Non-disclosure agreements attached to certain government lawsuit settlements prevented the public from learning what a proposed $700,000 in the upcoming government budget would be spent on.
The Cayman Islands 2016/17 budget, which covers an 18-month period, anticipates spending at least $500,000 as “the final payment” in legal action that was settled in 2012, the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee heard Tuesday afternoon.
Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson said the “same matter has come before the [Legislative Assembly Finance] Committee before” and that it involved compensation that government was paying since 2012.
The additional $200,000 in the upcoming 2016/17 budget was set aside for a matter “that was not yet finalized,” Mr. Jefferson said.
“It’s being budgeted as a ‘just in case’ government has to make a payment,” he said.
Finance Minister Marco Archer asked when the payments started relative to the $500,000 settlement. Mr. Jefferson said the first payment was in September 2012.
“I thought the last time we calculated this, it was a $1.5 million settlement?” East End MLA Arden McLean said.
“There’s nothing we can do about it, sir,” Mr. Archer replied.
The legislators did not specify what settlement case they were referring to.
Mr. McLean said government needs to “stop this” regarding non-disclosure agreements in lawsuit cases.
“If the government is at fault by virtue of its actions … the public needs to know,” he said. “It’s their money. If government commits to pay someone out of the public purse because, personally, they want to help them … then they must know.”
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, who was premier at the time the settlement was made, noted this payment was “not the first time that government has paid people for things that the government ought not to have done.”
Although not related to the settlements discussed in finance committee this week, the public has never been made aware of amounts paid in several high-profile legal disputes, including in lawsuits filed in the wake of the Operation Tempura corruption investigation.
A 2014 settlement with former Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan was not disclosed, neither was a settlement agreed with former Deputy Commissioner Rudi Dixon, who retired from the police service in 2013.
Retired Inspector Burmon Scott was also given a settlement amount in relation to the Tempura case. That amount has never been publicly disclosed.