Legislators push for Caymanians in civil service
Cayman Islands lawmakers have spent lengthy hours in finance committee over the past week arguing with government managers about the hiring practices of various public sector entities.
The legislators raised several issues, including cases where one department seemed to ignore job advertising requirements and another failed to hire a Caymanian for the permanent job even though that person was the only successful applicant.
The issue came to a dramatic head Monday as Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush sparred over the pending appointment of the collector of customs. The government has tried to replace retired Collector Carlon Powery for nearly 18 months without success.
Seeking to fill the post with a Caymanian appointee, Mr. Bush proposed a motion that would have made the customs department’s budget approval contingent upon hiring a full-time customs collector “from within these islands.”
Deputy Governor Manderson raised lawmakers’ ire with his response to Mr. Bush’s motion, when he was asked about it by another finance committee member.
“That motion infringes on the governor’s and my responsibility for the civil service in that we are now putting MLAs in a situation where they are now dictating the requirements, or dictating to me, who I should employ and that cannot be right,” Mr. Manderson said.
According to the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009, the governor is the titular head of the civil service, but in practice the governor delegates that responsibility to the deputy governor [formerly the chief secretary]. Elected members of the Legislative Assembly control the budget for the government service and make funding allocations based on recommendations from civil service departments. Officially, they do not become involved in hiring individual civil service workers.
“When I know someone is not being treated right, I can’t support it,” Mr. Bush said. “We can’t hire, but we don’t have to vote the funds to disenfranchise those hard working individuals in the customs department or any department who can do the jobs if given the chance.
“The deputy governor might feel this is some sort of dictation to him, he can take it any way he pleases. I have responsibility to vote funds as I see it, or not vote funds. This is not infringing on any constitutional right, or the governor’s, nor of the deputy governor’s. I’m not telling him who to hire, but I can tell you this, what I do know is what I see them doing is wrong. They’re fixing it for someone they don’t want and it’s gone on for far too long.”
Mr. Manderson said the customs collector’s position was advertised three times between May 2012 and January 2013 and all three recruitment processes were unsuccessful. A fourth recruitment process, started in July, ended up with one applicant – a Caymanian – successfully applying for the post. That individual was given a temporary secondment, not the permanent post. The deputy governor said, according to civil service recruitment law, at least two successful candidates should be interviewed for a post, so another recruitment process would be held to fill the post full-time.
“The idea is that at the end of this year’s secondment, there will be an advertisement and persons from inside the department and outside the department can apply for the post,” Mr. Manderson said. “If we are going to raise the performance of the civil service, we have to do things differently than we were doing before.”
Mr. Bush’s motion was defeated in a divided vote of the House, that included several abstentions by members.
Setting the bar
One of the issues involving the recruitment of a new customs collector was the requirement that the successful applicant hold a master’s degree in a relevant field.
Premier Alden McLaughlin pointed out that this was higher than the normal job requirements for government chief officers.
“We need to fill the substantive position of collector of customs and we need to do so as a matter of urgency,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “It is not necessary to insist the person who is appointed holds a master’s degree.”
Similar concerns were raised by North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, East End MLA Arden McLean and other lawmakers regarding the recent hiring of the registrar of lands for the government Lands and Survey Department. In that instance, the current post holder had reached retirement age  and was replaced by an individual from Jamaica following a recruitment process that included 27 applicants.
One of the requirements for the post, which pays between $78,000 and $85,000 per year, was that the successful applicant hold a law degree. This had not been a requirement for the previous post-holder, although one previous registrar of lands did have a law certificate.
“It’s a bit unfair now to those who are aspiring to that position that you now impose that as a requirement,” said Finance Minister Marco Archer, speaking to Ministry of Planning Chief Officer Alan Jones during a finance committee hearing last week.
Mr. Jones explained that land law was becoming increasingly complex in the Cayman Islands, and elsewhere in the world, and that the Lands and Survey Department had to keep up.
“The world does not stand still,” Mr. Jones said. “We are looking to introduce new electronic systems into the land registry, the world is changing in terms of legal complexity, we have to move with the times.”
Mr. McLean noted that the job was only advertised in Cayman and Jamaica, and accused the department of tailoring the job application to the person they wanted to hire. Mr. Jones denied that claim and said advertising in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, in addition to the local press, was considered good value for money.
Mr. Miller also noted that a Caymanian who applied for the position from within the Lands and Survey Department was not given the job. Mr. Jones said that person had been offered to take law courses while he maintained the job a number of years ago and declined to do so. The opportunity was offered again recently, Mr. Jones said.
Mr. Miller also asked about two jobs that were advertised this year by the Information and Communications Technology Authority, where the contracts appeared to have been signed prior to the closing date of the advertisements.
One position had a signed contract on Jan. 20 for a position that was being advertised through Feb. 20, Mr. Miller said. Another position had a signed contract as of July 19 when the advertising for the post closed Aug. 2, the North Side member indicated.
Authority Managing Director David Archbold told the finance committee that he was aware of the new hires, but did not know about the contracts being signed prior to the expiry dates of the advertisements.
Mr. Archbold explained that advanced degrees were required for both positions and that non-Caymanians were hired for both.
“There are two senior posts,” he said. “One is an attorney, the other [has] a Ph.D or master’s in business management or economics. We have tried very hard over the years to get anybody interested in the legal side or economic side to come into the authority in a more junior post, and we have been unsuccessful.”
“You’re saying you have middle-level management for which you require doctorate and master’s degrees, but for the director’s position, you only require a first degree?” Mr. Miller asked.
“They are both specialist posts providing, on the one hand, regu
latory legal advice to the board and the managing director and the other is a specialist regulatory economics expert who both carries out specialist work and advises the board and the managing director,” Mr. Archbold said.
Mr. Miller then asked about the hiring process for the managing director’s position, which seeks to replace Mr. Archbold in the coming months.
Mr. Miller claimed the authority board had identified one of its own members as a potential candidate, making him deputy director “specially to take the post of managing director of the ICTA.”
“Does the existing contract of employment for the person who has been promised say that [the person] was given the deputy post specifically to be trained to be the managing director?” Mr. Miller asked.
“No, the contract does not say that and the person was always aware that there was no certainty there,” Mr. Archbold said. “And the ministry approved that?” Mr. Miller asked.
Mr. Archbold said the ministry had given no “firm commitment” on the matter.
Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts, who has responsibility for the ICTA, said the creation of the deputy director position was a decision of the previous ICTA board.
“A new board has been appointed and, as I understand it, the [managing director’s] post is being advertised locally and the deputy director will certainly be free to apply for the post and, if he is successful, then so be it,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “But the post will be advertised … and the normal process will take place and recommendations will be made to the Cabinet.
“If I had to make a personal observation, I don’t for a minute think there was anything untoward intended. But it should have been thought of the optics of the situation … even if the same result was what happened. But having said that, we are where we are and the post is being advertised and it will go through the full process.”