Premier: No more ‘ad hoc’ management

Healthcare, hiring changes for government entities

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Standardized rules for employment, healthcare and retirement savings plans will form part of the upcoming Public Authorities Bill, placing all government entities under more direct control of Cayman’s elected leaders.  

It could also mean that the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company gets a large number of new healthcare clients. 

Premier Alden McLaughlin said Wednesday that the “somewhat ad hoc system” under which statutory authorities and government-owned companies currently operate will be eliminated by the bill when it is passed into law, potentially as early as next year.  

Now, the public authorities are kept apart from central government under the direction of appointed boards. Some of the authorities must get work permits for their employees, some have different healthcare providers.  

One of the potential consequences of the Public Authorities Bill is that a significant portion of the more than 2,000 people who work in the separate authorities and government companies would move to health insurance plans run by CINICO.  

“The issue about healthcare and health insurance is a major issue for us,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “When you have statutory authorities going out there and negotiating health insurance contracts with companies other than CINICO, who do you think in the end winds up paying for all of that? 

“[There is] the need for a Public Authorities Bill to bring all of those [entities] under the purview of the government so that we have common standards with respect to accounting, with respect to employment.”  

For instance, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said different hiring practices within some of the authorities now vary significantly from the terms prescribed under Public Service Management Law, which governs civil service hiring.  

In fact, some government companies and authorities that hire non-Caymanians do so under the terms of the Immigration Law, bringing in foreign employees on work permits. Any non-Caymanian central government workers are hired according to fixed-term contracts.  

“There needs to be standards so that when you apply to a particular government company, how they deal with you is standard across the entire public service,” Mr. Manderson said.  

The statements made Wednesday came on the heels of a comprehensive report by the Cayman Islands Auditor General’s office that revealed widespread mismanagement in nearly a dozen government-owned companies and statutory authorities, which in some cases rose to the level of potential fraud or even theft. 

The report generally covered government budget years between 2010 and 2012, but some cases where problems occurred last year were also noted. Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick cited numerous “governance” difficulties that led to financial and bureaucratic mismanagement, including cases of political interference, bureaucratic infighting, lack of proper financial controls and oversight weaknesses that led to “significant risk of loss and misappropriation of public funds.”  

“As a result of our findings, I am carrying out governance audits in some of the statutory authorities and government companies with a view to reporting to the Legislative Assembly on these important matters,” Mr. Swarbrick said.  

In January, a separate report from the auditor’s office indicated ineffective management of the quasi-government agencies led to confusion with the elected arm of government that oversees these agencies and which has ultimate responsibility for them, leading to questions about what the public is getting for its money.  

“The linkages aren’t very clear between what government is trying to achieve and what the statutory authorities and government companies are doing,” Mr. Swarbrick said. “They should be looking at what results they’re trying to achieve.  

“When you muddy the waters, when the policies and practices aren’t clearly defined, it creates the opportunity for the abuse of public funds.”  

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