Premier blasts ‘good governance bureaucracy’ at Chamber forum
Public-private partnerships to create infrastructure projects the world over are often complex and time consuming to negotiate and put into effect.
However, Cayman Islands Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick told the Chamber of Commerce’s Future of Cayman Forum on Friday that rules for the procurement and development of those projects won’t prevent them from getting done.
“[Legislation and regulation] could be improved, it could be strengthened, it could be
clarified,” Mr. Swarbrick said. “But it doesn’t prevent effective procurement of the projects.”
Tristan Hydes, the deputy chief officer of the Ministry of District Administration, told the forum that several public-private sector partnerships in Cayman were proceeding, but that many were being developed or negotiated behind the scenes.
“A lot of these projects are very complex,” Mr. Hydes said. “It just takes time.”
The comments of the two government employees were in sharp contrast to statements made later in the day by Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush, who criticised government bureaucracy for holding up needed public projects.
“There are those who wine and dine and gulp down everything they are told today about good governance; good governance which seems to be nothing but pure unadulterated bureaucracy and how much, so they say, these Islands lack in box-ticking so-called good governance,” Mr. Bush said. “I can … promise to move these projects as quickly as we are allowed to, recognising their economic importance to the people of these Islands and that they will be done so as to achieve real value for money.”
However, Simon Conway of PricewaterhouseCoopers, who was chairman of one of the Future of Cayman discussion forums, said the slow way is often the safe way for public-private projects.
“I’ve seen in the UK quite a number of examples where they’ve gone wrong, where government has negotiated with far more astute parties … and government has lost their shirt,” Mr. Conway said.
Several examples from around the region were brought up to support the point, with panellists agreeing that the Turks and Caicos Islands airport development project could be looked upon as failed public-private partnership.
Mr. Swarbrick made reference to the Guyana airport project that was negotiated behind closed doors and not known by the public until it was reported in a Jamaican newspaper.
Outside the Caribbean, Mr. Swarbrick noted the construction of a new parliament building in his native Scotland where the construction price went from $50 million to $450 million “as the result of some politicians getting involved”.
“The UK talked about the cost of some of the Whitehall buildings in Westminster … did they get value for money? Probably not,” Mr. Swarbrick said.
Mr. Hydes said with a lack of established procedures, it might be easier to get public-private projects off the ground. However, he said the end result might not be what the country desires.
“Cayman is probably the strongest in the Caribbean in terms of regulation and process,” he said. “I think it’s just about transparency and just following the procedures.”