Another raft of legislative changes, mostly related to Cayman’s financial reporting mechanisms and civil service work rules, are due to come before the Legislative Assembly this month.
After lawmakers complete a review of the 2016/17 budget proposal, about a half-dozen bills are up for discussion, most of which involve long-debated issues in Cayman such as confidentiality law and the civil service retirement age.
A number of changes to the territory’s Education Law are also expected to come before the Legislative Assembly during the current meeting.
The Confidential Relationships (Preservation) Law will be replaced by rewritten legislation as early as this summer, according to Premier Alden McLaughlin.
Much of what was contained in the previous Confidential Relationships (Preservation) Law has survived in the rewritten version, which is called the Confidential Information Disclosures Bill. However, the new proposal is more enabling legislation, rather than preventive, stating under what circumstances confidential information may be disclosed.
Most instances where confidential information can be disclosed center on requests by law enforcement and financial regulatory authorities, including requests from the Royal Cayman Islands Police, the Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission, the Cayman Islands Grand Court and the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority.
Confidential information disclosures, as was the case under the previous law, are allowed with the consent of the business entity’s principals.
A new section of the legislation concerns disclosures of confidential information “in relation to a serious threat to life, health, safety of a person or in relation to a serious threat to the environment, shall have a defense to an action for breach of the duty of confidence.” This protection depends on the person acting “in good faith” in the same manner as in a whistleblower situation.
Government hopes the third time is the charm when it comes to regulating nonprofits and charities.
The Charities Bill has been proposed on two occasions since 2010, but the legislation never made it to the House floor. Charities and churches have said they would not be able to afford record-keeping and auditing requirements, and that the earlier versions of the law could end Cayman’s giving culture.
Attorney General Samuel Bulgin said last year there was some misunderstanding regarding what government was attempting with the legislation. Mr. Bulgin said government’s main focus was to weed out charities that could be used for money laundering or terrorist financing.
The U.S. State Department highlights annually what it calls the “weak supervision of nonprofits and non-financial organizations” in Cayman as a major weakness in combating money laundering.
The legislation before the House, now called the Non-Profit Organization Bill, still seeks to allow greater government regulatory access to charities’ financial records via periodic reporting requirements.
Civil service pensions
The Cayman Islands deputy governor will be allowed to transfer or even assign lower pay grades to civil service employees in circumstances where a Caymanian job-seeker has applied for what is considered to be a “key” position, according to proposed legislation made public this week.
A number of revisions to Cayman’s Public Service Management Law and Public Service Pensions Law seek to change employment rules that apply to more than 4,000 public sector workers in the territory.
Among those changes is a proposed increase to the government’s long-standing retirement age, from 60 to 65.
The bill also seeks to facilitate the transfer of workers within the civil service – at the deputy governor’s discretion – for specific reasons.
One such reason, as stated in the Public Service Management (Amendment) Bill, is: “In order to promote the advancement of a Caymanian to a key managerial or technical position in any part of the civil service, the head of the civil service [deputy governor] may transfer a staff member who is in that position in a civil service entity to a position in the same or a lower remuneration band [pay scale].”
Cayman Islands lawmakers who served only one four-year term between October 1959 and August 2004 would be eligible to receive a pension under another proposed amendment.
The change, if approved by a majority of lawmakers, would add some new pensioners to a retirement plan that government financial advisers recently described as “severely underfunded.”
According to the Parliamentary Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2016, a pension “shall be payable” to any person who served as an elected member of the House or as Speaker of the House [who was not already an elected member] for one full parliamentary term at any time between Oct. 1, 1959 and Aug. 23, 2004. Government officials estimated that a half-dozen former lawmakers would receive pension payments after being added to the plan, if the amendments were passed.
The Education Bill, 2016, as proposed, would outlaw corporal punishment in schools.
It would also establish the Education Ministry’s National Curriculum in law and create an independent schools inspection unit.
The bill also contains provision for “assisted schools” – funded, but not managed, by government.
Some of the changes the legislation seeks to formalize are already practiced as a matter of policy in the public schools – for example, the ban on corporal punishment.
The House approved a redrawn Education Law in 2009, but during a more recent examination it was found that much of that legislation was outdated.