Cayman’s Standards in Public Life Law and its associated regulations have come into effect.
Governor Martyn Roper last week signed the commencement order for the law, and the regulations, to officially be enacted on 1 and 2 March, respectively.
The law establishes standards in public life, and introduces measures to prevent conflicts of interest. It establishes a Register of Interests; directions on the appointment, responsibilities and compensation of board members; and the introduction of powers of investigation.
According to a statement from the Commission for Standards in Public Life, the law “ensures that conflicts of interest are properly addressed and contributes towards a sound infrastructure of good governance, therefore reducing the opportunity for corruption”.
The law also covers ethical standards for elected representatives. Under the law, a Member of the Legislative Assembly who contravenes the Standards in Public Life Law can be found in contempt of the Legislative Assembly, and the assembly can order the member’s suspension from sitting and voting in the House for a certain period determined by the members.
“The commencement of the Law, Amendment Law and Regulations will provide the Commission with the power needed to meet its constitutional mandates to supervise the operation of registers and to investigate breaches of established standards in public life,” the commission stated.
The law adopts the ‘Nolan Principles’ – the seven principles to be adhered to by individuals in public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
The law also repeals and replaces the Register of Interest Law, 1996, so the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, as the registrar appointed under the ROI Law, will transfer declarations previously submitted in accordance with that law to the commission.
The legislation extends the scope of individuals to whom disclosure provisions will apply, according to the commission. All public officers holding the post of heads of departments, sections, units or higher, as well as their deputies and those acting in those positions, are required to submit annual declarations.
Also, board members of statutory authorities, government companies and constitutionally created commissions will be required to complete a declaration. The law also covers candidates nominated for election, as well as elected and official members of the Legislative Assembly, and the Speaker.
Annual declarations are to be made by individuals deemed to be ‘persons in public life’, as well as their immediate family, in relation to details of shareholdings and directorships held in any company or other corporate body; any contract made with any public entity; any company, partnership or association in which money is invested; any trust; any land, whether beneficial or otherwise; any investment fund in which an interest is held; sources of income other than a salary or money from other perquisites of office; other substantial interest whether of a pecuniary nature or not, which raise or may appear to raise a material conflict of interest; and any loan, secured or non-secured, other than from any institution regulated under ‘regulatory laws’ as defined by section 2 of the Monetary Authority Law.
The commission noted that the law “does not require the disclosure of the actual amount or extent of any financial benefit, contribution or interests by anyone”.
Board members of statutory authorities, government companies and constitutionally created commissions are not required to include details in their declaration unless there is a possible or perceived conflict with the person’s functions on the board.
The Commission for Standards in Public Life will enter into the Register of Interests all declarations made under the law and will retain those declarations for at least five years.
Members of the public who wish to inspect the register may do so at the offices of the Commissions Secretariat, based at 67 Fort Street, 2nd Floor Artemis House, during normal working hours.
Persons in public life who fail to submit a declaration, make a false declaration, or refuse to provide requested information without reasonable cause may be liable to penalties ranging from $100 for each day in default to, on summary conviction, a fine of $10,000 or to imprisonment for two years, or to both.
The law also provides the commission with the power to appoint investigators and/or investigate breaches of the law by persons in public life. Investigations can be carried out on the commission’s own initiative or from an allegation made by a member of the public.
“These powers mirror that of the Grand Court with respect to summoning of witnesses, requiring the production of reports, documents, and other relevant information, although the Commission may also take any other actions necessary or expedient for the purpose of carrying out its functions. The production of these additional reports, documents, etc. are subject to protection and shall not be disclosed except in the limited circumstances set out in the Law,” the commission said in a statement.
The law allows for board members to be removed if incapacitated due to physical or mental illness, inability or unfitness to discharge duties, unsuitability, conflict of interest, absence from three consecutive meetings without permission of the board’s chairman, and failure to comply with the requirements of the law.