Since the turn of the century, the Cayman Islands government has produced two especially outstanding reports.
Both of these — the Miller-Shaw Report and the EY report — were commissioned by the government, presumably read by officials, then shelved, shredded, burned and buried (not necessarily in that order).
The fates of those documents are far from unique; our government ignores (or rewrites) consultants’ reports all the time. However, aside from their exceptional quality, what sets those two reports apart is the importance of their subject matter, which is no less than ensuring a financially sustainable future for our country.
We all know what happened to the recommendations contained in the Miller-Shaw Report from 2010 — that government cut costs, reduce fees, save money and promote transparency. In two words: Almost nothing.
As for 2014’s similarly spirited, but far more detailed, EY Report, styled “Project Future” by the government, we have far more questions than answers. Here are three that immediately spring to mind about former Education Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues and her “strategic reforms implementation unit”:
- Where is she?
- What is she doing?
- How much money, especially in salaries, has been spent?
Since Ms. Rodrigues was named to lead the original four-person unit, the tangible results we have witnessed have consisted of a handful of announcements, a couple of billboards erected in front of the Government Administration Building, and a website that was last updated in mid-February with a post titled “Launch of Civil Service Strategic Plan (Part One)” containing general vision, mission, goal and core value statements.
Why even bother?
The small steps the government has taken are only worth mentioning because it illustrates how half-hearted their efforts have been.
Aside from a leasehold-freehold property swap or two, the government has mostly confined itself to tinkering with independent oversight bodies, in the forms of mergers that save almost no money and may hamper the watchdog groups.
Let’s face it: Creating an Ombudsman’s Office and Public Utilities Commission hardly amounts to a grain of sand on Seven Mile Beach, financially speaking, especially when contrasted to the initiatives that government will not take, such as outsourcing public sector healthcare, selling swaths of under-used public property and privatizing entire government agencies.
On the plus side of the ledger, and this is entirely under the heading, “Politics,” not one civil servant will lose his or her job, be forced to compete in the private sector or experience the prospect of potentially uncomfortable but necessary change.
Considering that the roughly 6,000 people employed by the public sector represent the largest single voting bloc in Cayman, and that the next election will occur in a year if not sooner, what are the chances that any of those reforms will take place? (Witness, for example, the recent vociferous rebuttal from the Civil Service Association to Minister Marco Archer’s comments that government employees may have to start paying some of their health insurance premium costs in two years’ time.)
The government may regret it ever commissioned the EY Report. It shouldn’t. It did the right thing, and it received enormous value for its paltry investment.
It is past time for Ms. Rodrigues and her team to do what we’re paying them to do: Implement the key recommendations of the EY Report — with the enthusiastic support of the Progressives government.