The number of staff employed by Cayman Islands public sector authorities increased by about 18 percent – 420 full-time jobs – in one year, according to figures in a government report released Wednesday.
The 2015 Compendium of Statistics revealed that the entire public sector’s full-time equivalent staff increased from 5,910 employees in 2014 to 6,342 in 2015.
The figures showed negligible growth in the central civil service between the two years. Almost all of the increase in staff numbers came from within either government statutory authorities or government-owned companies. Those entities are typically managed by boards of directors appointed by the government of the day and run by an executive officer appointed by the board.
The entities are considered to operate independently from the civil service, often under their own laws or regulations.
The compendium stated that the staff numbers for statutory authorities rose from 1,842 in 2014 to 2,167 as of Dec. 31, 2015, or nearly 18 percent.
Meanwhile, the staff numbers at government “corporations,” often called government companies, went from 489 in 2014 to 584 in 2015, a 19 percent increase.
Taken together, the staff increases within the authorities and companies accounted for 420 of the 432 jobs the public sector added for the year.
Asked for comment about the staffing numbers revealed in the report, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said his responsibility is solely for the central government service, which he said had managed to maintain constant staffing levels in recent years.
The continuing staff increases at the outside authorities has been a recurring theme in Cayman, while the central government service has held the line or even reduced its numbers slightly.
In 2001, when the central government first split its operations into “central government” and outside authorities, divesting the Health Services Authority from the civil service, there were approximately 4,034 total government employees – 3,097 civil service workers and 937 employees at the lone government authority that existed at the time.
The civil service grew to a peak of about 3,800 employees in 2008 and slowly declined since then to its current complement of 3,591 in December last year.
By contrast, the number of statutory authority and government company workers grew from 937 back in 2001, to 2,194 in 2010 as more authorities and companies were added. According to government human resources reports, the number of employees in the outside authorities grew to 2,264 by mid-2012 and to 2,751 by the end of 2015.
While the central civil service grew by about 16 percent over the past 15 years, the separate authorities and companies roughly tripled their staff complement.
Overall, the entire public sector went from 4,034 employees in 2001 to 6,342 in 2015 – a 57 percent increase.
The corresponding growth in Cayman Islands population figures, according to Economics and Statistics Office estimates, was about 44 percent between 2001 and 2015. By the government’s own estimates, the public service grew faster than the resident population it serviced during the period.
Since the Progressives-led government took office in May 2013, there have been pleas from both the government and opposition benches in the Legislative Assembly to get the outside authorities “under control.”
The government has pledged to bring a Public Authorities Bill that would reform operations of the outside agencies and bring them more under the control of the central civil service, but that bill has not yet been brought before parliament.
An auditor general’s office report from January 2014 identified “ineffective management” of the quasi-government agencies leading to confusion in the elected government about who maintains responsibility for those entities.
“The linkages aren’t very clear between what government is trying to achieve and what the statutory authorities and government companies are doing,” former Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick noted in the report. “They should be looking at what results they’re trying to achieve. When you muddy the waters, when the policies and practices aren’t clearly defined, it creates the opportunity for the abuse of public funds.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin said in January 2014, “There are those who will say otherwise, but my view of [the creation of the statutory authorities and government companies] is that by and large, that has not saved the government money. We do not believe the statutory authorities and government companies can operate completely outside what obtains in the country and in the [central] government particularly.
“I think there is the mindset in some of those who control these entities that they are a completely independent entity, doing whatever they want. That’s not the case at all.”
While acknowledging that management of the statutory authorities could be improved, Mr. McLaughlin also noted in 2014 that reducing the overall size of the government service was a different matter.
“We have to remember this … the majority of the public service is made up of Caymanians,” he said at the time. “Government cannot simply decide the optimum size of the public service ought to be 2,500 or 2,600 people and go about a process to ruthlessly trim the size of the service.”