Project 1: Civil service gets a facelift

The way the Cayman Islands civil service is organised just doesn’t seem to make much sense sometimes, even to the government’s top managers. 

“A good example would be the fire service being under tourism [ministry],” said Deputy Governor’s Special Assistant Peter Gough. “In the past, we’ve had ministries of health, aviation and IT [information technology]…no synergies at all.”  

In total, the core government service combined with statutory authorities and government-owned companies has more than 90 agencies – to support services for an official population of somewhat less than 
60,000 people.  

The public sector of the Cayman Islands employs close to 6,000 people – more than 15 per cent of the country’s working population. And with the newly mandated seven ministerial positions coming into effect, the core civil service looked – at least at the outset – to be growing even larger.  

That can’t happen under the current financial situation, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said.  

Hence, the effort now being undertaken within the civil service called Project 1. Essentially a wholesale reorganisation of the government, which could lead to entirely different ministries and portfolio assignments when the new government’s elected members take over following the 22 May general election.  

Project 1 could indeed lead to job losses within central government or even independent authorities, depending on what the governor and elected ministers decide to do. However, Mr. Gough said, the first thing for the government service to do is get organised.  

“The first stage is the get them in the right places, and then you start to question ‘well, do we still need this service?” Mr. Gough said.  

Big questions are being asked during the exercise around the central roles of some massive government agencies.  

“Should immigration and customs be under the same ministry? In some countries they’ve merged them,” Mr. Gough said, giving one example. “They have commonality in terms in their enforcement; they are protecting our borders.”  

Also, for the first time under the constitutional revamp, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service may find itself reporting directly to an elected minister, rather than Deputy Governor Manderson.  

“Police will still remain with the governor, but you could have a minister being responsible for the police budget,” Mr. Manderson said.  

Other suggestions being worked on by Cayman Islands civil service managers include how to group particular ministries together, noting that the relative size of each ministry will have to conform to specific needs.  

“Some activities which are very critical to our GDP, like financial services, may require a minister on his own,” Mr. Gough said. “We may not want to encumber them with some other services just to tag it on to make it the same size ministry.”  

By the same token, ministers who come in wanting to take up a particular role could find themselves saddled with other responsibilities they hadn’t planned on.  

“You have people who say ‘I want to be minister of education,” Mr. Manderson said. “What we would do then is say ‘well, if you want to be minister of education, here’s what comes with it.” 

Admittedly, ‘Project 1’ takes on a bit more forward role than the civil service has previously assumed in reorganising government departments. However, Mr. Manderson said many of the changes would have to await the next government before getting final approval.  

“We can present options,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a decision for the governor and the premier and his ministers. They can go quite differently from what 
we put forward.” 

Some reorganising has already taken place. For instance, the Parks and Cemeteries Unit was absorbed into the Public Works Department. There have also been some job reductions at the National Roads Authority, though final decisions on what will happen to that agency have not been made, Mr. Manderson said.  

Some of the restructuring in the medium term is expected to lead to job changes or even losses within the civil service, Mr. Manderson said.  

“It could end in [losing jobs], especially when we start looking at departments that are obsolete, whether they can be amalgamated, whether they can be privatized,” he said. “It could mean that a department would no longer be civil servants, but they could still be working in the same jobs.”  

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