Two of the Cayman Islands government’s independent offices – the information commissioner and the complaints commissioner – will be placed under the oversight of a five-person legislative committee that was appointed Wednesday afternoon.
The official watchdog that will take charge of both offices – the new government ombudsman – has not been appointed yet. However, the governor is now understood to be conducting interviews for the position and once that person is named, he or she will control the operations of both the Complaints Commissioner’s and Information Commissioner’s offices.
The new ombudsman will report to a five-person committee, led by government Minister Tara Rivers, and comprising MLAs Barbara Conolly, David Wight, Kenneth Bryan and Capt. Eugene Ebanks.
Lawmakers from both sides of the Legisaltive Assembly agreed to the committee appointment Wednesday afternoon.
“Given the proposed transition of these responsibilities [in] the legislation that was passed earlier in the year, we propose the same five members who have been nominated for the select committee to oversee the [complaints commissioner] comprise the membership of the select committee to oversee the information commission,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said in the Legislative Assembly Wednesday.
For Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers, the formation of the oversight committee is a positive step because there has never been a functioning one in the eight years the office has existed.
The United Democratic Party government of 2009-2012 appointed members to an oversight committee for the information commissioner, but it was “never active,” Mr. Liebaers said.
Meanwhile, the committee was never formed during the term of the last government, between 2013 and this year.
The committee to oversee the complaints commissioner has also been vacant since last October, when four of the five members resigned in protest of the merger of the independent offices under the ombudsman’s direction.
Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller will retain his position as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the body charged with reviewing and making recommendations on reports from the auditor general’s office.
The other four members of the PAC were named as: Bodden Town West MLA Chris Saunders, George Town South MLA Barbara Conolly, Prospect MLA Austin Harris and West Bay North MLA Bernie Bush.
Mr. Miller had largely brought the accounts committee current on the reports from the auditor general’s office before the end of the previous government term.
In previous government administrations, the PAC was well behind in reviewing audit reports with some not having been heard by the committee for years after their release.