Although proposals will initially lead to few job losses and no outsourcing of functions to the private sector, the Cayman Islands government announced Monday that it would seek to move forward with a total of 51 recommendations derived from the 2014 Ernst & Young consultant report.
Seventeen of those projects will be substantially completed prior to the May 2017 general election if all goes according to plan, Premier Alden McLaughlin said.
During a press conference announcing which areas identified in the consultant’s report government would seek to move ahead with, both Premier McLaughlin and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said it was a “misconception” that what EY recommended was a “program of outsourcing.”
“The objective on our part is not to seek massive cuts in the civil service,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
The recommendations government had accepted were broken up into phases. Phase 1 recommendations consisted of those 17 areas that government intended to complete before the next election. Phase 2 and 3 recommendations identified nine areas where work could be done prior to May 2017, but where completion may have to wait until the next government’s election. Phases 4 and 5 recommendations were more complicated, longer-term projects that could not be completed, at the very least, until the next government’s term.
There were also 13 areas identified where government indicated it would not carry through with recommendations contained in the EY consultant report.
Ongoing projects for the upgrade of Owen Roberts Airport facilities on Grand Cayman, the development of cruise berthing facilities in George Town harbor and improvements to the George Town landfill were all listed in the first phase of the government projects “to be completed.”
None of those proposals strictly followed initial recommendations made by EY consultants, but all were moving forward under the Progressives-led administration’s plans, Mr. McLaughlin said.
A proposal to merge primary school campuses in Cayman Brac could be expanded to include the high school as well, consolidating them onto one location on the Brac bluff, Mr. McLaughlin said. However, a business case for the merger was still being developed.
Consolidation of public utilities under one regulatory body would occur during the current government’s term, Mr. McLaughlin said. Also, government was planning to move forward with the consolidation of various independent watchdog offices under the leadership of a single ombudsman, a move opposed by the current leadership of those offices. The consolidation was expected to add a new branch to the complaints commissioner’s function, that of a citizen complaints procedure regarding policing matters.
Also proposed prior to May 2017 was the merger of various public sector cultural offices including the National Museum, the Cultural Foundation and the National Gallery under one “cultural entity.”
In relation to all proposed mergers, government has generally indicated savings would be relatively low.
There is an ongoing review of government communications functions, including the operations of government’s television and radio stations. However, that is not specifically referred to as a merger any longer in the documents. The sale of Radio Cayman is no longer an option, officials confirmed. A business case for what government intends to do with its information services is being prepared, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said.
Mr. McLaughlin said government would seek to raise the retirement age of public sector workers from 60 to 65 by April 2016. That was being done in conjunction with proposed changes to the Cayman Islands’ private sector retirement system, also due to come before lawmakers later this year.
Other “projects” to be completed by the end of the current government’s term are public project procurement reform, including the establishment of a central bidding function across government, certain “efficiencies” developed within the customs service, a restructuring of the Tourism Attractions Board and the relocation of the management of the Cayman Islands London Office under the direction of the Cabinet Secretary’s Office.
The last item involving the London Office’s new management is the only project recommendation the government has so far listed as “completed and closed.”
The premier also noted that a total of 69 properties now held by the Crown would be offered up for sale.
Most of those parcels were smaller tracts of land in more developed areas that government had no particular use for, Mr. McLaughlin said. One small property in George Town district was recently sold for $103,000. It is the first land sale under the auspices of the EY report/Project Future program.
The land sales would not involve any significant swaths of property within some of Cayman’s less populated districts, Mr. McLaughlin said.
“We took the view that big parcels of land, whether they’re up in the East End bush or not, are not things that we should be trying to dispose of,” he said. “Government is not cash-strapped … there’s no reason we should sell those at the moment.”
Vague recommendations to “address unemployment” and “transform education governance” make up phases 2 and 3 of the government projects.
Premier McLaughlin said education reforms would largely entail projects outlined previously by Education Minister Tara Rivers following critical evaluations of the public school system completed earlier this year.
Any specific measures to further address local unemployment were not identified by the government on Monday.
“It is absolutely unacceptable, with 22,000 work permits … that you have any substantial number of Caymanians unemployed,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
The Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries Department, as well as Planning and Building Inspection Units would also be reviewed as part of Phase 2 of the project, Mr. McLaughlin said. The National Drug Council and ongoing government catering services will also be looked at with an eye toward potentially outsourcing some functions.
The government will also review plans to improve debt collection under phases 2-3, in particular with an estimated $80 million in “bad debts” looming at the Health Services Authority.
Additional specific plans which may be discussed, but not completed by the sitting government in phases 4-5 of the project included:
Consideration of alternate means of providing health services, including outsourcing or a joint venture with the private sector. This includes a review of the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company operations
The potential outsourcing of government vehicle maintenance
Potential commercialization of the Postal Service
Reviewing outsourcing options for the National Roads Authority and the Public Works operations in relation to road maintenance
Reviewing potential for reducing government security costs, particularly within the prisons and the courts.
EY recommendations that have not been accepted
A number of recommendations contained in Ernst & Young’s original consultant report to government were outright rejected.
According to Premier Alden McLaughlin, most of these proposals either would have increased cost to government, would have been infeasible to government operations or were determined to be unnecessary.
Here’s a look at what government will not implement from the EY report:
Increasing or creating fees for civil aviation registry, taxi licensing or for auditors oversight committee functions
Selling the University College of the Cayman Islands or merging it with the Cayman Islands L
Selling or leasing the Water Authority-Cayman
Merging the Special Economic Zone Advisory Board with the Trade and Business Licensing Board. Also rejected here was a plan to merge the former Cinematograph Board with business licensing functions
Privatize the Cadet Corps or change it into a non-governmental entity
Merge a number of related health advisory councils, rationalizing them under one entity. Also rejected with this was a proposal to merge the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee with the Veterinary Board
A proposed restructuring of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority and the General Registry
A merger of the Hotel and Liquor Licensing Boards
Commercializing the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands
Various proposed adjustments to the operation of Cayman Airways.