Before adjourning on Thursday, Legislative Assembly members appointed an oversight committee for the Ombudsman Office.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said the Ombudsman Office committee is necessary because the office replaced the Complaints Commissioner’s and Information Commissioner’s independent offices, rendering the oversight groups for those departments obsolete. MLAs approved the appointment of the five nominated legislators: Chairperson Tara Rivers, Deputy Chairperson Barbara Conolly, David Wight, Alva Suckoo, and Eugene Ebanks.
Two private members’ motions, both by opposition MLA Chris Saunders, were also passed at the meeting.
Mr. Saunders said his first motion – for government to consider hiring only Caymanians for public security services – is necessary because “it’s time to have our own people checking our people.”
He said Caymanians know “who’s who” and would be able to identify suspicious activity more readily than an expatriate security guard. While government might save money by hiring non-local security contractors, that is putting the public at risk, he said. Mr. McLaughlin responded that during the next tendering cycle for security services, government will consider inserting provisions in its contracts that require companies to hire a minimum number of Caymanians.
The motion was passed unanimously. Mr. Saunders’s second motion called for government to consider creating an education fund to provide scholarships and other schooling opportunities. He said it should be funded by appropriating 50 percent of the exchange spread earned by banks. The exchange spread is the fee banks keep when exchanging Cayman dollars for U.S. currency – which is 3.2 percent, or about 4 cents per Cayman dollar exchanged.
Opposition leader Ezzard Miller said a fraction of the $20 million that banks generate annually from the exchange spread would go a long way in seeding an education fund.
However, Mr. McLaughlin balked at the idea. “In case people aren’t paying attention, you’ve seen a dramatic fall in banking institutions in these islands,” he said, referring to the decline in the number of Class B banks registered in Cayman over the recent years. “So the government has to be cognizant for the messages we send about how we value or don’t the business of banks in this country.”
The motion was split into two separate proposals. The motion to consider creating an education fund was unanimously passed, while the motion to consider funding it via the bank exchange spread was voted down 10-6.