Editorial for 20 August: Rebuilding our reputation

Although it is evident that increased
revenue is necessary, at least in the short term, in order for government to
produce an acceptable budget plan this year, it is equally evident – at least
to rational spectators – that government also needs to cut expenditures to
prevent future budget crises. The current dire situation, which has its roots
in imprudent and wasteful spending and a burgeoning public service, cannot be
swept away by new taxes. Rather, the entire culture of government is long
overdue for a metamorphosis into that of a responsible steward of the public
purse.

The government can no longer afford to
operate as if the Cayman Islands were some backwater provinciality tucked away
from international interest. Over the past 40 years, Cayman has established
itself as a first-class tourist destination and global financial centre. The
current budget crisis has damaged Cayman’s reputation and government now needs
to begin functioning in a fiscally responsible manner.

Procurement is just one of the functions
that needs modernising. Numerous incidents have demonstrated that government’s
procurement processes, when they exist at all, are inadequate to prevent waste
and at times show apparent conflicts of interest or good old-fashioned
nepotism.

Take, for just one example, the Department
of Tourism’s spending of nearly $19,000 to fly a local band to perform in
Panama for travel agents, and an as-yet-unknown amount for the same band to
play in New York City.

It is not relevant whether the band plays
good music or even if it were fiscally prudent to send these musicians abroad,
considering the current state of government finances. What is worrying is the
Department’s inability to substantiate how or why it selects local performers.
The fact that the band of 12 included three public servants – one very high
ranking – only exacerbated the issue, casting a shadow of impropriety, even if
there was none. Sadly, this kind of situation is all too common with government
contracts.

Following established and transparent
processes in the spending of public money, in amounts great and relatively
small, is essential if Cayman is to regain its reputation of fiscal
responsibility.

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. It would also help if the Government could learn to see the auditor general as part of the solution and welcome his reports, rather than demonise him as a part of the problem

  2. I think this editorial misses the point when talking about the local band. How or why it selects the band is irrelevant. I know that a number of musicians on the island are upset about this because there was no application process, but who cares? I’d rather the Department of Tourism just choose the band they want rather than waste time and money on an audition process.

    The bigger problem to me is the cost — 19,000 for 12 people is crazy. That breaks down to almost 1,600 per person. They should have worked with Cayman Airways to procure free airfare, and worked out an accomodations deal with a local hotel. This is an excessive amount of money to spend when services could have been provided for free.

    The choice of the band is irrelevant — it’s the expenditures thereafter that matter.

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