Cayman Islands Governor Anwar Choudhury wants to “burn or shred” bureaucratic civil service policies that seem to serve no other purpose than creating “soul-destroying” busy-work for government employees and endless frustration for the people those workers are supposed to assist.
“Everywhere I look, I see unnecessary bureaucracy that ties up the civil service … and delivers nothing but frustration for the customer,” Mr. Choudhury said during an interview with the Cayman Compass last week. “You sometimes wonder why people are working so hard, and the outcome doesn’t match up.”
From a perennially backlogged courts system, to an overloaded landfill that can no longer accept scrap metal, to a vehicle licensing department struggling to replace 45,000 license plates, Cayman’s government service has not performed in key areas during recent years – despite routine budget surpluses and a recently increasing number of employees.
Nonetheless, there are some positive signs amid the trouble, Mr. Choudhury said during an interview at his office Thursday afternoon.
First, he pointed to a customer-driven approach by Deputy Governor Franz Manderson – the head of the civil service – who Mr. Choudhury applauded for his recent apology about the state of trash pick-up on Grand Cayman.
“[That was] a great example of leadership, taking ownership of an issue,” the governor said. “Now we have to show we really mean it.”
Second, there are some quick fixes that may be employed to address specific problems. For instance, Governor Choudhury said Thursday that he had just signed an order allowing a local judge to work more hours during the week to get through more criminal cases.
However, the service of justice, like any other service government provides, is multifaceted and depends on many different components to work properly and efficiently, he said.
Mr. Choudhury suggested officials take a step back to look at the larger picture and if the delays in service – whether they exist in receiving swift justice or simply receiving a license plate for a car – are due to unnecessary bureaucracy, then the governor should offer a direct solution.
“Shred or burn policies or bits of bureaucracy,” he said. “Literally, burn them. We’ve just selected 20 [such policies].”
One policy that made Governor Choudhury’s list of 20 wishes to set on fire was a rule in one public service department that was told it could not open its doors to customers until 8 a.m. Some of the staff had arrived at around 7:30 a.m. and were seen by customers waiting outside, but nobody could open the door even though the department’s workers were already in place.
“The customers are just standing there, missing work, and nobody could open the door,” he said.
Another piece of paper the governor said was on the burn list was the customs form for goods declarations coming through Owen Roberts International Airport.
“It’s much better to get rid of the form. Everybody hates the paperwork. This is a tourist destination. The last thing people want to do when they get here is fill out another form,” Mr. Choudhury said.
The governor was quick to acknowledge that any civil service must have a set of operating rules, lest chaos ensue. However, he believes there is ample opportunity in Cayman to reduce the sheer number of policies and procedures both customers and employees must endure.
This will require some out-of-the-box thinking, or as the governor referred to it, “flexibility of mind,” encouraging civil service managers to approach bureaucracy-burning solutions in new ways.
“We’ve got to get rid of that bureaucracy mind-set … we destroy people’s souls by not allowing them to think originally,” Mr. Choudhury said.
To assist with the bureaucracy reduction, the governor said he intended to form a “high-level” panel to assess the civil service performance each year.
The group will be made up of Cayman’s senior business leaders, members of the Legislative Assembly from all sides of the political aisle and some non-governmental organizations – including members of the local media.
The panel would be advisory in nature but could examine issues like customer service, e-government and even what policies may be outdated and fit for the shredder. Or the incinerator.
“We are looking at every step to see how we can expedite and introduce pace into the civil service,” Governor Choudhury said.