Deputy Governor Franz Manderson: Bad service may lead to firings

Warning that he will not allow a few “poor performers” to ruin the reputation and hard work of the Cayman Islands civil service, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has signaled that bad customer service in government departments may lead to “separation” – firing – from the public sector.  

The warning comes in a three-page memo dated Friday, Feb. 13, which was distributed to government workers on Tuesday.  

“Civil servants who consistently provide poor customer service will be required to separate from the civil service,” Mr. Manderson’s administrative circular read. “Such persons, by association, harm the reputation of the majority of staff who do exceptional work and they harm the public’s confidence in the civil service overall.”  

Mr. Manderson said it was “evident” that the civil service was “not doing enough” in the area of customer service, and he used, as an example, a recent poll in the Cayman Compass newspaper as evidence of customer dissatisfaction. 

In the online Compass poll, published on Jan. 30, nearly two-thirds of the respondents gave a grade of “poor” or “terrible” to the Cayman Islands civil service when it comes to customer service.  

Of the 417 respondents to the one-week poll, the largest segment – 143 people or 34.3 percent – thought the civil service had terrible customer service.  

One of the poll comments, from an unnamed respondent simply stated: “Answer your d%&# phones!” 

Another wrote: “Too often I have been ignored after a long wait in line for service. It seems chatting to colleagues, doing nails, checking the iPhone are all more important and what they are paid to do.”  

A third commenter stated: “A call to immigration last week was answered with a ‘no talk now’ and then silence as I was hung up on.”  

“It’s a ‘no’ culture; they say ‘no’ first, no matter what,” noted another poll respondent.  

The poll responses went on in a generally negative vein.  

Mr. Manderson said he was “disappointed” that the majority of those who responded to the online poll rated government customer service so low. 

“If we fail in this area, we harm our reputation with the public and our elected leaders,” he said.  

In an effort to improve customer relations, Mr. Manderson said the government and the management of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman have again agreed to collaborate on an employee training program aimed at providing the “gold standard” level of customer service. A similar program with the Ritz was undertaken in 2012 under Mr. Manderson’s leadership.  

The deputy governor said that while poor performance must be dealt with, the civil service is also eager to resume pay raises for exceptional job performance.  

“We … wish to reinstate within grade increments and other rewards for those who perform at a high level,” he said.  

In recent budget years, some pay incentives have been awarded to the civil service. A 2.5 percent of salary one-time bonus was paid to government workers during the 2013/14 budget year.  

Starting in July, Premier Alden McLaughlin has promised a 4 percent across-the-board pay raise in the civil service. 

The Cayman Islands government has never implemented performance pay bonuses for workers, though they were proposed as early as 2007 by civil service managers.  

The idea was to award documented good performance with bonuses totaling up to 10 percent of an employee’s salary. Budget constraints have prevented the government from providing performance-based pay bonuses since then.  


  1. The bad customer service is the product of bad management and bad leadership so targeting just the individuals on the front line will not get to the root of the problem.

  2. Sad to say but our Cayman Islands are not alone.
    Please show me the country where the civil service is regarded as competent.

    The USA Department of Motor Vehicles is every bit as uncaring as our own.

    The USA Internal Revenue Service has admitted that 50% of taxpayer inquiries will not be answered.

    The French civil service is a national joke. Horror stories abound of the red tape involved in getting anything done there.

    UK civil service. Please. Margaret Thatcher described the UK comedy, Yes Minister’ as a documentary.

    There are two common threads. Impossible to fire and not spending own money.
    As I have often said, It is easy to be generous with someone else’s money.

    In my opinion, worldwide the civil service career attracts those who want an easy, stress free life. One with no pressure to perform.

  3. It’s alarming that such a basic, obvious policy was not already in place.

    The level of service from every department of Cayman Government I have ever had to deal with has been, without exception, appalling.

  4. It’s crazy because when managers and hods hold their staff accountable the pressure then becomes politically and backfires and the Hod removed or penalized. I know I have seen this happen. It’s all lip service Franz Manderson we know it sounds good……. But it’s not realistic if you don’t support those making hard decisions.

  5. Mack Boland, you are right, bad management allows this level of service to continue. But, that is only part of the problem, so much of this malaise comes back to the right to a job mentality. Lets be honest, if you had to operate any of CIG departments on a privatised basis, in other words for profit, any half competent manager would do it differently, especially if he could be replaced for bad performance. Actually I don’t believe that privatising is the answer in most cases, but it does illustrate the deficiencies!

  6. @Norman Linton,

    By stating – In my opinion, worldwide the civil service career attracts those who want an easy, stress free life. One with no pressure to perform. – don’t you just mean lazy?

    I can say from personal experience that while the public sector (central and local government) in the UK is a national disgrace the standards at CIG are much lower. The difference is that while the UK can just about absorb the waste eventually this nonsense could bankrupt the Cayman Islands.

  7. @Mack Boland
    Sorry. I don’t know too much about Singapore except that my son lives there and the country rates very high as non corrupt.

    @David Williams
    No I don’t mean lazy. Nor would I include government paid police officers and teachers. There are some highly dedicated people there.
    Although I have read some horror stories about some USA teachers who are totally incompetent but are almost impossible to fire due to strong trade unions.

    Government jobs worldwide typically come with great job security and this reduces the pressure to strive hard.
    I have a friend who works for the VA (Veterans Administration) in the USA who was told by her colleagues to slow down as it made them look bad.

    A French joke. A government department is a place where those who arrive late pass by those leaving early.

    If you know you can’t be fired then it is very tempting to chat with your friends or spend time on FaceBook rather than working.

    It is also hard to measure workflow when there is not a definable profit center.

    Mr. Manderson, good luck with your efforts. I believe the Cayman people are behind you 100%.