New roads board holds authority’s fate

An entirely new board of directors for the National Roads Authority steps in at a pivotal and uncertain time for the government agency.

Minutes of roads authority board meetings from January through August reveal a series of recurring issues with no resolutions, including fundamental matters such as the future role of the authority and who will lead the organization.

The authority provided the records to the Caymanian Compass in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Law.

New board

On Sept. 17, Cabinet cleared the NRA board and made nine new appointments, in addition to two civil servants who sit on the board by virtue of their positions.

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The new board chairman is former Cayman Islands Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks. He’s joined by deputy chairman Sheree Ebanks, David Arch, Gary Clarke, Kenross Connolly, John Edward Ebanks, Stanley Panton, Dane Walton and Brainard Watler. The appointments are effective until Aug. 31, 2016.

Gone are former board chairman Colford Scott, deputy chairman Troy Whittaker, Justin Bodden, Elsie Kynes, Steve McField, Pearlina McGaw-Lumsden, Michael Meghoo, Darrel Rankine and Levonne Ryan.

NRA’s future

Along with the supervising Ministry of District Administration, Tourism and Transport, the new board is in the position to determine the fate of the roads authority.

During the 2011/12 fiscal year, former overseeing minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly (now speaker of the house) determined the roads authority may be transformed into a regulatory authority and could function at half its operating costs, according to then-Premier McKeeva Bush’s statements to fellow legislators in March 2012.

The roads authority’s budget was slashed from $8.3 million in 2011/12 to $6 million in 2012/13.

As a result of the budget cuts, in October 2012 the board and management submitted a report to the ministry including their “recommendations for right-sizing the NRA to make the authority more efficient and effective going forward,” the authority’s then-acting managing director Paul Parchment said in February 2013.

On Wednesday, current acting managing director Edward Howard said the roads authority had still not received a substantive response from the ministry about the proposals.

Via email, he said the roads authority had heard “nothing other than government is still considering all the options.”

Mr. Howard said this year’s budget is “bare bones,” with only enough funds for routine maintenance and “a little paving (far less than is needed),” but no new road construction.

NRA leadership

In late June 2012, the roads authority board ended the tenure of managing director Brian Tomlinson, five months before his contract was set to end.

Mr. Tomlinson subsequently filed a complaint with the Department of Labor and Pensions, claiming he had been dismissed unfairly.

The complaint was alluded to during the board’s April 2013 meeting. The minutes indicate that “nothing more has been received” in regard to the complaint.

Since Mr. Tomlinson’s departure, Mr. Parchment and Mr. Howard have been rotating the position of acting managing director every six months.

In May, the board decided against hiring a third senior manager, “but as the direction of the NRA is uncertain, then it is understood that the current arrangement may be continued.”

In July, the board decided to conduct performance appraisals of Mr. Parchment and Mr. Howard, advertise the managing director’s post internally, and recommend the managing director serve a three-year term.

“A decision needs to be made on who will lead the NRA,” according to the minutes of the July meeting.

In his email Wednesday, Mr. Howard said he is currently the acting managing director.

“The new board will, either under directive from the minister or unilaterally, determine the directorship of the NRA going forward,” he said.

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