The government-inflicted bureaucratic bungling prompted an apology from U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May, who told Parliament, “I am sorry and the government is sorry.”
What exactly does it mean when a government says it is “sorry”? Words without content or meaning are better off unuttered. We wonder whether Ms. May recommended any consequences to accompany her “sorriness,” such as “those responsible are going to lose their jobs over this.” Responsibility without accountability is a predictor of poor performance.
As people who live in Cayman and elsewhere are well aware, having a valid passport is a modern-day necessity and every delayed application represents a considerable personal or professional hardship – be it a lost career opportunity, missed birth or final chance to say goodbye to a loved one.
The U.K.’s passport problems vindicate concerns expressed by Cayman Premier Alden McLaughlin over the U.K.’s plans to take over the issuance of Cayman/British passports, which currently are printed locally. With the exception of Cayman, all British Overseas Territories will repatriate their passports to the U.K. starting in January 2015. The implementation date for Cayman has not been set, but recently local officials suggested that may occur around May 2015.
As we’ve stated before, the Compass believes the U.K. is well within its rights to centralize control over the issuance of its passports, for reasons of practicality and security. Good cause, however, does not excuse poor execution.
The Premier has voiced his concerns over the future ability of people in Cayman to obtain passports immediately in case of emergency, if the passports are to be printed overseas rather than locally. What happens if one of the oldest among us (an elderly stroke victim, for example) or the very youngest (a prematurely born baby) needs emergency healthcare treatment in Miami, and the only determinant of life or death is the bureaucratic delay of a valid passport?
In light of the U.K. passport backlog, the Premier’s concern can be broadened to cover normal as well as emergency travel documents. What happens if a Caymanian student cannot fly back to Oxford, or Florida State University, in time for the start of the school year, even though she applied to renew her passport when she arrived home at the beginning of the summer?
What happens if a Caymanian CEO needs to travel to seal a major deal but his passport, so to speak, “is in the mail”?
Cayman officials should sustain their earnest discussions with their U.K. counterparts to ensure that British subjects in Cayman are never stranded without their passports.
The U.K.’s handling (non-handling?) of this issue graphically connects the dots between faceless bureaucracies and the inefficiencies that far too often result.