A major shake-up within the halls of power for the Cayman Islands government was announced Tuesday that will give the new premier direct control over the finances of local law enforcement agencies including, to some extent, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin, as the new minister of Community and Home Affairs, will be taking over a new ministry that will essentially replace the old government Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs. That move will take a significant number of responsibilities away from the deputy governor and give them to an elected minister.
Among the areas now being delegated to Premier McLaughlin are immigration, responsibility for budget and support of police, public safety communication, hazard management, prisons, fire services, the petroleum inspectorate, community rehabilitation, computer services and the Cayman Islands office in London.
Also, Mr. McLaughlin’s remit covers various immigration-related boards and those that deal with hurricane response and hazard management.
The new premier cautioned that the delegation of responsibilities with regard to the RCIPS would be “very limited in nature”, according to the terms of the Cayman Islands’ 2009 Constitution Order. He said ministerial responsibility for police matters will not involve operational issues or staffing issues.
“It’s solely responsible for the budget,” the premier said.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson foreshadowed such a move earlier this year as part of the changes being brought on by adding two new ministers to the Cayman Islands Cabinet.
“Police will still remain with the governor,” Mr. Manderson said. “But you could have a minister being [directly] responsible for the police budget.”
The Legislative Assembly approves all expenses made by the government, police and other law enforcement budgets included. However, right now, elected ministers do not get directly involved in the internal workings of processing those expenditures, other than in the assembly’s Finance Committee where budget line-items are reviewed.
Mr. Manderson and his chief officer at the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, Eric Bush, perform that role now. “In the LA, I am responsible for the Portfolio of Internal and External affairs and the civil service. You could very well have those duties taken away from me. I would keep the civil service, for example, and then everything under the portfolio … would be under a minister, to include the police budget,” Mr. Manderson said. In that scenario, Eric Bush, the chief officer, would report directly to an elected minister, rather than Mr. Manderson as the deputy governor.
The ministerial change was one of several revisions made in the 2009 Constitution Order that sought to limit the UK-appointed governor’s power or delegated powers.
One of the key changes already in effect, the appointment of a National Security Council, does dilute – to some extent – the governor’s decision-making powers with regard to policing strategies.
The National Security Council consists of the governor, the premier, two other elected ministers appointed by the governor in consultation with the premier, the leader of the opposition or their designee, and two other members of civil society appointed by the governor after consultation with the premier. The deputy governor, police commissioner and the attorney general are on the body as non-voting members.
Right now, budget matters are at the top of mind for the newly elected government, which has to come up with a temporary budget prior to the end of this month. That’s a normal process for a newly elected government, which typically has little time upon taking office following a late-May election to come up with a full year spending plan. Usually, the full-year budget will take effect after October.
“There are challenges, some significant challenges that we’ve had to address,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Finance Minister Marco Archer said Tuesday that a projected $51 million operating surplus for the Cayman Islands government budget had not changed from the last estimates.