Two senior Cayman Islands customs officers received more than $600,000 in salary and pension payments upon their retirement from the service at the beginning of the current government budget year.
The payments were made during the previous government budget (2015/16) and were reported in the Ministry of Finance’s annual financial statements as “additional expenses in personnel” by the customs service.
The $620,000 additional expense was described as a “payout of salary and pension to two senior customs officers.”
Concerns were raised about the retirements of former Deputy Customs Collectors Collie Powery and Emalie Wilks, who had a combined 73 years of experience at the department.
Political Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush pointed out at the time the retirements were announced that neither employee had reached “pensionable age.”
Mr. Bush asked Deputy Governor Franz Manderson during a meeting of the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee why the two veteran customs chiefs were retiring at this stage.
“My concern would be any situation like this, you get a lowering of morale,” Mr. Bush said. “Full staff don’t know the reasons why … they start to get uneasy about the whole situation.”
Mr. Manderson said staff had no reason to feel uneasy and that the two officers were retiring with full benefits. “They’re not losing anything,” Mr. Manderson said. He reaffirmed that position on Wednesday.
Customs Collector Charles Clifford has said that suggestions indicating that the two senior officers were being forced to retire were “incorrect.” He declined to discuss the details of any individual employee’s retirement arrangements.
“Both Mr. Powery and Ms. Wilks are long-term employees of the Customs Department with 37 and 36 years of service, respectively,” Mr. Clifford said. “I take this opportunity to sincerely thank them for their devoted service to the Customs Department.”