Cayman Islands Governor Anwar Choudhury may be gone, but his pledge to “burn or shred” pieces of government bureaucracy has not been forgotten.
Government officials announced Thursday that 15 different areas of the public sector’s burgeoning red tape had been snipped away, affecting government operations in the areas of immigration, land registries, public prosecutions, customs and animal welfare, among others.
“By cutting unnecessary red tape, we are demonstrating, in a very real and tangible way, that the civil service is serious about improving customer service and the experience of all those who interact with us,” said Acting Deputy Governor Gloria McField-Nixon.
In early June, Mr. Choudhury told the Cayman Compass during an interview that government intended to start reducing areas where they had identified bureaucracy occurring for no particular reason.
“Everywhere I look, I see unnecessary bureaucracy that ties up the civil service … and delivers nothing but frustration for the customer,” Mr. Choudhury said at the time. “You sometimes wonder why people are working so hard, and the outcome doesn’t match up.”
Among the changes announced Thursday, the Immigration Department will begin opening its main office on Elgin Avenue at 7:30 a.m. to begin serving customers. Previously, the department opened its doors at 8:30 a.m. It was described in statements made to the Compass by Mr. Choudhury during the early June interview where he noted a government department could not open to early birds even though some staff had arrived by 7:30 a.m.
“The customers are just standing there, missing work, and nobody could open the door,” he said.
Mr. Choudhury was temporarily withdrawn from his post on or about June 12, pending an investigation into “a number of complaints” against him. As of press time Thursday, nothing further has been said regarding the outcome of that investigation.
Another immigration-related change involves the elimination of requirements that residents applying for British Overseas Territories citizenship provide police clearance documents and a travel history – both items which can already be obtained by the Immigration Department.
The government said it would also change the requirement for people seeking a U.S. travel visa waiver to appear in person.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, who serves as the government’s immigration minister, said in a press release: “These measures show that the unity government is serious about providing the public with more streamlined processes and reduced waiting times in their interactions with the civil service.”
Other changes already made include a process to record anonymous complaints made about animal cruelty. Those complaints would be filed with the Department of Agriculture.
The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce congratulated the government Thursday on taking action to reduce red tape.
“These steps will save time and money [for] businesses and residents, which can now be redirected to more meaningful activities,” a statement from the Chamber Council noted. “We encourage the public service to identify other areas to improve efficiencies, including those that can help to reduce the cost of doing business as well as progressing the ongoing implementation of the Project Future projects.”
The changes also represent a sea change for the administration of public justice in Cayman.
One technical change seeks to address a complaint commonly made by defense attorneys regarding late disclosure of information in criminal prosecutions by the Crown.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has agreed to prepare “non-complex” disclosure bundles, information the Crown must legally provide to the accused at the time those individuals are charged with an offense, rather than at that person’s first court appearance.
The court system has seen many examples of criminal cases being delayed, simply because attorneys have not been given timely information.
“This will enable cases to be progressed faster, as it will no longer be necessary to adjourn at the time of the first appearance to allow for a review of the papers,” a description of the changes on the deputy governor’s office website read.
Her Majesty’s Customs service has also eliminated the requirement for all airport passengers to fill out customs forms if they have nothing to declare.
Other changes include: The ability for the district administration offices in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman to accept debit or credit cards; improving processes to allow the provision of retirement benefits to seamen and servicemen more quickly; measures to improve the speed of land registry transactions; and the elimination of a requirement that the deputy governor receive quarterly reports on compensatory time usage by civil service departments.