The number of public boards, in fact, is greater than the number of public sector entities (107 in total), including central government agencies, statutory authorities and government-owned companies.
If you wish to understand government’s creeping into nearly every aspect of our lives, just look at Cayman’s boards, which are involved in all manner of administering, advising, deciding, directing, licensing, overseeing and permitting, on just about any subject one could conceive, including adoption, air travel, alcohol, beautification, business, culture, development, education, health, human rights, hurricanes, immigration, information, land, nature, stamps, transportation, utilities, water and, of course, youth.
Many boards wield a shocking amount of authority – enticing members to exercise their influence to promote their own personal gain, or the agendas of their political patrons. Some of the board positions are paid, and some even set their own pay rates. Some Caymanians have made second (or first) careers out of being board members, and some rotate on and off boards in sync with the rise and fall of successive governments.
Recent allegations levied against the Cayman Islands Airports Authority board by former acting airports CEO Kerith McCoy – in relation to Mr. McCoy’s thwarted attempts to dismiss an employee accused of accessing vast amounts of pornography at work – aren’t the first accusations of board misbehavior.
Serious accusations have dogged, just to name a handful, the boards overseeing Cayman’s affordable housing, central planning, development bank, electricity regulation, health services, information and communications technology, liquor licensing, ports, public pensions, roads, tourism attractions and the Turtle Farm.
The problem, we believe, runs deeper than any indiscretions displayed by individual board members or politicians. The problem lies in Cayman’s system of appointed boards.
Too often, a board member is either disengaged, treating the position as a chance to enhance their résumé or social status – or is too engaged, regarding board membership as an opportunity to further their own interests.
We repeatedly hear that Cayman’s population is too small to form boards that are free, or appear to be free, of conflicts of interest. If true, then the solution isn’t to ignore justified concerns but to abolish the conflict-riddled boards.
Government boards, to operate effectively and look after the interests of the “shareholders” (the Caymanian public), must be truly independent and insulated from influence by those who appointed them.
In an open society, appointed boards must be defenders against corruption, not agents of it.