61 of 63 candidates file interests by deadline

Legislative Assembly

The vast majority of the candidates for election to the Legislative Assembly filed their register of interest forms by the March 29 deadline, according to a review done Thursday by the Cayman Compass.

The two candidates in the field of 63 that did not file, Frank McField, who is running in Red Bay, and Katherine Wilks, who is contesting a seat in West Bay, said they would do so by Friday.

There were also a number of deficiencies flagged up by Legislative Assembly staff, which manages the register, where candidates were requested to file additional information that had not been addressed as of Thursday.

The register of interests seeks a declaration from all candidates in a general election which gives information about their employment, shareholdings or directorships in companies and landholdings. If a candidate is successfully elected, they then have to file updates to the form each year.

The register acts as a public notification of any interests lawmakers or future lawmakers might have that could impact the way they cast their votes on any topic that comes before the Assembly.

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“[The register form] is still the same old completely inadequate one,” said George Town North candidate Karin Thompson, who filled out a detailed interest declaration form on Wednesday.

Ms. Thompson, the former chairwoman of the Commission for Standards in Public Life, raised the issue of public disclosures by politicians four years ago following the last general election.

“I think, personally … there is no doubt in my mind that the [declaration of interests] form itself is inadequate,” Ms. Thompson said in December 2013. “It lends itself … to abuse, and I don’t want to say ‘abuse’ lightly, but I think it is an appropriate word.”

Aside from what Ms. Thompson described as general confusion concerning what forms were to be filed, when they should be filed and according to what law they should be filed, the information required on the register of interests form was generally lacking, she said. “It basically allows individuals to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘not applicable’ and then sign off,” she said.

The Progressives-led government approved the Standards in Public Life Bill in early 2014, but that legislation was never put into effect, largely because of complaints from appointed board members that disclosure requirements were too onerous. There were also concerns among government workers over which staff members needed to file a register of interests form and which did not.

A revamped amendment bill was approved by lawmakers last year, requiring elected politicians, senior government workers and appointed board members to submit disclosures of personal business interests and finances for public review, however that legislation has not been put into effect.

“The great challenge we’ve had with this bill is trying to strike the right balance,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said at the time. “If we wind up with disclosure requirements which are so onerous that people are unwilling to volunteer to these [boards and commissions] positions, then we will have to completely revamp the system that we have.”

Under the amended legislation, appointed board members will not have to declare memberships in any professional group, charity or special interest organization. Interest disclosure requirements for appointed board members will also extend only to their immediate family – spouses and dependents – and are to be declared only when the board member holds property or manages anything on behalf of that person or if that person manages something for the board member.

Disclosure requirements for politicians and senior government workers were largely unchanged from the 2014 bill. The legislation does not apply to the judiciary.

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