(CNS): The chief officer in the planning ministry, Alan Jones, has said that he told the current minister of planning, Kurt Tibbetts, that there was a legal requirement to review the country’s development plan but he did not get the necessary support. However, he admitted to the Public Accounts Committee that he has never asked the minister to request that funds be budgeted to undertake a long overdue review of the national plan.
During an intense grilling from PAC Chair Ezzard Miller on 9 March, Jones was unclear about the process of conducting the review, which is a requirement in the planning law, and whether that should be triggered by the Central Planning Authority (CPA), the planning department or the planning ministry.
One of the main concerns raised by the Office of the Auditor General in the report National Land Development and Government Real Property, which the PAC was examining, was the failure to review the plan despite a legal requirement to do so. The law calls for a review every five years but the last review was conducted in 1997 and this failure on the part of government has led to significant negative impacts on Cayman’s development. In the report, the OAG warned that without an up-to-date national plan or a guide for the future of Cayman, the private sector has taken over the development of the islands, with the CPA making piecemeal changes.
Jones accepted that his ministry would be required to undertake the work in partnership with the planning department but said the key issue was funding. However, maintaining that he did not have the power to apply resources to such a project, he said the matter had been raised with the minister and that he could not address the issue in isolation.
“There is inevitably a political aspect,” he said, though he agreed it was his responsibility to advise the minister about how much money would be needed to run the ministry and undertake its legal obligations.
Jones accepted that the law required a review but he insisted he could not make it happen without the budget for it. Pressed by Miller over why he had not made the necessary request to undertake a full scale national development plan review, he pointed the finger at Tibbetts. The CO said he did not feel the government supported undertaking the review and so he had not requested the necessary cash, which could be around $500,000.
“Ultimately, it goes nowhere without the funds being provided,” Jones told PAC. He described the problem as a systematic failure because the people obligated to do the work do not have control over the cash without a policy directive. “It would be useful to identify a way to prevent these roadblocks,” he suggested.
Pressed by PAC member Winston Connolly about what he had done to try and address this, he said he had had a conversation with Tibbetts post-election.
“Upon the election of the new government, I sat with the minister and I asked if … it was his intention to proceed with the development plan, and if the answer had been yes, funds would have been requested and the process activated, but I did not receive that direction,” he said.
He admitted this was a casual conversation and Jones had not documented that the advice regarding the legal requirement had not been done in writing and that there had been no further discussion about undertaking the plan.
The government is now working on a budget that will run from 1 July this year until 31 December 2017, but according to Jones, there is still no request for the plan. As a result, the country’s lack of vision over sustainable development and the piecemeal uncoordinated development of the Cayman Islands appears set to continue for many more years to come.
In the GOVTV video below, the relevant section begins at 1:47:35.