Chief officer of government welfare takes early retirement

Community services under fire

The longtime head of the Cayman Islands government’s Community Affairs Ministry, responsible for the administration of social welfare programs, has agreed to early retirement, according to Deputy Governor Franz Manderson.

Ministry Chief Officer Dorine McGee (formerly Whittaker) has come under heavy criticism since a 2015 auditor general’s report criticized the territory’s social services network, stating that the government had spent more than $50 million annually, for which auditors said questionable value had been received.

Attempts to contact Ms. McGee this week about her retirement were not successful.

A statement from Mr. Manderson said Ms. McGee would retire at the end of this month after 32 years in government service.

The deputy governor made no mention of the numerous issues surrounding social welfare services in his send-off to Ms. McGee.

Mr. Manderson thanked Ms. McGee for her long service.

“The Ministry of Community Affairs is an entity that deals with many challenges that have a considerable impact on our society and well-being,” Mr. Manderson said. “On behalf of all of us in the government we wish her a wonderful retirement and God’s richest blessings.”

In a statement released by government on Wednesday, Ms. McGee said, “It has been a privilege and an honor to be a civil servant for over three decades, and I intend to find ways that I can continue to serve people during retirement.

“I have been fortunate to have both the support of a wonderful work family, and a family at home that took care of me and my son so that I could dedicate my time to serving the public. It is important to me to now spend time with them.”

Lawmakers angry

Frustrations with the state of social services in Cayman boiled over this month when members of the Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee blasted a $180,000 consultant’s report they said looked at the “structure” of local welfare programs rather than how to fix them.

Accounts Committee Chairman Ezzard Miller asked whether it was the ministry’s intention to proceed with the “integrated” social services system suggested in the consultant’s review without fixing a number of daunting problems in government’s social services network, including months-long delays in services, nonpayment of rental vouchers and tedious three- or six-month reporting requirements for the elderly or the infirm on permanent social services aid.

Ms. McGee said depending on what Cabinet decides, a number of changes required to combine welfare providers with other government health-related services to those in need will need legislative backing – a process that could take years, in some cases.

“In terms of implementation of the outline business case, we’re really looking at 2021?” Mr. Miller asked.

“Yes, sir,” Ms. McGee said.

Committee member Chris Saunders walked out of the Sept. 6 hearing in frustration, stating that this time line would not help needy Cayman residents.

“2021 is too late to get help to the people who need it today,” Mr. Saunders said. “We have people in this community who are hurting bad. I really have a fundamental problem to see that we take $180,000 that could be used for something else to come back and give us ‘options.’”

The Bodden Town West MLA also questioned whether the “integrated” approach to social services suggested in the business case review was the same as what government did before 2013, when the Needs Assessment Unit was taken out of the government Department of Children and Family Services and run as a separate service.

“We didn’t staff the Needs Assessment Unit correctly … and then we paid $180,000 of the people’s money [for the business case],” Mr. Saunders said. “It frightens me for people in this country … this is a basic function of the government.”

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