Government employees ‘moonlighting’ in gov’t jobs

An attorney who claims he was denied the opportunity to work an extra job outside the terms of his employment in the solicitor general’s office has named other individuals in the same office who apparently were allowed to do work for other government departments while still at their day jobs.  

Bilika Harry Simamba, a senior legislative counsel, alleges discrimination over the decision in the request for judicial review filed with the Grand Court last month.  

Mr. Simamba had applied to work part-time as an instructor for various courses, including one titled “Preparing Cabinet Papers for Legislation.” He said the request was denied on Jan. 28, partly because it was determined that the teaching requirements would be in conflict or could be perceived as being in conflict with his normal duties.  

“The decision is biased considering the same chief officer [of the Portfolio of Legal Affairs] has granted permission for two other officers to engage in gainful activity outside of their normal duties,” the court filing states.  

Solicitor General Jacqueline Wilson said Thursday that she had not seen the request for judicial review and therefore couldn’t comment on it. However, she said both cases referenced in the document were done as government cost-saving initiatives.  

The cases referenced involve the portfolio’s chief financial officer “who does accounting work for the Information Commissioner’s Office” and a paralegal, who was allowed to work on a temporary basis on behalf of the judiciary to update the government’s judicial and legal information website.  

“Sometimes a chief financial officer serves more than one ministry,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Otherwise [some smaller] departments would be required to have their own chief financial officer.”  

Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers said his office pays the chief financial officer what is known as a “duty allowance” for her services in helping prepare the office’s annual budget. Mr. Liebaers said no one currently working for the information commissioner has any accounting background and this was a cost-effective way of getting the work done.  

Court administrator Kevin McCormac said the paralegal was hired to set up the judicial information website on her own time, outside of working hours. He said, as far as he was aware, the arrangement was approved by the chief officer of the Portfolio of Legal Affairs under the auspices of civil service personnel regulations.  

“We had an employee with the skills; otherwise we’d have had to contract it out,” Mr. McCormac said.  

Civil Service Association President James Watler said he knew of a handful of situations in the past where government had essentially paid an employee twice for doing separate jobs. One involved himself in the 1980s when he worked as teacher and principal at a local primary school on weekdays and worked on holidays and weekends for Cayman Airways.  

At the time, such an arrangement had to be approved by the governor, Mr. Watler said. Nowadays, the chief officer’s permission is required.  

“Believe me, sometimes, with what they pay, you need that extra employment,” Mr. Watler said.  

However, the association president said government managers must always be vigilant in guarding against potential conflicts of interests regarding outside employment, whether it is done within another government department or in the private sector.  

The issue of “moonlighting” by government employees – working jobs outside their normal office hours – has been a contentious one and was highlighted again recently by a private individual’s open records request to the Attorney General’s Chambers.  

The information provided for the request indicated that four people in the government’s Legal Department had been granted permission to perform various extra jobs including: to start a security company, to “set up a legal database,” to open an auto repair shop, and to “practice law externally.”  

The last job on that list did not define “externally” or whether the lawyer was working for another government agency or outside of government. It also did not state whether the work was being carried out in the Cayman Islands or in another jurisdiction. Attorney General Samuel Bulgin did not respond to emails seeking comment on specific questions regarding the employment situation.  

The open records request sought information from every government department that allows its workers to pursue gainful employment outside of their “day jobs” with the public sector.  

The practice is nothing new. For decades, government has allowed its employees to work outside of their regular jobs. However, it was not until 2012 that the civil service created rules for moonlighting.  

Civil servants are now asked to provide information on gainful employment activities for approval by chief officers. They are also typically asked to provide information on any conflicts of interest that may affect the day-to-day operations of any departments, as set out in the civil service code of conduct.  

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