The chairman of Cayman Airways board of directors, Philip Rankin, was threatened last week with an official summons to appear before the Public Accounts Committee, as Chairman Ezzard Miller signaled his intention to get tough with reluctant witnesses.
Mr. Rankin has denied dodging the appointment with the committee, saying the initial invitation was sent to a wrong email address. Cayman Airways also stood by its board director, saying he had always attended PAC hearings when requested and would have attended last week if he had received proper notification.
Mr. Miller took the unusual step of asking for a summons to be issued after expressing frustration at Mr. Rankin’s lack of attendance on Sept. 1.
In a speech at the opening of the committee, he said civil servants and board members should be “shaking in their boots” at the prospect of appearing before the committee and be prepared to cancel their other appointments in order to be present.
He said the committee was not being shown the proper respect and threatened that invitations would be ratcheted up to “official summonses” for those who dodged invitations.
The committee later made good on this threat, asking for an official summons to be issued for Mr. Rankin, who had apparently been unable to attend because of a previously scheduled appointment, to appear on Thursday morning.
Mr. Miller said the committee had already rearranged its schedule to suit the Cayman Airways chairman and would not do so again.
The national airline on Monday released a statement refuting this version of events and defending its chairman.
It said Mr. Rankin had been ready and willing to attend the morning session last week along with CEO Fabian Whorms and Chief Financial Officer Paul Tibbetts, despite the fact that Mr. Rankin had not received an invitation and had only learned of the hearing from Mr. Whorms.
However, when it emerged he was required to attend a separate afternoon session, he had a scheduling conflict.
“He was never aware of the afternoon session, as the invitation was sent to an incorrect email address,” the statement indicates.
“When the email was eventually sent to the correct email address, this was two days before the PAC hearing. Mr. Rankin was only aware of the morning session by notification from Fabian Whorms and he planned his affairs to attend the morning session.”
The statement added that an earlier rescheduling of the meeting was not connected to Mr. Rankin and had been agreed to accommodate a previously planned meeting involving Mr. Whorms.
“Mr. Rankin, despite not being a civil servant, has attended every PAC meeting with CAL management since 2009. It is very unfair to state or imply that Chairman Rankin takes anything to do with Cayman Airways less than seriously.”
As of Monday afternoon, the statement said, Mr. Rankin had received no official summons to attend on Thursday.
“Mr. Rankin has however received an invitation this afternoon (at the correct email address) to attend on Thursday Sept. 8, 2016. This is only three days’ notice, but Chairman Rankin has advised that he will arrange his schedule to suit CAL’s affairs,” the statement said.
Mr. Miller, in a more general warning to senior staff in the civil service and government-owned companies, said last week that he believed invitations to attend PAC were not being treated seriously enough.
“It seems that there are people who regard an invitation to attend the Public Accounts Committee as a witness as a rather trivial invitation and we get reasons, excuses that they have other appointments scheduled for that time.
“The expectation of the Public Accounts Committee and the reason we give seven days’ notice is that anyone invited to appear before this committee as a witness will clear their calendar and show up as and when invited.”
He said the committee had been “too nice” in the past, moving its schedule to suit witnesses. In the future, he said, summonses would be issued for those who didn’t make a reasonable effort to attend.
“The committee, in its role as an oversight body for government expenditure, can’t tolerate this kind of disrespect for an invitation to attend the Public Accounts Committee.”