A probe into the possible misuse of government resources adds yet another name to the already-lengthy list of public officials who have been sidelined by investigation.
National Roads Authority Managing Director Paul Parchment has been placed on leave by the authority’s board of directors, which also has commissioned an investigation into allegations “into possible misuse of NRA resources by a senior employee,” according to a statement issued by Board Chairman Donovan Ebanks last week.
Mr. Ebanks did not reveal the target or nature of the investigation, although it is understood that the board was presented with video evidence appearing to depict NRA equipment being used on private property.
Whatever the particulars, the circumstances demand a thorough, timely investigation followed by public disclosure of the complaint, investigators’ findings and what, if any, action was taken as a result.
The NRA probe adds to a veritable mountain of inquiries into possible wrongdoing in central government and outside authorities, including:
- The suspension of a half-dozen Immigration Department officers accused of selling information about the department’s English language test to foreign workers.
- The suspension of several Health Services Authority’s security officers, as an audit review revealed “irregularities” in overtime payments.
- Department of Environmental Health Director Roydell Carter has been on unspecified leave since December – the same month an inquiry into that department’s overtime practices began.
- And at the Cayman Islands Port Authority, a special audit revealed financial, human resources and other administrative irregularities the authority’s board chairman Errol Bush called “concerning” in an email sent to staff.
Given the number of times government has found itself in this situation, one would think a quick, decisive routine would have been firmly established by now. Not so.
Take the case of former Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans, who was offered early retirement from the civil service last fall after spending nearly three years on paid leave. Neither the details of the “administrative investigation” Ms. Evans was the subject of, nor the outcome of that investigation, were ever made public. In a terse, unattributed statement, the public was informed only that, “There have been no findings of misconduct against Ms. Evans, and she is retiring with a good record and thanks are extended for her years of service.”
It is unfair to all parties – the accused, other government employees and officials, and Cayman’s residents – to allow senior civil servants to languish on leave for years, while investigations or court proceedings drag on, with little by way of public explanation or resolution. Fair or not, without accurate information, suspicions linger that there is more under the surface.
As Governor Anwar Choudhury continues to develop priorities for his term, we urge him to pay close attention to this issue. From where we are sitting, the bar for dismissal from the Civil Service appears to be set absurdly high. If it is an issue of laws or contractual obligations protecting civil servants, he should correct the imbalance as soon as practical. In all cases, civil service’s primary responsibility should be to the public, not self-preservation.
There is ample and growing evidence that the civil service could use a thorough housecleaning. Civil service leaders hold positions of public trust (not to mention, are paid through the public purse). They should be held to the highest – not the lowest – standards.