Deputy governor says civil service ‘taking beating’ from lawmakers

Prison issue sparks legislative row

The verbal “beating” Cayman Islands government workers sometimes receive from elected lawmakers has made some Caymanians reluctant to join the civil service, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said Friday.

Mr. Manderson was fielding a parliamentary question concerning certain hiring practices at the Cayman Islands Prison Service – particularly about why one Caymanian man had not been hired during a recruitment process last year – when the comment was made.

The deputy governor was lauding what he referred to as a number of recent successes in hiring young Caymanian employees for the civil service “despite the beating that we take down here sometimes.” He said the civil service is now made up of 74 percent Caymanian employees, an achievement the territory could be proud of.

“[The beating by lawmakers] is not helping me recruit Caymanians into the civil service,” Mr. Manderson said. “People are saying to me, ‘Mr. Manderson, if I got to come down here and take a beating for doing [the] job, well, maybe I don’t want to join the civil service.’”

In recent years, the deputy governor and other senior civil service staff members have faced numerous questions referencing specific jobs for which Caymanians were not hired. Those included, but were not limited to, the hiring of a senior planning official, a ministry chief financial officer, a police-helicopter pilot and a senior official in the Information and Communications Technology Authority.

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The latest dispute on Friday involved a man about 19 or 20 years old who Mr. Manderson said was not successfully recruited to the prisons service for reasons that were not stated during the Legislative Assembly debate. East End MLA Arden McLean had asked about the results of the latest recruitment process at the prisons.

Mr. Manderson said a recruitment effort that started in mid-2015 for prisons officers, which received more than 450 applications, led to seven successful applicants completing a prisons training course. At the end of the training course, six of those applicants – four Caymanians and two permanent residents – were hired. The seventh applicant – also a Caymanian – was not kept on staff.

Mr. Manderson said the young man was given the reasons why he was not hired, but the deputy governor was not allowed to read those out in the Legislative Assembly Friday.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush objected to Mr. Manderson’s description of how legislators treat civil servants. “What does he mean, that the civil service takes a beating?”

“I’m repeating what was said to me,” Mr. Manderson said. “I think everybody knows what I’m talking about.”

After Speaker of the House Juliana O’Connor-Connolly interjected to calm matters, Mr. Manderson indicated that the civil service knows its job is to answer to the elected political leadership. “We understand that very clearly,” he said.

Mr. McLean said he was “embarrassed” by the deputy governor’s comment indicating that 74 percent of the civil service staff being Caymanian was a “proud” achievement.

“Proud!” Mr. McLean shouted. “This country is ours and we should be 100 percent.”

Mr. McLean read out a letter the prospective prisons officer sent to Prisons Director Neil Lavis, which indicated the young man’s belief that he actually had been hired at the service, but was then let go on the same day. The young man said it was his belief that his employment at the prison had been terminated that day.

The East End MLA opined: “What disrupts our country … is that not every one of them are Einsteins, but given the opportunity, they can become productive citizens.”

Mr. Manderson said he understood that, but in the end, the Caymanian man did not meet the pass mark that was set for the prisons service recruitment.

“The civil service has been criticized for not doing its job to a high standard and the only way to change that is to do two things: We train up the people we have now, or we bring in higher-skilled individuals,” he said. “Would we have liked to employ all seven [Caymanian prison officers]? Absolutely. But we have standards. We are not going to compromise those standards.”

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  1. The first paragraph of this report says enough, and my comments are, that Caymanians will never get anywhere as long as certain persons are kept in these “Call the shots” position.
    Some may like what I am about to say and some may not, but some foreigners treat Caymanians much better on the job, especially the English man. You cannot find a better boss.