Keeping Cayman’s boards free from improper influence

By our government’s own count, Cayman has … wait for it … a total of 130 public boards (and committees) with wide-ranging powers and responsibilities under the law. Elected lawmakers directly appoint most of the members of those boards, though some are selected by other people, such as the governor, or serve ex officio.

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.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. A lot of the apparent problems could be reduced if the boards held open, public meetings. Many times in board meetings a member will make off the record remarks that are very influential in the decision making of others. These remarks never find their way into the minutes of the meeting.

    We need to shed some daylight on our democracy at work so the decision makers can see their way and we can see what paths they choose.

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  2. In this day and age when we have over 3000 civil servants with well educated high paid managers to run their departments why do we need all these boards.

    I understand in the past when the civil service was small and there were few university graduates or time served experienced officers running the departments then these boards had a place with the experts acting as oversight but now – who are we kidding.

    Simple change the law and abolish them then make the chief officers fully responsible for the staff. When this is done and we have a clean up of the rotten apples out of the barrel with some prison time for wrong doings. Then we will suddenly see transparency for the fear of jail time for bad behaviour soon clears the mind.

    Also with modern technology just use cctv in all meetings to be kept on file; with fines for losing them.

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