Anti-Corruption Commission: Party of one

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush’s problem with the Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission, he says, is that it has the wrong people on it. We don’t disagree, but our primary concern is more fundamental: The Anti-Corruption Commission doesn’t have enough people on it.

Now that Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick has tendered his resignation, Police Commissioner David Baines stands alone as the sole remaining member of the five-person body.

Cabinet-appointed private sector members Sir Peter Allen and Leonard Ebanks concluded their terms on Feb. 28, while Nicola Williams left her post as complaints commissioner at the beginning of the year.

About a month ago, Mr. Swarbrick acknowledged that, “The oversight body is not fully functioning at this stage” — though he emphasized that the staff side of the entity, the anti-corruption unit, was still actively engaged in its investigatory work.

If the commission (which hasn’t met since February) decides to convene again, that doesn’t mean Mr. Baines will be sitting at a table alone, talking to himself. Mr. Swarbrick’s resignation doesn’t take effect until October, and, as acting complaints commissioner, Bridgette Lazzari-von Gerhardt can step in as a voting member of the Anti-Corruption Commission. As Mr. Swarbrick said, “We can technically get a quorum.”

However, when we are dealing with as serious a subject as corruption, “technically,” in our opinion, isn’t nearly good enough. Rooting out misbehavior in the public sector should be an essential focus of Cayman’s government administration, and a national pastime among the population. It is that important.

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Part of the problem with the Anti-Corruption Commission, as Mr. Bush and others have pointed out over the years, is that the ex officio members already have full-time jobs — the police commissioner, auditor general and complaints commissioner. In other words, they’re particularly busy people.

Also valid are concerns over the independence of the Anti-Corruption Commission, as constituted, with three members who are hired by the governor (an extension of the U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office), and two members appointed by Cabinet, i.e. the ruling political party of the day.

Perhaps there should be, for example, one fewer ex officio member, to be replaced by an individual selected by the Opposition Party, the local business community, or the financial services sector, etc.

In any event, we believe that appointed boards and commissions have their place in government oversight, but when it all boils down, the onus of enforcing anti-corruption statutes (and any criminal laws) falls to the police, in concert with the Director of Public Prosecutions. No criminal investigation, particularly into suspected high-level corruption, should be impeded by, unduly influenced by or contingent upon the decisions of any intermediary.

If the police see evidence of corruption (for instance, in an auditor general’s report on unauthorized government spending), they should be fully empowered to confront it head on, independent of any “official” filing of a specific form with any commission.

With scant natural resources and limited landmass, our country’s singular economic virtue is our reputation.

In the First Quarter 2015 edition of Cayman Financial Review, also published by Pinnacle Media, the magazine’s Editorial Board – comprising local leaders and world-renowned economists — stated the following: “Corruption hurts everyone who depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority, whether in public or private sector. That is: everyone. A reputation of corruption, or tolerance for corruption, can erode competitive advantage and deter investors.”

And that’s something Cayman, as a country, cannot afford.

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  1. The editorial is true, and I do not understand why the politicians do not have the board fully staffed and functional. Is it because if there’s no fire under the pot it would be easier to get stuff out without getting burn. I say more people on the board that would put more fire under the pot so that if you tried to get anything out you will get burned.

  2. The three "morality" Commissions – this one, the Standards in Public Life Commission and the Human Rights Commission – are all jokes. Nobody I speak with takes them at all seriously, or expects anything of value to come out of them.