Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush lashed out at local news reports and opinion pieces last week, stating in no uncertain terms that he would remain finance minister of the British Overseas Territory despite claims to the contrary.
“The whole matter of these media reports is vicious and deliberate in trying to hurt me and in so doing, harmful to the country,” Mr. Bush said.
The issue arose following the announcement last Friday that the United Kingdom had assented to Cayman’s $567 million dollar budget, assuming certain conditions were met by the territory.
One of those conditions was the formation of a “budget board”, or as Mr. Bush later referred to it a “Budget Delivery Board”, to be led by Cayman Islands Deputy Governor Franz Manderson.
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin raised concerns over the formation of this “budget board” and noted it was possible the board would continue to be in existence even if Mr. Bush’s United Democratic Party government did not get elected to a second term.
“It’s a retrograde step,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “[The 2009 Constitution] gave responsibility to financial matters to a locally elected minister of finance for the first time; this was something the UK wanted to include.
“Essentially, what the UK has done is transfer one of the principle functions of the minister of finance away from that person and given it to an appointed board.”
Following that report in the Caymanian Compass, a story in another local news service read “the conditions imposed on the Cayman government’s 2012/13 budget by the UK have essentially removed most of the functions of the finance minister from the premier.”
Also, an editorial in the Compass noted: the UK appeared to be “stripping the responsibility of financial matters from the locally elected minister of finance”.
Mr. Bush said in a statement during Finance Committee on Monday that Section 54 (6) of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order gives him the power to appoint such a body as the Budget Delivery Board and that, in any case, the UK had not removed him as finance minister.
He also referenced sections 111 and 112 of the Constitution that essentially give the legislature the power to raise revenues, incur expenses and govern the territory’s financial system, including reporting on its progress.
“The UK would have to suspend these sections of the Constitution and also suspend the Public Management and Finance Law to strip me of my responsibilities as minister for finance,” Mr. Bush said. “None of that has been done. It has not been done because there are no reasons to do so.”
However, it remained somewhat unclear as to whether Mr. Bush would have power to appoint members of the Budget Delivery Board at his sole discretion.
On Thursday, a statement from the premier’s office indicated that Mr. Bush would be making appointments to the budget board.
According to a statement released by Head of the Governor’s Office Steve Moore on Wednesday: “The deputy governor is currently preparing policies/procedures and a Terms of Reference for the Budget Delivery Board. In this regard the [deputy governor] is working closely with the premier. The main function of the [board] will be to provide advice and assistance to the premier and ministers to ensure that the expenditure/revenue targets set out in the budget are achieved.”
When pressed on who would make appointments to the board, Mr. Moore stated that it would likely be done by Deputy Governor Manderson in consultation with Premier Bush.