Chamber ‘eager’ for progress
The Cayman Islands government has nearly completed its year-long review of a consulting report that sought to both downsize and improve efficiency of the public sector, Premier Alden McLaughlin said last week.
The government is being pressed by Cayman’s largest private sector business organization to implement at least some of the changes proposed in the 2014 Ernst & Young consultancy report, which suggested dozens of outsourcing, land sales and privatization options to streamline government operations.
“There are advocates in our community that support the unbridled growth of the civil service and a government-run economy,” Chamber of Commerce President Barry Bodden said last week at the organization’s annual legislative luncheon. “They oppose or devise roadblocks to slow down the government reform initiatives and would rather receive a handout than a hand up.
“We must press ahead with government reform and consider the options presented in the Ernst & Young report issued one year ago. We know reform is never easy, but the business community is eager for progress.”
Mr. McLaughlin cautioned that his administration had found a number of recommendations in the EY report to be “not compatible” with government’s plans, but that others would be taken forward either fully or in part.
The premier said an announcement on what government would accept from the EY proposals would be made in the next few weeks.
“Taken together, the EY recommendations we are accepting and any new projects we have identified represent an ambitious and comprehensive package of reform,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
The administration has already accepted proposals to merge both the complaints commissioner and information commissioner’s office into a new “Office of the Ombudsman” and to merge public utilities regulation under one entity, Mr. McLaughlin said. In addition, government agreed to raise the civil service retirement age from 60 to 65, and identified several million dollars worth of surplus Crown land to sell.
Absent from the premier’s address last week was any mention of two other options presented in the EY report he spoke about in April: Merging the government communications services entities and the proposed merger of Cayman Brac’s primary schools.
Also remaining undecided, at least for the moment, is the potential outsourcing of hundreds of government jobs that the EY reviewers suggested could be completed immediately in September 2014.
As one example, court security services and issuing warrants were two areas identified last year for possible outsourcing. About 10 Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers are now used to guard the courthouse, the governor’s office and police prison cells. Another five officers serve process from the courts. All of these positions could be outsourced to private sector companies that employ cheaper security officers, the EY report suggested.
Last week, the RCIPS noted, in the 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday morning, police executed 34 outstanding warrants for unpaid traffic tickets or failure to appear in court. That one-day total is a small percentage of the more than 700 warrants officers still have to execute.
“[This] is a huge drain on police resources,” RCIPS Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton said. “[But] without this enforcement, the entire justice system would grind to a halt.”
For the moment, Mr. Walton is asking residents to “take care of their tickets” before officers are forced to serve process at an individuals homes or businesses.
Two larger, immediate options for outsourcing suggested by EY include the government Computer Services Department and a number of functions now performed by the Public Works Department.
The government employs a total of 54 people in information technology in the Computer Services Department and in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“There is no reason why government should continue to provide IT services in-house,” the EY report stated, citing the potential exception of IT procurement and strategy areas.
Some 50 full-time equivalent positions could be considered for outsourcing in public works areas of project management, construction oversight, quantity surveying and mechanical, electrical and plumbing work, the report states. The report also proposes that 18 of the 22 jobs in the parks unit could be outsourced.