Anti-Corruption Commission may get own investigators

The Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission has been allocated its first dedicated budget in the government’s 2013/14 fiscal year.  

That development could lead to the commission becoming more independent, according to Deborah Bodden with the Commissions Secretariat.  

Ms Bodden said Tuesday that she hoped the new budget for the Anti-Corruption Commission could be used to hire investigators to look into alleged offenses under the islands’ Anti-Corruption Law, 2010. However, she admitted some legislative changes would likely be needed before that could occur.  

Although the Anti-Corruption Commission is an independent body, it currently has no investigative resources and depends on Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers assigned to the police anti-corruption unit to undertake investigation on the commission’s behalf.  

An amount of $281,678 has been allocated specifically to the Anti-Corruption Commission as part of the secretariat’s $827,000 overall budget for the year.  

Previously, the commission’s budget was included with other boards overseen by the secretariat, of which there will soon be seven, Ms Bodden said.  

The secretariat now funds and manages the activities of the Human Rights Commission, the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, the Constitutional Commission, the Commission for Standards on Public Life, the Public Service Appeals Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission. In addition, the 2013/14 budget includes some $50,000 for the Police Public Complaints Authority, which is expected to be formed later in the budget year once lawmakers approve the creation of the authority.  

The issues regarding the practical operation of that commission, including the fact that three high-ranking civil servants sit on the anti-corruption board, have been flagged up almost since the creation of the Anti-Corruption Law.  

A private members motion approved by the Legislative Assembly in December 2011 sought to change the chairmanship of Cayman’s Anti-Corruption Commission, currently held by Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines.  

The motion, filed by North Side representative Ezzard Miller, notes that the current members of the commission, including the commissioner of police, the auditor general and the complaints commissioner “are very busy people in their primary roles.” 

Rather, Mr. Miller proposed that the five members of the commission, including a retired lawyer and a retired judge/magistrate/justice of the peace, would elect a chairman at their first meeting. 

The former United Democratic Party government never acted on the motion.  

Mr. Baines admitted in 2011 that the commission had funding difficulties to overcome and that the “ideas and ambitions” of the anti-corruption efforts were accordingly reduced.  

Former senior partner at Maples and Calder and ex-chairman of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority Tim Ridley has previously emphasized the same point.  

“I would like to think that what is going on at the moment might be an opportunity for members of the assembly and members of government, perhaps nudged by the governor and the police commissioner, to allocate more resources so that we can staff up the Anti-Corruption Commission directly or through secondments in a way that it can become more effective,” Mr. Ridley said in October 2011.  

Mr. Ridley said he was not criticizing Mr. Baines and fully understood the difficulties of resourcing. But Mr. Ridley, who has been a long-time critic of the dual roles that the members of the anti-corruption board have, also noted that as part of good governance moving forward the Anti Corruption Law may have to be revisited. 

“I don’t take issue with that comment,” Mr. Baines said, conceding that there is a question over whether the ACC is appropriately constituted and that the dual roles of the police commissioner, the auditor general and the complaints commissioner are indeed a challenge.