Opposes motion for PAC ouster
The Progressives-led government is making a “direct attempt” to undermine the functions of the Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, weakening good governance standards in the Cayman Islands, Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said Tuesday.
Mr. Bush was responding to a legislative motion filed Monday that seeks to remove him as a member of that committee, replacing him with new member and soon-to-be committee chairman, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller. Former PAC chairman, George Town MLA Roy McTaggart, will step aside in that role but is expected to remain as a member of the committee, the government confirmed Monday.
The motion to remove Mr. Bush is expected to be heard in the Legislative Assembly later this month.
A statement Mr. Bush released Tuesday morning alleges that “politicking” by the ruling government sought to diminish “the representation of the official opposition party in the assessment and accounting of the usage of public funds … replacing [Mr. Bush] with one who will cooperate with the government in the ways that help the government.”
“Since May 2013, and the [Progressives] 2005-2009 administration is also a strong reminder, that we have not seen leadership and strength in the governance of our beloved island for the good of one and all,” Mr. Bush said Tuesday. “Rather we have been subject to what I can only term as the act of ‘politicking,’ which mistakes political rhetoric or debilitation of process, for action for the good of all.”
Mr. Bush said the Public Accounts Committee in a democratic society should be “fair and balanced” and that the role of the “official opposition” membership should be in the chairman’s seat, at least. New PAC Chairman Ezzard Miller, who is not generally counted among the Progressives administration supporters, is an independent member of the assembly, not a member of the opposition Cayman Islands Democratic Party.
Two other independent legislative members, Mr. McTaggart and George Town MLA Winston Connolly, are currently members of the government backbench. A third PAC member, George Town MLA Joey Hew, is a member of the Progressives. The final PAC member, if Mr. Bush is removed later this month, will be opposition party MLA Capt. Eugene Ebanks.
“The Public Accounts Committee must be an oversight body on expenditure … to ensure that money is spent responsibly, but audited [in an unbiased manner] and reported on fairly by the audit office,” Mr. Bush said. “If the PAC, through political maneuvering, becomes an environment where certain investments are not challenged and interrogated properly with the knowledge of those who were involved to verify their service to Caymanian society, [then] huge expensive buildings, road building, and government land sales etc., will continue to lead to tremendous waste and conflicts.”
Mr. Bush, describing himself as a “strong critic” of the Auditor General’s Office, said his position on the “biased and unfair reports made without interviewing those who are being criticized” is what led to calls for his resignation from the PAC a year ago. He declined to step down at that time.
“I do not oppose for the sake of opposition. I do not walk out of the assembly. I do not disrupt the assembly while government is trying to do the country’s work,” Mr. Bush said. “That is what the [Progressives] did with [now-Premier] Alden [McLaughlin] as the leader of the opposition. People suffered and still [are] suffering because of his type of opposition, which helped to derail several government programs to help build the economy.
“I am vocal in government where I believe the best interests of the Cayman Islands are not being represented in proposals or expenditure. This is my moral duty as a member of government and a Caymanian citizen, and a role that I will continue in any or all capacity in the proud service of my country.”
The Progressives-led administration announced Monday that it would seek to remove Mr. Bush from the Public Accounts Committee due to what it believed was his inability to put aside conflicts of interests in certain reports that dealt with his former government’s handling of various public projects.
“Mr. Bush was previously asked to resign from PAC in June 2014 in a formal letter from Mr. McTaggart as PAC chair because of several statements made regarding the integrity and professionalism of the auditor general and his office,” a statement from the government noted. “The concern was that this demonstrated the inability of Mr. Bush to consider the reports and oversight of the Office of the Auditor General with any sense of objectivity. Mr. Bush’s criticism of the Auditor General and his office has continued and with the committee set to consider the Auditor General’s report on the Nation Building Fund, this concern has increased.
“Regrettably, as Mr. Bush has refused to take up the invitation to resign, it is felt best to allow the Legislative Assembly to make the needed changes so as to enable the committee to better meet its charge to examine the public accounts of the Cayman Islands.”
The Progressives’ statement also asserted that Mr. Miller, the newly appointed PAC chairman, is considered an “opposition” member, even though he does not belong to Mr. Bush’s party.
“The proposed change will … bring in an opposition member as chair of the committee at a time when the PAC is now about to consider reports of the current government, which is in line with the usual convention for chairmanship of Public Accounts Committee,” the statement read.