Lawmakers’ financial disclosures ‘disappointing’

The substance of a number of Cayman Islands legislators’ financial disclosures filed earlier this year has been categorized as “disappointing” by the head of the commission responsible for overseeing public service standards.  

The Caymanian Compass and chairwoman of the Commission for Standards in Public Life, Karin Thompson, reviewed the Legislative Assembly register of interests forms Friday. All current sitting members of the LA filed the requisite paperwork at various times between March 24 and April 10.  

“I think, personally, and on behalf of my commission, there is no doubt in my mind that the [declaration of interests] form itself is inadequate,” Ms Thompson said. “It lends itself…to abuse, and I don’t want to say ‘abuse’ lightly, but I think it is an appropriate word.”  

Aside from what Ms Thompson described as general confusion concerning what forms were to be filed, when they should be filed and according to what law they should be filed, the information required on the register of interests form was generally lacking, she said.  

“It basically allows individuals to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘not applicable’ and then sign off,” she said.  

Certain forms filed by the candidates had even left ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer sections unmarked on questions requiring disclosures of gifts and candidate travel.  

Other sections contained basic minimum information about disclosure of interests held by close relatives of the candidates.  

“If you look at a number of others you would see that, even in the limited information they were required to provide…there were instances where [the viewer] was not the wiser from looking at the declarations,” Ms Thompson said.  

The Legislative Assembly is expected to produce a bill shortly that regulates, among other things, standard financial reporting requirements for those who hold public office. Not only elected members of the assembly and top civil service officials are required to fill out the forms, but also many public servants as well.  

The disclosures required by the Standards in Public Life Bill will go far beyond what is currently accepted under the Register of Public Interests Law. 

“We will not be adopting a form that is the subject of our conversation today,” Ms Thompson said, adding she did not want to seem too critical.  

“In some instances…some of the [office] holders went the extra mile…by adding a short record or addendum to the form,” she said.  

Another matter that surprised Ms Thompson was that the financial interest disclosure forms submitted by sitting members of the Legislative Assembly were being kept in the same folder as forms submitted by unsuccessful political candidates.  

Although the unsuccessful candidates would have a legal requirement to file certain information under the Cayman Islands Elections Law, they would appear to have no requirement to file financial disclosures for the Register of Interests Law if they did not hold public office.  

Ms Thompson said she was uncertain why the two forms had been filed together in the same book. “On the face of it, there really is no uniform date [for candidate filing],” she said.  

Ms Thompson said she intended to look into the matter further this week.