Local churches return nearly $1M to gov’t

Since last year, a handful of churches in the Cayman Islands have returned about $950,000 to the government that they initially received over a period of four years from the Nation Building Fund, started by former Premier McKeeva Bush.

The latest, and largest, amount returned was $728,364.83 from West Bay’s Wesleyan Holiness Church. Congregation members voted overwhelmingly on 7 July to return the remaining funds the church received as part of a $1.3 million grant during Mr. Bush’s administration.

Cayman Islands Finance Minister Marco Archer said church members were concerned about “negative publicity” the grant had received. In addition, the church members said they realised government could not afford such a payment and that, in any case, the total amount would not allow Wesleyan to build its planned $2.6 million fellowship centre/hurricane centre.

“I am extremely grateful to the Wesleyan Holiness Church for their decision to return this money to government and the people of the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Archer said.

Wesleyan also provided a detailed accounting of the cash from the Nation Building Fund grant it already spent, including $250,000 spent for a purchase of land adjacent to the church. Officials said the rest of the money from the grant would be returned to government, including the land or its current value.

Prior to Wesleyan Holiness Church returning its funds this week, four other Cayman Islands churches had returned Nation Building grant funds. They included: Hillside Chapel in Cayman Brac [$50,000], Red Bay Church of God Holiness [$108,105], Webster Memorial United Church [$18,300], and Fellowship Baptist church [$45,000].

Since the 2009/10 fiscal year, a total of 28 churches in the Cayman Islands received just less than $5.2 million in grants from the Nation Building Fund. With the cash returned, the net amount of the monies granted totals $4.2 million.

Read much more about this story in Monday’s Caymanian Compass…