Fraud hotline reports ‘anonymous,’ gov’t says

The Cayman Islands government has set up its own hotline for reporting fraud or wrongdoing by its employees, separate from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service or the soon-to-be-formed independent ombudsman’s office.

The ombudsman’s office will be assigned responsibility for fielding whistleblower complaints, once the law giving it those powers takes effect in February 2018. However, neither that office, nor its legal enforcement powers regarding whistleblowing, are in force now.

The hotline reporting service, operated by local accounting firm KPMG, allows anyone to report incidents of fraud or to “blow the whistle” on suspected unethical acts or maladministration within the government. Tips can be phoned in to a 1-800 number or emailed to a secure address that KPMG operates.

“Whistleblowers who use these platforms will have complete anonymity and will therefore be protected,” a government statement released last week noted. “All claims or allegations made will be investigated by the Internal Audit Service.”

The tip lines operate similarly to Cayman Crime Stoppers, where callers or emailers are assigned a number that tipsters can use to contact the line again to keep track of their report, while remaining anonymous.

Ministry of Home Affairs officials said Tuesday that the whistleblower hotline is not an attempt to circumvent either criminal reporting to the police or reports of wrongdoing to the ombudsman’s office, when that office is set up later this year.

Ministry Chief Financial Officer Vinton Chinsee said the new ombudsman’s office may wish to make use of the tip line facility, which is paid for by government in a three-year contract. If so, it could just take over the management of it, he said.

“In order for the government anti-fraud policy to be most effective, you need a whistleblower mechanism where people can anonymously file reports as well [creating] a mechanism to investigate these reports,” Mr. Chinsee said. “Even after the Whistleblower Law comes into effect, this mechanism will be needed.”

Mr. Chinsee said the three-year contract for operation of the whistleblower/fraud hotline was bid out, but that KPMG was the only local firm that expressed interest in providing the tip-line service. All other bidders were from overseas, he said.

If a tip is received, hotline operators will report it to the government’s Internal Audit Unit. Mr. Chinsee said anything of a criminal nature that is reported will be sent immediately to police. However, he said, there may be other matters reported that while not criminal, could still cause concern.

“Someone using their government vehicle to tow their private boat to a launch ramp for a weekend trip might not be criminal, but it is an ethical issue,” he said.

The Internal Audit Unit has the power to investigate non-criminal matters.

Since the Whistleblower Law was passed in November 2015, the Cayman Islands government has been unable to enforce its terms because the legislation has never been put into force.

The toll-free tip line for whistleblower/fraud reports is 1-800-534-1111
and claims can be sent by email to [email protected]

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