Government has hired KPMG on a US$500,000 contract to help come up with a funding formula to pay for the George Town cruise berthing facility.
Though no contract for the dock itself will be signed before the May general election, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said it was important to continue the “forward momentum” of the project.
KPMG will provide financial and legal consultancy services.
Mr. Kirkconnell said in a press release, “The appointment of KPMG will enable the ministry to formalise the details of the best possible framework suited to our specific needs.”
“Our goal is to arrive at a formula that will not only fund construction of the piers, but will ensure that they are owned by the people of the Cayman Islands within a reasonable period of time,” he added.
KPMG are the second of the “big-4” Cayman Islands accountancy and consulting firms to work on the pier project. PwC produced the business case for the piers, which envisaged that the project could be funded through a combination of the fees that currently go to tender operators, around $5 per passenger, and a share of the $14 per-passenger “head tax” charged by government for every cruise ship visitor.
Part of KPMG’s role will be to finalize the development of that financial model and help prepare tender documents to attract bids from companies or consortiums of companies to design, build, finance and maintain the port.
Chief Officer Stran Bodden stated in the press release, “KPMG is a highly reputable consulting firm with a long established presence in the Cayman Islands.
“Given their affinity with the Cayman Islands, KPMG understands the strategic context of this project and its importance to the cruise industry as well as our islands’ economy. We look forward to working with them and benefitting from their analytical expertise as we move forward with the berthing facility negotiations.”
Mr. Kirkconnell acknowledged in January that the project would not go out to tender before the May 24 election. He said the Progressives government remained committed to delivering a “world-class cruise facility” and said he hoped any future government would follow through with the plan after the election.
He attributed delays in the project to government’s desire to follow best practice for major projects, which include a business case and environmental impact assessment report, as well as later attempts to alter the design to address community concerns about damage to coral reefs in the harbor.
Former port director Paul Hurlston, speaking on social media after the announcement, expressed skepticism that a viable funding formula could be found.
Mr. Hurlston, a likely candidate in the upcoming election, wrote that PwC, which won an earlier contract to produce a business case for the project, had found it challenging to come up with a financing model that could work for Cayman.
He said, “KPMG had been previously employed by Cayman on several occasions to do the same thing and the results have been the same. I wonder what is different now and why at the 11th hour before the general election?
“This is the seventh attempt to finance and build cruise berthing piers and many many millions dollars have been spent on various consultancy services over the years.
“It is important to understand that consultants do not make decisions but rather analyze the data and provide options for the Government to use in making the decisions. They take our wristwatch and tell us the time.”
He said if government had analyzed previous reports on the project, as he claims to have advised in 2013 in his role at the Port Authority, they would have seen they were going down “a road that has been explored before and it was a dead end.”