Leader of the Opposition Ezzard Miller

The Cayman Islands government’s efforts to maintain the integrity of public projects and hiring processes are “being ignored” by top-ranking officials, Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller said Thursday in a lengthy public statement.

Mr. Miller said the failure to implement certain laws, or to follow legislation after it has been implemented, has had a significant impact on major projects such as the Owen Roberts International Airport expansion and the proposed George Town cruise dock. It has also lessened the level of accountability once anticipated for senior public servants, he said.

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“Several important pieces of legislation that were passed by the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly in the past four years and earlier to safeguard integrity and good governance have not been fully implemented or are not being applied,” Mr. Miller said Thursday. “The impact of this non-compliance is that solid principles of procurement and good governance are not being observed and the necessary accountability for and management of government resources are consequently being undermined.”

Mr. Miller specifically referenced three laws passed within the past five years: the Standards in Public Life Law, the Public Authorities Law and the Procurement Law as examples of “good governance legislation … that is being ignored.”

The Standards in Public Life Law was passed in March 2014 and amended in 2016, but has never been fully implemented. It requires financial and substantial interest disclosures from elected lawmakers, senior civil servants and some appointed board members. The Procurement Law, 2016, is now in force but the oversight body is sought to create for public tendering has never been established. The Public Authorities Law – governing the management of government’s outside authorities and companies – took effect June 1, but according to Mr. Miller, it has simply not been followed in some cases.

The Cayman Compass contacted Acting Governor Franz Manderson and Premier Alden McLaughlin for comments in response to Mr. Miller’s statements Thursday, but had received no response by press time.

The opposition leader said the failure to comply with those three pieces of legislation – the Procurement Law in particular – has left the airport and cruise berthing projects “staggering under the weight of mismanagement and non-compliance.”

For instance, in the management of the bidding for the cruise berthing project in George Town harbor, Mr. Miller said the Cayman Islands Port Authority Board of Directors should have assumed a leadership role, but had actually been “sidelined.”

Government ministers and their chief officers in the civil service, who should be providing oversight “checks and balances” have effectively voided that role, if it is the case that ministers or chief officers themselves are awarding contracts for the cruise dock works.

Mr. Miller said similar problems arose in the recent agreement for the management of the George Town landfill, where the original three separate bidders were allowed to join together in negotiation of the final deal.

“The upshot is the bidders are holding the handle, depriving government of the opportunity to select bidders based on assessments of competitive pricing – which may mean higher costs to the people,” he said. “We can expect some dire consequences going into the future.”

In a presentation to the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce governing council Aug. 8, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell addressed some of the bidding processes involved with the cruise pier proposal. During 2017, the number of bidders went from 11 to five to a shortlisted three as parties seeking the construction contract for the cruise ship pier were winnowed down.

Ministry Chief Officer Stran Bodden told the Chamber Council that the final contract should be awarded at the end of 2018. The deal is to include pier design, build, financing and maintenance. Construction is expected to take between three to four years and would include the building of two piers, accommodating four ships along with a redeveloped cargo dock.

Mr. Kirkconnell said Cayman needed both the cruise piers and the expanded cargo port.

He said he did not believe the cruise pier construction would become a long-term liability for the British Overseas Territory.

“All of our efforts are directed at ensuring the berthing facility is owned by the people of the Cayman Islands in 25 years – not 50 or 99 as had previously been proposed,” Mr. Kirkconnell said, according to a Chamber press release.