Her Majesty’s Customs service in the Cayman Islands has fired two employees since mid-2015 and has two more now on required leave, Collector Charles Clifford confirmed this week.
Mr. Clifford said a customs officer and an office administrator currently on paid leave were suspended after criminal charges were filed against them. He said those outstanding matters should be “resolved” later this month.
The customs service was chosen as something of a guinea pig for a new program Deputy Governor Franz Manderson implemented within the civil service during late 2015.
That program sought to bring back to work employees who were suspended as a result of suspected criminal activity, instituting internal disciplinary proceedings against them for “gross misconduct” upon their return.
The internal proceedings were initiated as a way of potentially removing the workers from the government payroll for certain unrelated incidents of administrative misconduct, even if the criminal court cases continued to drag on, Deputy Governor Manderson said last fall.
Mr. Manderson said the move was made in response to public concern over the dozens of civil servants who remain on “required leave” – fully paid suspension – for years, in some cases, without court matters being resolved. In June, there were 31 active required leave cases, according to reports made to the Legislative Assembly.
An email Mr. Manderson sent to civil service chief officers in November 2015 stated that the Ministry of Finance, in particular, had “a number of customs officers on required leave as a result of [suspected] criminal activity and it’s our intention to use their cases as a test case.”
“I believe that we have no choice but to take this action, given that three years is the average time it is taking for criminal cases to be concluded,” Mr. Manderson wrote. “Moreover, this action sends all the right signals to the public and staff.”
Mr. Clifford said this week that since he took over as collector of customs in August 2015, two employees had been terminated. Both were customs officers, he said, one convicted of a criminal offense and the other who had gone “absent without leave.”
The customs service hierarchy has also gone through shake-up in the past year as longtime senior officers in the department retired. Mr. Clifford said none of those three retirements involved any accusations of wrongdoing against the individuals and that they had simply occurred in the normal course of business.
Mr. Clifford said the department recently filled a number of leadership posts through succession planning efforts, promoting three officers to senior customs officers and advancing four customs officers.
Deputy Customs Collectors Kevin Walton and Jeff Jackson were also recently promoted full-time to those positions.