DEH director’s settlement remains under wraps

Public Accounts Committee chairman Ezzard Miller raises queries about accountability relating to the Department of Environmental Health.

Government has declined to reveal the details of any settlement with former director of Department of Environmental Health Roydell Carter after an open records request from the Cayman Compass.

Mr. Carter was said to have retired from the civil service in September, after nine months on leave for unspecified reasons. An internal audit report, later released under the Freedom of Information Law, blamed “substantial mismanagement and widespread abuse” of the system for an 800 percent overspend on overtime at the department.

The report, which highlighted $2 million in overspending on overtime payments, mostly to trash collectors and landfill workers, identified multiple employees with what were described as “implausible overtime records.”

The issue also arose during a Public Accounts Committee meeting this week.

The first part of the internal audit report, which would have been available to ministry officials in February, said Mr. Carter, as director, had “substantially failed” to manage the approved budget, to avoid cost overruns and to bring concerns to the ministry.

No explanation was given for his leave or his eventual departure from government. Now the Ministry of Health has declined to release details of what financial settlement, if any, was made with Mr. Carter.

The Compass asked for details of “salary, pension, healthcare and any other financial settlement” made with the former director. The request was denied on the grounds that it would amount to “unreasonable disclosure of personal information” under the law. That decision was upheld on review by Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn and is now being considered by the Ombudsman.

The issue arose independently in a Public Accounts Committee hearing on Wednesday, when chairman Ezzard Miller raised concerns about ongoing problems with garbage collection.

Mr. Miller highlighted the overtime overspend at the DEH during a discussion on accountability for senior civil servants with Acting Deputy Governor Gloria McField. He suggested roadside garbage collections were still erratic and asked whether there would be any accountability for any of the senior managers or the chief officer, Ms. Ahearn.

He said, “The department head has evaporated like Elijah on a chariot; we don’t know what happened to him, why he left or what he got. Then, there is the chief officer who is ultimately responsible and accountable.

“At what point do we hold a chief officer accountable because a department head has blown millions of dollars and garbage is not being collected on the street?”

Ms. McField did not speak to the positions of Mr. Carter or Ms. Ahearn but said the new leadership at the DEH was doing a “sterling job” in difficult circumstances. She acknowledged that garbage collections were still not consistent.

Government appointed a temporary senior management team, Acting Director Richard Simms and Acting Assistant Director of Solid Waste Mark Bothwell, in July this year.

Ms. McField told Public Accounts Committee members, “There were systemic issues that the leaders faced in going into Environmental Health that did not happen overnight, and they have been making progress.”

She said equipment was coming back online and issues with absenteeism were being addressed.

“They are cleaning up a backlog of issues across the board that have impeded the performance of that department and they are making steady progress,” she said.

She added that there had been cases where there was a “willful challenge to being held accountable” by some staff and that this was being addressed through the disciplinary process.