Ethics Law nears commencement

Winspear keen to see new regulations

While Auditor General Sue Winspear has welcomed the Standards in Public Life Law coming into force in March, she said she is awaiting the release of the regulations which accompany the legislation.

“We don’t know what is going to come through in the regulations because the premier in his announcement did mention there would be regulations being brought before Cabinet…. I’d be interested to see what the regulations say,” Winspear told the Cayman Compass in an interview this week.

The Standards in Public Life Law, which was first passed in 2014 and later amended in 2016, has been in a state of abeyance after a review was started following concerns of some government board members.

However, last month Premier Alden McLaughlin announced the legislation would be implemented on 1 March.

He said all statutory boards and government companies were polled last year on the existing concerns about the law. It was determined, he said, that some additional changes were still required, but those could be done in the proposed regulations.

Those regulations will follow the commencement of the law.

Last year, Winspear, in her report on fighting corruption in the Cayman Islands, called for the urgent implementation of the law.

The Standards in Public Life Law sets out the code of conduct for those who serve the public, such as politicians and individuals sitting on government boards and at the helm of government companies.

It was designed to fight conflicts of interest. The law also empowers the Commission for Standards in Public Life to investigate allegations of corruption.

Winspear said she was “very delighted” to see movement on the law, which was first introduced by McLaughlin’s previous administration.

“The law obviously was first passed in 2014 and amended in 2016, so it’s great that in 2020, after many years of making recommendations, that the law is going to come into force,” Winspear said.

She said Cayman and those serving in public life should welcome the law since it not only offers an avenue to fight wrongdoing, it also protects against spurious allegations.

While the premier had outlined the delay in bringing the law into force, he also indicated that there were registers of interests already in place for legislators and individuals subject to the Standards in Public Life law to declare their interests.

Those registers, he said, were also audited by the auditor general.

Winspear agreed that, as part of her office’s function, those registers are looked at, but not in depth, and are not subject to a full audit.

“We check every detail on every return and we look for omissions [in the registers], et cetera. We don’t audit that because if you look at the legislation, the Standards in Public Life Commission has responsibilities for dealing with the veracity of the statements and dealing with any potential problems or any reporting to them from the public. It’s not our role,” Winspear pointed out.

She said if her auditors, in checking the register of interests, see any potential conflicts in what has been declared, they would ask how the conflict was managed.

“We are checking that the management and the board in the entity itself are doing all the things that they need to do to manage their business risks appropriately,” she added.

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