Recommendations from a September 2014 government consultant’s report by the Ernst & Young accounting firm have been pared down to 57 areas which the civil service intends to “progress,” according to a report released last week.
Many of the recommended projects set out in the 2014 EY evaluation that government now intends to carry forward were not considered “priority” proposals by EY in its 240-page review.
A total of 38 government initiatives under the “Project Future” banner are listed by Cayman Islands officials as being in progress, with one proposal completed and another seven in the “project execution phase,” according to the June 8 report.
The remaining 30 projects are listed in the government’s report as being in planning, initiation or conceptualization phases, according to the review compiled from reports from the various ministries and government portfolios released by Premier Alden McLaughlin’s office.
Another 18 projects identified under the Project Future heading have not yet been progressed, according to the report.
“The potential for Project Future to impact on government and the services it provides is huge,” Mr. McLaughlin said during a speech to the Legislative Assembly last week.
The lone project listed as completed in the June 8 report was the transfer of the Cayman Islands London Office from its former civil service home in the Home Affairs Ministry to the Cabinet Office. This was initially recommended by EY as a lower priority item in the “other recommendations” section of its 2014 report.
A number of projects being managed under the Project Future effort address what were termed “priority 1” recommendations by EY. The government’s June 8 report updates their status.
Health Services Authority
The EY consulting report recommended outsourcing a number of medical services and that government get control of the public health agency’s burgeoning “bad debts” – patients’ bills that are more than a year old, the total of which now stands at $90 million.
According to the government report issued last week, the review of the Health Services Authority operations would be done and “a reformed HSA model” would be considered, along with alternate options for outsourcing the government’s health provider entirely or in a combination public-private healthcare partnership.
However, this project status was listed as “not yet progressed” on June 8.
The provision for hospital patient “bad debts” is being reviewed, and the government report indicated an “early stage draft” plan had been submitted. A strategic assessment of the issue is expected to be completed this month.
The 2014 consulting report recommended that $150 million could be made from the sale of excess Crown land, properties or buildings for which government had no current or future use.
Premier McLaughlin earlier said that estimate was quite high, and noted Cabinet had preliminarily identified a much smaller number of properties to offer for sale.
Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said last week that a list of Crown properties for sale would be distributed shortly to Legislative Assembly members prior to their being offered on the market.
The June 8 report indicated that a business case for the property sales was being progressed.
The EY report made several recommendations regarding the government’s insurance company, CINICO, including that the public sector insurer eventually be moved into the private insurance market or that government consider restructuring its healthcare coverage to “pool” risks across the entire local insurance market.
The report also recommended that civil servants pay a portion of premiums for their own healthcare.
Government officials have set a date of 2018 to implement what they call “cost-sharing” proposals for healthcare. A business case for that proposal is being progressed, according to the government report.
There is a plan to review the operations of CINICO with the aim of diversifying its range of products and services, but no mention is made of private sector outsourcing or joint ventures. That proposal had not been progressed as of June 8.
The 2014 consulting review proposed a range of options for public schools in Cayman, including “franchising” of schools, which could entail a private sector takeover or a management outsourcing contract. It also sought the merging of elementary schools in Cayman Brac.
Proposals for the merger of Cayman Brac schools have been put on hold to allow the construction of the new John Gray High School in George Town to proceed, according to the Ministry of Education.
Changes proposed for the Education Law in Cayman, expected to come before the Legislative Assembly in its current meeting, will allow for greater community consultation and input into school curricula and conduct in schools through “executive decision-making authorities” that are to be established by Cabinet.
This recommendation is listed as not yet progressed in the June 8 government report.
The EY reviewers gave three options for the loss-making Cayman Turtle Farm: Sell, lease to a private sector operator or restructure to effect savings.
According to the government’s Project Future update: “This project will examine options for the future ownership and/or operation of the Turtle Farm as a whole or in parts.”
The examination referenced in the June 8 report had not progressed.
Cabinet members did not accept EY proposals to privatize Water Authority or Port Authority operations, whether through sale or lease arrangement.
The planned expansion of the Owen Roberts International Airport in George Town is being done, but not as a public-private partnership arrangement as EY had suggested.
Suggestions to privatize landfill operations made in the EY 2014 report are being reviewed as part of government’s effort to create a national waste management policy.
Privatization options for Cayman Airways are not included in the Project Future plan of action as of June 8. Plans to sell the government radio station, Radio Cayman, were also rebuffed by the administration.
The possibility of privatizing a government-run postal service may be implemented, at least partially, by the Project Future review.
EY consultants suggested commercializing mail delivery as has been done in the U.K. and Australia for what is “no longer a core government service.”
According to the government’s Project Future report: “This project will analyze the current and future markets in which the National Postal Service operates, forecast potential revenue and consider strategic responses, including the potential for partnering arrangements with related private sector providers.”
A strategic assessment for the postal service has been approved by Cabinet.
The merger of the offices of the complaints commissioner and the information commissioner has been accepted by Cabinet, with a target completion date of December 2016.
The suggestion made up one paragraph in the “other recommendations” section of the 2014 EY report.
About $205,000 in savings is expected to come from the offices’ merger. However, government budget documents state that an expenditure of about $300,000 in the next 18-month budget cycle will be needed to create and run the new ombudsman’s office.
The project was listed in the project planning stages, with a strategic assessment approved by Cabinet.
Improvements to the National Roads Authority were suggested as part of the EY consultant’s report, with an eye toward private sector takeover or management of the agency.
“This project will examine opportunities to make the current in-house NRA operations more effective and efficient and consideration can also be given to extending the use of external contractors,” according to the government’s June 8 evaluation.
A strategic assessment for the proposal was being finalized, Project Future managers noted.
Among the EY report recommendations that government has accepted:
Increasing the civil service retirement age to 65. Two bills to effect that change are being brought to the Legislative Assembly in the current meeting
Creation of a utilities commission. This entity, which will merge the electricity, telecommunications, petroleum and water services regulators is expected to be approved in legislation later this year
The combination of government’s Internal Audit Unit and Human Resources Audit Unit is being studied in an outline business case
A restructuring of the Tourism Attractions Board and its operations is under way, with the agency’s offices having moved to Pedro St. James in Savannah. The board is expected to produce a strategic plan by the end of next month.