Former minister defends role in schools projects

Rolston Anglin appears before Public Accounts Committee

Former Education Minister Rolston Anglin has defended his role in the management of Cayman’s ill-fated high school construction projects, saying he walked into a “storm” when he took over the job. 

Mr. Anglin acknowledged that mistakes were made, but said he inherited a “ship that wasn’t just sinking, it was sunk,” after he was elected in 2009. 

He was speaking at a Public Accounts Committee hearing in the wake of a damning auditor general’s report highlighting mismanagement and overspending on the school projects between 2008 and 2013. 

The auditor’s report stated: “The project resulted in the completion of only one of the three high schools originally planned, another two high schools being started but not completed, took over nine years, and cost $172.7 million, or almost double the initial planned costs.” 

Mr. Anglin said he accepted the auditor’s conclusion that the Ministry of Education should not be in charge of construction projects, admitting there was insufficient expertise. 

But he rebutted suggestions that he had overstepped his authority and inappropriately intervened in the day-to-day management of the projects. He also took issue with what he described as “inflammatory and erroneous” statements in the report. 

He said he had walked into a “storm” in 2009 with the lead contractor Tom Jones International about to walk out on the job. 

The audit report highlights how government failed to re-tender the project, when the firm followed through on that threat, instead appointing its consultant as project manager. 

This criticism failed to consider the time pressure and the legal issues government was facing, Mr. Anglin said. 

“The high school projects were in crisis and we went with a sole source and quite frankly, it saved the country millions of dollars in my view from a potential lawsuit with the former general contractor,” he said. 

Mr. Anglin also took issue with the auditor’s suggestion that Cabinet should have been provided with new details on full costs, design changes and completion date at the recommencement of the project. 

“This idealistic and calm wording does not reflect the true storm, and the attendant pressures that existed at that time. We had legal and construction advice regarding the timeliness of a restart. We got as much data to Cabinet as possible within the time constraints,” Mr. Anglin said. 

Ultimately the Clifton Hunter High School was completed and opened in 2012, while the new John Gray High School remains unfinished. 

At the same PAC hearing on Thursday, former chief officer in the Ministry of Education, Mary Rodrigues, expressed similar concern that the audit report did not accurately reflect the challenges the project faced. 

Ms. Rodrigues, who also took over her position when construction was already under way in 2009, added, “Although this audit might suggest the ministry did nothing right in relation to this project, the ministry was fighting against the odds under very difficult circumstances to manage what seemed at most times to be unmanageable. 

“There is evidence of where the ministry took appropriate action that was positive and prevented worse outcomes.” 

Ms. Rodrigues acknowledged that with hindsight, more detailed planning should have been done in the early stages and said the new requirements to produce strategic outline cases and business cases for major capital works would help prevent similar failures in future. 

“The truth is, that without a business case, without detailed plans, we were flying blind, desperately fighting fires trying to figure out what was going on, while at the same time dealing with a contractor that was constantly submitting legal challenges,” she said. 

Mr. Anglin also delivered a detailed point-by-point rebuttal of the auditor’s comments in relation to him, personally. 

He refuted suggestions that he had not received Cabinet approval for a scheme to break up work packages to allow smaller firms to be involved. 

He said this had been done with full government approval to help stimulate the flagging economy. 

He also dismissed as “outrageous” claims that he had directed that small, local contractors receive flexible treatment over the quality of their work. 

He chastised the audit team for failing to highlight issues with the project stemming from the previous administration, including what he described as a “curious” loan arrangement. He also drew attention to a civil servant who lived overseas and was paid a total of $604,000 over 20 months for work on the project, under the previous PPM government. He added that neither he nor Ms. Rodrigues had been interviewed during the audit process and questioned the professionalism of the auditor general’s team. 



  1. So much unfavorable things were done during previous administrations and this administration, that one find it difficult where not to lay blame. The construction of the Clifton Hunter School is still jumping up and biting us in the face. One can agree that at the time, that administration must have been flying with a blindfold on, owing to the many errors/failures and disagreements. There were more questions than answers concerning loans and contracts awarded to persons not even on island, and therefore allows one to ponder on the evidence of the AG team concerning the project.
    However in truth and fact, after all I saw a beautiful building emerge. Now, people are not really complaining too much about water gone under the bridge there; but about how the schools are being run. There is nothing wrong with the buildings. Cayman school buildings are very up to date, considering those in other neighbor Caribbean Islands.
    The questions is, what is going on in the schools with our children. Obviously something is wrong, and I wish to call attention to a few. Tongues are wagging that thorough investigations need to be carried out at the East End and Bodden Town Primary schools, because the tongues are wagging hard that in these two schools there are teachers aides who slipped through the cracks of the previous administration, (again its about who know you) who are foreign nationals running the show with no qualifications whatsoever, examples of some, barmaids turn teachers aides and other unfavorable knowledge. How can this continue when we have young Caymanians who are very qualified to take up these positions. My thoughts are that there is not-a-thing wrong with the school building structure. The Ministry and its education team and the people, need to investigate/ concentrate on who is teaching our children, their character, and how they were able to slip into these positions by the previous administration without any pre-qualifications.

  2. This is when people with no experience run for politics, on the job training at the peoples expense. Anglin should be ashamed at his self for trying to pass the buck and not taking the blame ; by treading too deep in waters! knowing he could not swim to this so called sunk ship.

  3. This big school project should show us how incompetence and corruption works with government and politicians from around the world. They can always create looped holes, but can’t prevent them , that’s why these projects ends up costing more than what private sector could do it for.

  4. We will never see that money back nor do we have the schools. We in the Cayman islands have been robbed legally and will pay for this for many more years to come. We are on the road to a bankrupt Cayman and a stolen future. So sad as the john crow circle over head.

  5. Why is the civil servant who earned $604,000 in 20 months not named?. We hear a lot about other named civil servants who have earned a lot more whilst not working at all.