Bush questions UK motives
Agreements between the Cayman Islands government and the Dart group of companies on a massive land swap deal and proposals for a George Town cruise berthing facility are being slowed by ‘bureaucracy’ created by good governance initiatives, Premier McKeeva Bush said last week.
“We can’t move on it because they’re going to take their time to see whether we’re getting value for money,” Mr. Bush told a group of supporters during a public meeting in East End about the cruise port project. “Good governance they call it. [It’s] the same thing I’m having to go through with the dock. They’re holding up business; bureaucracy does that.
“These are the kinds of what they call good governance that we have to put up with,” he said.
Contacted for a response about Mr. Bush’s comments, a representative of Governor Duncan Taylor’s office released the following: “The governor has a constitutional mandate to promote good governance.”
In particular, Mr. Bush’s comments focused on the agreement his government has proposed for the construction of cruise berthing facilities in George Town and West Bay, as well as certain improvements to the Spotts Dock area. The deadline for negotiations between government and China Harbour Engineering Company is set for 31 March.
Mr. Bush questioned why the government in the United Kingdom seemed to have a problem with the China Harbour proposal.
“We should be dealing with [the Chinese] because there is more revenue that this country can gain from dealing with them,” he said. “Why should every other little country around the globe deal with them? Why should our own Mother Country deal with them, but we shouldn’t deal with them?
“They want to keep us down, some of them in the UK, too,” he said. “They don’t want us to get ahead because of the competition, but as long as I’m here they’re going to get competition.”
Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick said his office played no role in decisions about management or control framework of the China Harbour proposal, or indeed any other government programmes.
“All we can do is provide advice or submit formal reports to the Public Accounts Committee as to what we consider good practice for managing government programmes and achieving value for money,” Mr. Swarbrick said. “It is the responsibility of management to make the decisions understanding the associated risks.”
In April 2011, Mr. Bush terminated a negotiating agreement between Italy-based GLF construction and the Cayman Islands government. GLF had submitted a proposal to build a cruise ship berthing area in George Town harbour, but Mr. Bush said at the time that he believed GLF did not have the necessary financing to complete such a project. Government ended up paying a settlement amount of “less than $3 million” to GLF, according to government minister Rolston Anglin. Mr. Bush said the costs of that settlement would be made through the sale of certain “intellectual property” to China Harbour.
This issue was discussed during a meeting of the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands board of directors last May with representatives from the auditor general’s office.
Auditors noted that an environmental study had been commissioned by another former port project bidder, Dart Enterprises Construction Company – often referred to as DECCO.
“But DECCO is unwilling to allow anyone to see their environmental impact assessment unless DECCO is compensated for it in the amount of approximately US$2 million,” according to the minutes of the 19 May meeting. “A commitment to make such a large payment could not be given unless and until the value of the materials to be acquired is ascertained.”
It was not certain what “intellectual” property Mr. Bush was referring to that would be sold to make up the cost of the GLF settlement.
Mr. Bush has previously chastised Cayman Islands Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick for certain comments he made during a review of government’s procurement process, although the auditor has not completed a review of the port project bidding. The premier said Cayman’s 2009 Constitution Order has given the UK more power than ever to look into local affairs.
“You’ve seen what the governor said and you’ve seen what the auditor general said, they got more power today under that constitution, you know,” Mr. Bush told the East End audience. “But believe you me, the powers that be, and not the local powers that you elect, they have real powers.
“We are the premier financial centre, London understands that,” he said. “The Chinese are ready to invest worldwide, you think they want us to get their business?”