The new chief executive of the commission charged with oversight of local utilities acknowledged a “skills gap,” but said he hoped to make Cayman “the Singapore of the Caribbean.”
Twenty-year veteran regulator Jamaican J. Paul Morgan, CEO of Cayman’s new Utility Regulation and Competition Office, dubbed “OfReg,” offered a preliminary view of the issues he expected to face in his first weeks, saying internal organization, skilled personnel and appointment of subcommittees for each sector loomed immediately.
“Subcommittees have not yet been established,” he told the Cayman Compass. “This is a work in progress.” Nor, he said, had their composition been decided, “but I anticipate that these should be completed by the end of March.”
Water-sector legislation to come
Water-sector regulation, however, remained outstanding as government’s Water Authority-Cayman and private sector provider Consolidated Water have been locked in licensing talks for two years, grappling with questions about the agency’s official role as both overseer and competitor.
Mr. Morgan said OfReg awaited legislation reforming the sector, moving it under OfReg control. He did not indicate a timetable, saying only that “the relevant laws have not yet been enacted.”
“The water sector is not yet under OfReg’s remit, however,” he said, “as both the Water Authority and Cayman Water would be regulated by OfReg.”
“First, we have to organize ourselves in order to deliver on our mandate efficiently,” the CEO said. “There are some overlaps in functional areas, as one would expect, so we will focus on identifying those activities and skills which can be shared across all sectors.
“We do have some skills gaps that must be filled even as we put a credible succession planning process in place.”
The nine-member OfReg, created in October, replaces the Electricity Regulatory Authority, which oversaw Caribbean Utilities Company; the Information and Communications Technology Authority, which oversaw local telephone companies and a host of telecommunication and licensing issues; and the Petroleum Inspectorate, which regulated fuel and oil supplies, pricing, testing and related questions.
An early February OfReg press release said Cabinet had created the “multi-sector regulatory agency, following an evaluation … of the effectiveness of the functions of the standalone regulators.”
That evaluation followed a 2014 Ernst & Young consultancy report pointing to improved efficiencies and annual savings of nearly $250,000 through merging the oversight bodies.
The board of directors will meet at least six times each year, appointing executive directors in each utility sector.
Mr. Morgan told the Compass that ERA Managing Director Charles Farrington, Information and Communications Technology Authority Managing Director Alee Fa’amoe, and Chief Petroleum Inspector Duke Munroe were executive members of OfReg, but said Water Authority Director Gelia Frederick-van Genderen and Consolidated Water Company President and CEO Rick McTaggart would not “qualify as members of the water subcommittee” because “both the Water Authority and Cayman Water would be regulated by OfReg.”
Former MLA, Speaker of the House, and Minister of Telecommunications and Works Linford Pierson was appointed earlier this month as OfReg chairman.
Mr. Morgan said he hoped Cayman might emulate Singapore, saying the island state had achieved success in making information and communications innovation serve economic development.
The Cayman Islands, Mr. Morgan said, can become the “intellectual” technology center of the Caribbean if it can create a reliable backbone infrastructure delivering global, competitive connectivity, building an additional “leg” to the local economy.
“I see OfReg as the facilitator of innovation in the sectors for which it has responsibility, therefore promoting economic development,” he said. “How we do this is by ensuring that whatever is necessary for us to guarantee the achievement of government’s policy is central to our development work, for example, the deployment of national broadband infrastructure, introduction of renewables, initiatives to support an e-economy; cybersecurity and the like.”
He detailed three immediate challenges, however: “The first is managing the amalgamation of three organizations, all with quite different cultures, into one, while taking on the responsibility for a fourth sector as soon as the legislation to give OfReg responsibility for the water sector is enacted.
“In addition, all the regulatory processes have to be reviewed, and where necessary, adapted for compliance with the new legal framework. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly,” Mr. Morgan said, “we have to gain the trust of all stakeholders,” naming “consistency, transparency, impartiality and independence” as key.
“If we can demonstrate consistently that these are the core principles by which we act in our decision-making, our stakeholders will value how and why we operate the way we do,” notwithstanding “disagreement with some decisions or positions that we take,” he added.
According to Tuesday’s OfReg release, Mr. Morgan has more than 20 years in utility and telecommunication regulation in Jamaica, where he also served 24 years as a senior manager and professional engineer in electric- and water-utility management.
Appointed by government, he helped create Kingston’s Office of Utilities Regulation, where he served two consecutive three-year terms as deputy director general, followed by two terms as director general and chairman.
Mr. Morgan currently serves as a non-executive director and deputy chair of Nassau’s Utility Regulation and Competition Authority, and is regional consultant on energy, telecommunications and water policies.