Government’s top civil servant has a simple message for residents frustrated with inconsistent household garbage collections: “We’re sorry.”
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said he had personally intervened to help put things back on track.
He blamed a combination of equipment problems, staff shortages, staff absenteeism and issues with the management of overtime at the Department of Environmental Health for persistent problems with roadside collections.
Residents across Cayman have reported late and inconsistent collections since late last year and a petition, started by Newlands MLA Al Suckoo, is circulating, calling on government to deal with the problem.
Mr. Manderson said, “I am sorry that our waste collection team has failed to reliably and effectively manage waste collection. I offer no excuses, only a firm commitment that the civil service is focused on correcting the failure and restoring the public’s confidence.”
He said a number of employees at the Department of Environmental Health had been disciplined, adding that these workers were letting themselves, their colleagues and the community down through non-attendance and poor performance.
He said “emergency appointments,” including solid waste drivers and assistants, and support staff for the fleet manager, had been made to address staff shortages.
Private sector companies have also been engaged to “plug gaps” in cases of equipment failure, and a vehicle replacement strategy is being drawn up to address the ageing fleet of garbage collection vehicles.
Mr. Manderson made no mention of the Department of Environmental Health’s director Roydell Carter who has been on leave since December.
Government previously refuted suggestions that Mr. Carter had been suspended, but has declined to comment further or explain his lengthy absence from the key leadership role in the department.
An internal audit inquiry into the management of overtime at the department has been going on since late last year.
Mr. Manderson said steps had been taken to manage scheduling at the department, which is responsible for garbage pick-ups, to avoid “unsustainable and exorbitant overtime claims.”
Exactly what disciplinary action has been taken against the employees cited by Mr. Manderson for “poor performance” is unclear. Jennifer Ahearn, chief officer in the Ministry of Health, which includes the DEH, responded to questions from the Cayman Compass indicating that “various disciplinary matters” were being dealt with under the provisions of the Public Service Management Law and regulations.
Mr. Suckoo said he was pleased to see the concerns addressed in his petition, which gathered 500 signatures in the past two weeks, were starting to be addressed. He congratulated the deputy governor for stepping up and “owning the problem,” but said he would continue with his petition to present to the elected government.
“I remain optimistic that the changes detailed by the deputy governor will provide a permanent fix to the problems highlighted. I am, however, very disappointed that the elected government remains silent on the concerns expressed, and that the minister [Dwayne Seymour] in particular has not opted to weigh in on this very serious issue.”