is of no issue. And what really gets me is that they mention that one of the reasons is future inheritance!!!!!! Uuggghhhhhhh!!!! So I am paying to support people so that their children and grandchildren can inherit this property. Plain and simple there is someone that must be held accountable for this!!!! Cayman is not beoming a joke but has made it into the books as one of the biggest laughting stocks as far as I am concerned!!! My own people make me sick and ashamed to be a Caymanian!

    Editor’s note: This comment had to be slightly edited for legal reasons. Again, we ask readers not to make defamatory remarks about individuals.

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  2. No law should be ignored; Revised, amended or abolished but not ignored. Then again that is just the kind nature of Caymanians. A simple caution on the property with reference to the individual file should serve notice that the bill is payable to government. To know we have such compassionate people serving in that department makes me proud to be Caymanian.

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  3. Sounds just like the Welfare System in the US, which has now created a whole generation of people who are dependant on the Government with no will to do for themselves. They just sit around and expect to have the same standard of living as hard working people. Except they don’t want to work for it. Having to put a caution on you property sounds like something that will make folks want to find a way to support themselves.

    God bless the child that has his own..

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  4. NJ2Cay. That is a harsh comparison. Unlike the US cayman has no UN-employment insurance and have just in recent years enacted a pension plan. I expect the folks that have a house or land who are being helped by the government are elderly and in many cases would have almost starved to death before they sought aid.
    Thankfully we don’t have anyone sleeping on the sidewalk, or many folks asking brother can you spare a dime..

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