‘How can this be corruption?’
Some $5 million given to the Cayman Islands government following the signing of an agreement with the National Roads Authority to relocate a portion of West Bay Road through Grand Cayman’s main tourism district has been a source of nearly constant political uproar during the last few months.
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller has filed a complaint with the territory’s Anti-Corruption Commission over it; opposition party members have raised concerns over money from the fund going toward some community projects in East End – at the request of Premier McKeeva Bush’s “preferred” candidate for the district.
Last week, Premier Bush fired back at critics, listing most of what the funds were going toward including schools’ facilities construction, community programmes, housing repairs for the elderly and mortgage assistance for homeowners who are at least three months in arrears on their payment.
“My mother told me there’s never a case of something for nothing,” Mr. Bush said Thursday night to a group of supporters in Bodden Town. “They can cuss Dart all they want. We are getting it and that is good for the people of these Islands and it’s all with zero debt for government.
“Even if we could have borrowed, we can’t because the UK has told us ‘no’. That’s another of the PPM’s doing.”
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said the funds for East End projects, provided at the request of John McLean Jr. and some others, “must be official corruption”. Mr. McLaughlin said it didn’t matter whether the funds went directly to Mr. McLean or not. Mr. Bush said that no cash was given directly to Mr. McLean.
East End MLA Arden McLean, who defeated John McLean Jr. in the 2009 general elections, said the Dart projects funding amounted to the “country’s richest man buying votes”. Arden McLean has also questioned the premier’s figures on the budget deficit left by the People’s Progressive Movement government as it left office in 2009. The government’s reported figure on the operating deficit was $81 million, Arden McLean said he believed it was only $18 million.
“That’s only because he can’t tell the difference between 18 and 81,” Mr. Bush said Thursday.
“[Opposition lawmakers] claim that because we were able to secure this allocation of investment in education, social and community projects, that we are somehow being corrupt,” Mr. Bush said. “How can this be corruption? We told the public that Dart had agreed to make millions of dollars of investment for this community. It has been reviewed by the attorney general’s chambers and the Cabinet, where the deputy governor, the governor and the attorney general were present and they gave the go-ahead.
“I’m not sure how much more transparent that could be. How can this be corruption?”
The figures the premier provided for the $5 million in funding from Dart included:
$2.5 million for mortgage assistance
$200,000 for sports and youth programmes
$600,000 for schools capital projects, namely Savannah and Bodden Town Primaries
$650,000 for housing repairs for the elderly
$250,000 to start a hospitality training school
$200,000 for East End community projects
$150,000 for Cayman Brac play field capital works
The figures provided by Mr. Bush add up to about $4.5 million out of the $5 million from the Dart group of companies. He did not provide further specifics for the remaining $500,000 at Thursday’s public meeting in Bodden Town.