‘Hollywood’ civil service gets more staff

The Cayman Islands civil service will have fewer “actors” but will likely gain additional employees as job vacancies are filled in the coming months, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson told the Legislative Assembly last week.

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson

“Hollywood has now left the civil service,” Mr. Manderson said.

The deputy governor’s remarks referenced a comment last year by East End MLA Arden McLean, who said it looked as if the Cayman Islands government had become Hollywood because “everyone’s acting.” Mr. McLean meant many key senior staff positions did not have permanent leadership and were held by temporary employees acting in those roles.

Mr. Manderson acknowledged the problem, noting that since 2008, the central government “head count” had been reduced from about 3,900 workers to below 3,500.

This was accomplished, the deputy governor said, through temporary austerity measures that left key roles vacant for long periods.

“The civil service has been likened to Hollywood … with many negative comments being made regarding the number of acting appointments which existed, particularly among key posts,” Mr. Manderson said. “There is some truth to that criticism. When a key role is vacant, it will result in another person acting to fill the void.”

According to civil service employment rules, no employee is allowed to “act” in a position for more than a year. However, the deputy governor also acknowledged that the duration of those temporary appointments “has sometimes been longer than it should.”

For instance, the key position of chief immigration officer has been filled by Acting Chief Bruce Smith since December 2014, when Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans was placed on required leave. Acting Auditor General Garnet Harrison replaced former auditor Alastair Swarbrick, who left in October 2015. The customs collector position was not permanently filled for more than two years after former Collector Carlon Powery retired.

However, Mr. Manderson said, positions are being filled this year. Chief officers in the Ministry of Education [Christen Suckoo], the Ministry of Home Affairs [Wesley Howell], and the Courts Administration [Suzanne Bothwell] were appointed. Mr. Harrison’s replacement in the auditor general’s office, Sue Winspear, is due to arrive next month.

Six department head positions, including customs collector, accountant general, public safety communications director, the head of the Cayman Islands London office, the labor and pensions director and the fire chief were also filled during the year. Only one of those positions, the chief fire officer, was filled by a non-Caymanian, Mr. Manderson said.

Other positions, including deputy accountant general, the government’s chief surveyor, the principal of the Lighthouse School and the chief financial officer in the Portfolio of Legal Affairs were also filled, all by Caymanians. Mr. Manderson said.

“We can expect a modest increase in head count as we act to fill all these roles,” the deputy governor said.