Cayman drafting ‘whistleblower’ law

Although there already are various forms of whistleblower protection in law, the government confirmed Wednesday that the attorney general is drafting “stand-alone” legislation aimed at protecting from retaliation those who report wrongdoing in the civil service.  

The legal change was one of the recommendations made in a recent report from Cayman Islands Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams, whose office delved into the sensitive topic of reporting maladministration.  

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said Wednesday that whistleblower legislation is being progressed as quickly as possible.  

“While we do not agree with every recommendation [in Ms. Williams’s report], we do accept that this is a matter we need to give … attention to,” Mr. Manderson said.  

Mr. Manderson addressed the matter following a motion made on the floor of the Legislative Assembly by North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, who sought legislative approval for the swift implementation of all recommendations contained in Ms. Williams’s report.  

Eleven of 12 government members opposed the motion with no explanation for why they voted that way. Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo abstained. All members of the opposition benches voted for the motion.  

Regardless of the vote on Mr. Miller’s motion, Mr. Manderson said the legislation to protect whistleblowers would be progressed.  

According to the complaints commissioner’s report, civil servants, both Caymanian and non-Caymanian, routinely do not report blatant wrongdoing in the government service because they believe they – not the wrongdoers – will be punished.  

Ms. Williams noted some forms of whistleblower protection are contained in sections of the Freedom of Information Law and in the recently enacted Standards in Public Life Law, but to the commissioner’s knowledge, neither section has ever been used.  

Ms. Williams said in the report: “The Office of the Complaints Commissioner is firmly of the view that people should not have to trawl through legislation to cherry-pick sections of applicable legislation.  

“It is clear that the Cayman Islands has little or no legislative protection for whistleblowers.”  

She said the investigation of former Minister of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce Charles Clifford was the starting point for the report, adding that although nothing had been done since the issue in 2008, she was optimistic about the report’s recommendations.  

“We make recommendations not to have them sitting and gathering dust on the shelf. We will keep pushing until the recommendations are substantially complied,” Ms. Williams said. 

Civil servants who spoke to the commissioner on condition of anonymity painted a shocking picture of what occurs in day-to-day operations of the government service. Ms. Williams said her office carefully selected complaints from civil servants who had legitimate issues rather than those who were seeking to settle personal scores.