Home affairs facing numerous challenges

| 16/11/2015 | 22 Comments
Cayman News Service

Premier Alden McLaughlin, Minister of Home Affairs, Health and Culture

(CNS): The home affairs ministry was boasting about its first annual report this week, but while it is one of only a few government ministries to produce a full management report to explain its financial statements, the improving transparency is revealing a catalogue of problems. Staffing and resource problems in the law enforcement agencies it oversees are some of the biggest challenges for the ministry, which is also facing some legacy problems over cash being wasted.

From millions of dollars wasted on failed projects and declining public confidence in law enforcement to the challenges at the prison and the wider problems of immigration and local unemployment, the premier’s ministry must deal with some of the most difficult problems of any government entity.

In a recent review of the status of government’s previous financial reporting, the Office of the Auditor General revealed that the home affairs ministry’s 2013/14 financial report was qualified due to issues regarding the net worth of the ministry’s assets and entitlements owed to workers. He said that he was not able to confirm that statements regarding employee benefits were accurate because of poor staff leave records, so the claimed surplus from the ministry of $1 million was not fairly states, the report revealed. But the auditor’s report reveals further issues about the significant waste of taxpayers’ money by some of the agencies within the ministry.

The OAG revealed that in recent years the ministry has spent millions of public cash settling lawsuits and during 2013 it wrote off a million dollars. Some $663,000 was spent on an immigration biometric project which is not being used and over $670,000 was spent on laying the foundation of a young offender’s institute which has been placed on hold. The auditors also pointed to some inappropriate accounting by the ministry, as it was given $45,000 from the controversial Nation Building Fund outside of legislative scrutiny to top up the cash it needed to cover the costs of its CCTV programme, which exceeded the amount approved for it by lawmakers in the budget.

Although the 2014 report is unqualified, the problems plaguing the prison, the fire service, the police and immigration continue. The prison is under-resourced and is currently embroiled in a management controversy. Its deputy director was sacked in connection with a covert video recording in what appears to have been a whistleblowing situation regarding the inappropriate behaviour of another member of the prison management team, who remains on required leave.

The police, meanwhile, remain under fire, metaphorically as well as in some cases literally, not least because of what the public sees as an inability to get crime under control. The recent attempted cover-up regarding the loss of millions of dollars worth of cocaine in a break-in at police headquarters into an evidence locker has caused significant public outrage.

Meanwhile, the fire service is still without a boss as the acting chief remains on required leave in connection with an alleged hit and run. The immigration department is also receiving considerable public attention and is being squeezed on the one hand by local businesses criticising the bureaucratic delays in clearing permits, while the community and politicians remain concerned that the law is not being properly applied, leading to high unemployment.

In the first ever full and unqualified annual report the ministry lists a number of other ongoing issues. In the operations statement, Chief Officer Eric Bush said that the reporting period “was by no means void of challenges”, and pointed to work being undertaken to close gaps in leadership and build resiliency at the ministry.

Reviewing the work of its ten agencies, the report points to the difficulties in the RCIPS retaining quality staff, poor accommodation, a spike in burglaries and ongoing gang violence that has created fear in the community.

“Failure in obtaining significant community trust and assistance presents challenges in solving crime; however, measures have been put in place to aid in the improvement of engagement within the wider community,” the report stated.

During the 2014/2015 year, human resources was recognized as being the biggest challenge for the prison and a business case has been submitted to increase the staff by 16 officers but this has not yet been approved. The takeover of the Immigration Detention Centre has put even greater strain on the workforce and just under one million dollars was spent during the financial year on overtime. The prison is also in an appalling condition, and although some improvements have been made to the facility, the findings of the UK inspectorate that much of Northward is “decrepit and squalid” remains true.

The fire service is also plagued with staffing problems, and with the anticipated implementation of the conditional release bill next February, the staffing challenges will spread to the already under resourced Department of Community Rehabilitation.

“With ongoing efforts to meet various deadlines and services, there are increasing concerns with regards to the level of supervision being offered in the community,” the report noted. “As supervision is a critical part of DCR’s mandate, additional resources are imperative to ensure effective and efficient services to clientele, staff well-being and safety and public safety … DCR is cognizant that failure to address resources needed to meet demand will have significant long term costs and implications that will far exceed savings from not increasing human capital and services.”

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Category: Government Finance, Government oversight, Politics

Comments (22)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It is really hard to sum up the many inadequacies of the CIG. Spare a thought for the hundreds of inordinately patient households that years ago qualified for a merit-based PR but have been made to wait for some movement on their file. The CIG seems to revel in the worry and personal torment these fine folks endure – including the extortion of hundreds of thousands in equivalent permit fees year after year from positive contributors that ought to have advanced their files to the stage of Naturalisation as BOTC and/or Caymanian Status had the system been functional. It is a pity we feel we need to abuse our future electorate so badly. My family and I went through these horrors years ago (when it was marginally easier) and those waiting and waiting now with personal uncertainty have my deepest sympathy.

    • Anonymous says:

      Work permit equivalency fees for PR holders are illegal. It represents a significant contingent liability on the books of CIG.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry hate to remind but if they don’t like the wait they can always leave. Try the US or UK. See how long they take to grant residency. The nerve!

  2. Wallace Blackwater says:

    Does anyone remember the beautiful Honduran girl who vanished? Her mother came over here to find her and it transpired that immigration “had no record of her”, after she had called home on many occasions. Well guess who was involved with her. It was a wifebeater.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hear! Hear!

  4. Anonymous says:

    $670,000.00 for a foundation!!!!??????? Something smells ‘off’ there…

  5. UnCivil Servant says:

    Enough is enough Franz time to fire your bbf Eric Bush. His poor management is behind every bad decision and waste of funds in the ministry. Where is the accountability? Lodge protects incompetence and brothers protect brothers while the public all pay for it

    • Anonymous says:

      Nonsense, Eric Bush is one of the brightest and best we have.

      The real issue is the perennial reluctance to hire competent heads of department. They can’t find qualified Caymanians (rock) and the public won’t tolerate expats (hard place).

      Hiring qualified expats is the lesser of the two evils but requires courage on the part of politicians and mandarins.

      The public will always find something to complain about. Better that the vocal minority complain about an expat heading an effective service than to perpetuate incompetence and dysfunction by appointing someone that can’t do the job and sets a terrible example for the up and comers, leading to lost staff/morale and further decline.

      And if the expat doesn’t work out you can fire him or her. The only thing you can do with a Caymanian is put them on indefinite leave (apparently).

      The reality is we cannot expect to find enough good managers and executives to staff 80 government departments and agencies when competing for the best people (in a tiny talent pool) with the deep pockets of the private sector.

      To have an effective civil service we need the best in the world. We pay enough to get them, what we lack more often is the cojones.

      • Col. Bert says:

        There is much truthiness in what you say, although you nearly lost me with your first sentence.

      • Anonymous says:

        The record of the CO says it all. Shirlaw courses cannot hide his track record. The comments read like a recent expat hire who owes everything to Eric Bush.

      • Dwight L Moody says:

        “Character is what you are in the dark.”

      • Anonymous says:

        A very, very accurate concise summation of the state of affairs, 10:52. The politicians do not have the testicular fortitude to deal with staffing issues. Always frightened of the “woting public”. Look at the Premier. When faced by a bunch of dimwitted but decent firemen from whom it is impossible to find a local chief fire officer, the Premier says he will not recruit an expatriate because he’s afraid the firemen will throw their toys out of the playpen. I guess he can bring back Nixon and Grant on a rotating basis for the next ten years. Same with Immigration. And they had to save Chuckie from a failing law career to take over Customs, which is actually a good move because he can do the job. The place is just too small to have any chance of filling all these complex posts with locals…unless we appoint bozos. Which, all too often, we do.

      • Anonymous says:

        Right… so let’s continue to higher expat ‘experts’ who currently reside at the prison and RCIP at management level. How exactly has that benefited this country?
        I will be the first to point out that we have some deadwood in the civil service but let us all be cognizant that hiring so called experts isn’t the answer either. Accountability starts at the top but as usual our CO’s will never be held accountable.

        • Anonymous says:

          But like the original poster said, bobo, expat failures can always be gotten rid of by just not renewing their contracts. We locals are there for life and when the retirement age is raised it will mean “for life” means an extra five years.

        • Anonymous says:

          You can’t hold the CO accountable for a failing department unless you allow him to make the hiring and firing decisions.

          EB can’t step in to run the fire department, the prison service, the police and immigration all by himself. All he can realistically do is hire someone good to head each one. If the politicians won’t allow it he is hamstrung.

        • Anonymous says:

          Written by someone who has obviously never met the current head of the prison service, who is infinitely more qualified and capable than the last one.

          • Anonymous says:

            At least Neil is trying!

          • Anonymous says:

            There is a lady civil servant who is determined to “get” Eric Bush and Franz Manderson and whoever is in charge at the prison. We all know who she is but just have to live with her and her posts on CNS.

            • Anonymous says:

              Eric is the best person for purchasing CCTVs, that barely function. What is the Auditor’s comment on them? Cost, function and usage.

    • Anonymous says:

      This cronyism is disgusting and corrupt! If any of this had been done by McKeeva certainly all hell would have been called by PPM. It’s not right that this govt has been about everything they campaigned against!! Wolves in Sheep’s clothing as far as many people have been seeing.

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