Fingerprinting and 'fine print': $663k wasted

Who would spend $663,000 on a product — and then never use it? Here’s a clue: The matter in question has government’s fingerprints all over it.

Our story (as we related in Thursday’s Compass) begins seven years ago, in 2008, when Cayman Islands lawmakers approved changes to the country’s Immigration Law, with the intent of recording electronically the fingerprints of the tens of thousands of non-Caymanians in the islands, starting with work permit applicants.

That’s when the delays started.

Two years later, government got around to earmarking $900,000 for fingerprinting systems in the 2010-2011 budget.

In June 2010, then-Governor Duncan Taylor said, “The fingerprinting of all work permit holders will begin in late 2010.”

In December of that year, the government did not begin fingerprinting work permit holders — but officials did award the contract for fingerprinting systems to a well-known U.S.-based contractor.

In January 2011, then-Police Chief Superintendent John Jones pushed the deadline for implementation back until June 2011. That deadline, in turn, also passed.

The next year, in March 2012, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said the fingerprinting equipment had been received and inspected, but “it was found that we required some slight change in the legislation.” That means, you guessed it, further delay.

Two years later, in June 2014, Premier Alden McLaughlin told his fellow MLAs that “Consideration is also being given to enhancing fingerprinting requirements inclusive of the collection [and] the management of fingerprints in immigration legislation …”


That’s a far cry from Gov. Taylor’s 2010 declaration that fingerprinting “will begin,” and completes government’s retrograde journey in fingerprinting from the finish line to the starting blocks.

The apparent abandonment of the fingerprinting program was announced, not in boldfaced letters, but in the “fine print” — i.e., a footnote in an auditor’s report on the Ministry of Home Affairs’ budget for 2013-2014.

The text of the auditors’ “postmortem” is as follows: “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.”

Those may be the final utterances on the fingerprinting project from Cayman officials. A Compass journalist has sought responses from various public personae (including Mr. Manderson, Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush and immigration officials) but was shunted off to an individual — acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith — who happened to be “off island” (that mysterious place beyond the reach of email and cell`phones).

Our reporter is still waiting to hear back from Mr. Smith.

We don’t know whether Cayman residents are better or worse off for government’s failure to use the $663,000 software for the fingerprinting system. We do know, however, that, since officials did not end up using the software, we would have been $663,000 better off with government not squandering taxpayer money on it in the first place.

Haste, as they say, makes waste. But so does inordinate indecision and delay.


  1. It would be interesting to learn the location of the software and more importantly, the hardware that was probably purchased with the system.

    Having had some exposure to purchasing electronic equipment, I know software and hardware have limited lifespans unless upgraded frequently to meet requirements of the changing environment.

    Is the equipment/software accounted for? Is there a change of return for credit to be used in a future purchase?

  2. I am wondering which one of us think that things will get any better as long as we have the same people running things?
    Not a thing will change unless most of these old frumps who have been at the helm for more than 20 to 25 years is asked to move along. Most have become seasoned and poli-tricksters.
    OF COURSE WE ARE WORSE OFF…… Was THE FINGERPRINTING NEEDED? Indeed it was. However my bet is that we have became so involved in band-aiding and caught up in this to-do fingerprinting proposal that it;….. like many other things have been pushed to the back drawer or way under the cupboard. A change has to come to make things any better.

  3. On the face of this, this looks like scandalous government waste.

    But let’s be fair. I’m sure we have all bought software or some electronic gadget that we didn’t end up using.
    Or perhaps some exercise equipment now used as a clothes hanger.

    As I have said before, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

    Personally I am no fan of databases being kept of fingerprints of non-criminals.

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