Central Planning Authority Chairman A. L. Thompson, responding to criticisms from a 2015 auditor general’s report on land use planning, said he would not oppose opening planning meetings to the public and even televising the proceedings.
He said he thought the board members would be less open to filling out a register of interests, documenting which companies and properties they have a financial stake in.
Auditor general’s report
The auditor general’s report criticized the planning boards for Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands for not always being transparent. Auditors said the Central Planning Authority has a high risk for conflicts of interest, real or in appearance, since members do not have to make declarations of income, assets and liabilities.
The Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee called Mr. Thompson to testify on Wednesday, just a few weeks after committee members heard testimony from others associated with the planning department, including planning director Haroon Pandohie.
“I have no problem with the Central Planning Authority hearings being public,” Mr. Thompson said. The reason for the closed meetings, he added, is because “the history of the CPA is that it was always held behind closed doors.”
Mr. Thompson said the board would not be amenable to filling out registers of interest. “I don’t know of any situation where someone has participated in the debate while having a conflict of interest,” he said. “We’ve never had an issue before.”
Committee chairman and North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said, “I’m a bit concerned.” He said Mr. Thompson’s response amounted to, “Nobody else is doing the right thing, so you don’t have to do the right thing.”
Mr. Miller added, “A register of interests is appropriate.”
This week’s public accounts meeting comes shortly after a similar session when committee members criticized the planning boards for reappointing all members just weeks after the audit was released.
Martin Ruben, with the Auditor General’s Office, said, “Almost all of those practices that we would expect to see in good governance were missing from the CPA.”
At the last Public Accounts Committee meeting, planning director Mr. Pandohie said that it was up to the board to decide whether to make the meetings public. But board chairman Mr. Thompson, testifying Wednesday, said he did not think the decision to open the meetings rested with the board.
“We don’t feel we have the authority,” he said. “We feel a directive should come from government.”
Despite the closed meetings, Mr. Thompson, owner of A. L. Thompson’s hardware store, said, “The CPA is one of the most open boards on the island.”
The Central Planning Authority makes its meeting agendas and minutes available to the public on its website. Most boards do not make that information public without a Freedom of Information request.
Mr. Thompson said there were several questions to answer about public meetings, including where and how to hold meetings that could occasionally attract major public attention for new developments.