2008 plan to fingerprint work permit holders never implemented
Government spent $663,000 on software after awarding a contract for a biometric fingerprinting system in 2010, but the software was never used, according to an audit released this week.
The electronic fingerprinting system was approved as part of the 2008 Immigration Law amendments. Government bought the equipment and software. Officials promised the program would be implemented in 2010, 2011 and again in 2012.
The 2013-2014 audit of the Ministry of Home Affairs, tabled in the Legislative Assembly’s current session, appears to put the program to rest, taking the $663,000 software off the ministry’s books. The audit states, “Software for the biometric project costing $663K for immigration purposes … has not been used since its procurement and there are currently no documented plans to commission the software.”
Government officials, including the deputy governor, the chief officer for the Ministry of Home Affairs and representatives from the Immigration Department, would not comment on the matter. Instead, the government officials sent any questions to the acting chief immigration officer, who is off island this week and did not reply to requests for comment.
The fingerprint plan was first approved in the 2008 amendments to the Immigration Bill. The amendment, approved seven years ago this month, tasked immigration officials with electronically fingerprinting work permit applicants as a condition of employment. There was discussion several years ago over how to fingerprint the 20,000 people who held work permits at the time and the possibility of expanding the system to foreign-born government workers, foreign students and non-Caymanian permanent residents.
Government budgeted $900,000 for fingerprinting systems for police and immigration in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, and awarded the contract to Cogent Systems in December 2010. U.S.-based Cogent works with a number of governments and companies around the world, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In his June 2010 Throne Speech, then-governor Duncan Taylor said, “The fingerprinting of all work-permit holders will begin in late 2010.”
In January 2011, John Jones, then-chief superintendent with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, told a Chamber of Commerce forum that the fingerprinting system would begin in June 2011. According to an article in The Observer on Sunday, Mr. Jones said, “The plan is that everybody coming into the country in the future, as soon as they arrive at the airport – this is permit holders, not general visitors I might add – they will go into a machine called a live scan where their fingerprints will be recorded.”
A year later, in March 2012, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said the fingerprinting equipment was in place and “ready to go” but required several additional changes to the Immigration Law, according to a Cayman Compass story. The article quoted Mr. Manderson as saying, “Once we had a detailed examination of the equipment, it was found that we required some slight change in the legislation.”
As recently as June 2014, Premier Alden McLaughlin told members of the Legislative Assembly, as recorded by the Hansard, “Consideration is also being given to enhancing fingerprinting requirements inclusive of the collection [and] the management of fingerprints in immigration legislation which will significantly aid in the effective border security.”