PAC motion threatens CO with contempt

| 12/06/2018 | 97 Comments
Cayman News Service

Jennifer Ahearn, Chief Officer of Health Ministry

(CNS): Public Accounts Committee Chair Ezzard Miller has filed a motion in the Legislative Assembly on behalf of the entire committee asking parliament to hold the chief officer in the health ministry in contempt after requests to the deputy governor to discipline her were ignored. Jennifer Ahearn could face prosecution for giving false evidence to the committee if the motion, which Miller said has the backing of government as well as opposition members, is carried. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson is expected to respond to Miller this week but has said the CO did not lie.

Miller told CNS he is deeply concerned that it has been more than three months since PAC submitted a report to the Legislative Assembly and wrote to Manderson about evidence that Ahearn had given to the committee. He said that, based on documentary evidence, he and the PAC members think Ahearn lied for the third time in a row when she gave evidence to the committee in October.

The PAC chair said he believes Ahearn has lied to the committee several times before this but it had been dismissed as a mistake or the CO had not sworn an oath so there was little the membership could do to act. However, this time the committee has extensive evidence that Ahearn told a deliberate falsehood and did so after swearing an oath, he said.

The issue relates to evidence that Ahearn gave to PAC when being questioned about the Health Services Authority accounts, where she told the committee that she had made no effort to interfere with the make-up of the Medical and Dental Council and no changes had been made to the line up. Miller said that evidence was misleading and Ahearn must have known it was untrue because less than two weeks before she appeared as a witness the entire council had been changed.

Miller said the evidence was attached to the PAC report given to the LA, demonstrating why committee members believed the health ministry CO had committed perjury. They also wrote to the deputy governor asking him to discipline Ahearn and avoid the need for the more serious move of a contempt motion.

Speaking to CNS on Friday, Miller said he had still not received a response to the letter. However, he said he understood that Manderson was intending to write to him about the issue sometime this week.

But because he had received no such correspondence more than 100 days after he made his request, he has now filed the motion with the LA, setting the parliament on course for a debate and a vote. Given all of the circumstances, he believes that Ahearn misled the committee and said it could no longer go unchallenged.

“I am very concerned about this as I have personally spent a lot of time since 2009 resurrecting that committee and making sure we do the oversight as required,” he said. “If we allow people to come to PAC thinking it’s just a lark and they can say anything they want, what’s the point?”

Miller said that PAC takes its duties seriously and witnesses should take their appearance seriously because this is an important oversight committee providing the only checks and balances on how government uses the people’s money. He said this motion sent a clear signal that the committee means business.

“We have the most recent accounts hearing coming up again shortly, and we can’t expect this CO to be clear and honest with the committee,” Miller warned. “There are some serious questions that we need to ask the CO, including the pending waste management contract and a number of anomalies over how that contract was awarded and other issues plaguing that ministry.”

Miller said he would be extremely concerned about PAC’s future if all 19 members of the LA do not support the motion, given the evidence the committee had submitted. He said the report was signed by all members, including those on the government benches; all the members are again named on the motion that was tabled Friday, and they have all been invited to sign it.

Miller said that they would “question the government’s support and commitment to the work of the committee” if they do not support this motion. He reminded government that when one former chief officer had appeared before PAC and told the truth about the problems in the Department of Children and Family Services, she had been retired, whereas another CO misleads the committee about her own actions, which Miller claimed is documented and “demonstrate she is lying”.

Miller also noted that Ahearn is presiding over a ministry that appears to be particularly troubled at the moment.

“Whether she is the CO that happens to be at the helm of a problem ministry or she is the chief officer that has the worst record for dealing with problems, either way there are a lot of issues in that ministry,” he said. “From her failings over the handling of the CarePay scandal to the recent waste collection issues, those problems keep mounting.”

Miller said there are recent allegations about missing garbage trucks, medical waste being dumped on an open landfill on Cayman Brac, mismanagement and overtime scandals at the landfill and the hospital, as well as the ongoing mysterious disappearance of the DEH director, all on her watch.

CNS has contacted the deputy governor, who has said he will be responding to PAC this week with comments from the chief officer, and that correspondence will be released. However, he briefly stated that Ahearn did not lie to the committee.

 See the contempt motion in the CNS Library

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (97)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Where did the people on here claiming to have read the PAC minutes, etc., claim to have gotten them? Certainly not the PAC website. http://www.legislativeassembly.ky/portal/page/portal/lglhome/committees/publicaccountscommittee (According to that Winston is still a member. But that is in keeping with the PAC chair’s lack of desire for accuracy.)




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  2. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone know why the deputy governor is taking so long to respond? Regardless of whether she lied or not should he not have answered before the 100 days!? Gosh!
    Teachers pet it seems




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    • Anonymous says:

      Well,if the motion is filed in the LA, have no fear, all will be known. Hang in there. All the details soon come.




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    • Boggy Sound man says:

      Because this is all a waste of time and an attempt to smear this nice lady. Thank goodness the acting governor is not being steam rolled. Hang tough Ms Aherns!




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  3. Anonymous says:

    Anyone who has read the minutes of the meeting of what Ms Ahearn said and concludes that she lied is a down right idiot.

    If the DG said she didn’t lie then I believe him.

    Actions like this is the reason Ezzard will never be our Premier. He is dragging Saunders down with him.

    My early prediction is thaf both lose their seats next election. Saunders lost my vote as I understand he is the champion of this motion.

    So go ahead Gents and commit political suicide.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Strange, 8:25 pm : I read another post below by someone who read the same minutes and he or she demonstrated all faculties intact and frankly much higher reasoning skills than shown in your post. For example, “If the DG said it then it must be so.” (Quoting loosely).

      Sounds to me that Ahearn was conveniently not recalling — basically taking the fifth.

      If I had prepared a Cabinet paper (with all is pre-and post-Cabinet procedural ramifications), I would not have had to refresh my memory, especially as the entire board was replaced.

      If this is what happened, there can be no other conclusion than is alleged by the entire PAC.

      It must be frustrating for the PAC to have witnesses evading the truth in a manner that amounts to lying. This type of behavior is really making a mockery of the PAC.

      Is this really what we want for our legislative committees, especially one entrusted with such heavy responsibilities?




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    • West Bay Premier says:

      I agree with Mr Miller’s motion and it should happen , but I have to remind him Miller that she is too deeply involved in the majority of the House . The Premier really owes her , remember the driftwood debacle, nothing happened to him except losing to Mr Seymour , and she remained to grow . It is a dog eat dog world out there today.




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    • Anonymous says:

      When PAC believes they can interfere in the civil service and fire people we can pack up shop. The last OT whose civil service was controlled by politicians was TCI and the British suspended their Constitution.

      Miller Saunders Bernie stop the hate.




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      • Observer says:

        It is a motion for a recommendation to the Office of Public Prosecutions. It will be up to that Office to act on the recommendation–if it is passed in the LA. That is therefore not exactly the PAC “firing” anybody. But of course if they shown to have committed wrong doing, then they may eventually be fired, and that is as it should be.

        In this case, civil servants must understand that when they go down to PAC meetings they must be prepared, and must answer forthrightly.

        Unless you hold them to these even minimally acceptable standards, the whole ability of the PAC to function meaningfully will be nullified.




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  4. Anonymous says:

    CO Ahearn should have been gone a long time ago.. how many strikes do you need before you strike out?! For a CO of the Health Ministry…. things are so unhealthy! We shall see how this plays out….




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  5. Anonymous says:

    A witch hunt. Why is it always the ‘expat’ COs that get singled out by this MLA and others ? Whether its at PAC or Finance c’ttee….




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    • Anonymous says:

      We can no longer deny that there are serious and widespread problems in the administration of the civil service.

      Let the hammer fall — and let it resound through the halls of the civil service.

      Time to really clean up — not to apply cosmetic touches—and a good place to start is at the top.

      What is happening at the lower levels is symptomatic of the problems at the top.

      And let us not divert attention by throwing racial red herrings across the discussion path.




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      • Anonymous says:

        That’s funny I heard Saunders saying the exact same words recently…..hmmmm




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        • Anonymous says:

          In a foreign accent.




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        • Anonymous says:

          8:44 pm: I have never spoken to Saunders — have no idea what his particular views are — but I can imagine that those are the views of many people. There is widespread and growing concern about the state of the civil service. One would have to be blind or in denial not to come to those same conclusions.




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        • Anonymous says:

          8:44 pm: Probably because it is a fair conclusion that many people have come to?




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    • Anonymous says:

      Oh, she is an “”” an expat “”” now. She is a Canadian Caymanian, can’t have it both ways.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Voters and civil servants take note of this. This has nothing to do with a lie. This is because she is not liked because she stood up to so called politicians.

      These bias power hunger PAC members are out of control.

      Shame on you for this gross political witch hunt.

      Ezzard Saunders and Bernie you are all out looking work next election. Mark my word.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Amen. Ahearn is one of the best senior leaders in the civil service.




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        • Anonymous says:

          9:13 pm — if she is so good, why does all quarters of the ministry showing so much distress?




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          • Anonymous says:

            The more relevant question is why aren’t the leaders of certain sections of the CS performing. You think Ms. Ahearn should be responsible for all? She’s good, and a lot of people do not like the mediocrity (or worse) being shown up.




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        • Anonymous says:

          Good thing she is a good senior leader because she has to run the HSA.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Perjury cannot be tolerated whether we like someone or not. It’s always wrong. How can it be a witch hunt when approved Minutes from the PAC meeting show that the wrong information was given to the Committee by the person who is paid big bucks to know basic things about her Ministry? We also have a right to know why the DG failed to respond to the Chairman’s request that she be reprimanded. He had over 100 days to explain her behavior to the Chairman. He didn’t. Why?




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      • Anonymous says:

        “She stood up to” which politicians? There was a kerfuffle with a previous minister she served — but there was never ever any public statements as to what really happened there. Or did you mean disrespect?

        And by the way, her record with the CarePay debacle alone does not strike me as someone taking the high road.




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  6. Diogenes says:

    Why does the DG have any say in the matter surely if the PAC feels as if perjury was committed the charges should be leveled and then taken to the appropriate court for adjudication?
    Surely a member of the government and the head of the civil service shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth in this instance, the point of this sworn testimony is so that the PAC can do it’s job and hold the relevant departments and authorities accountable. If the DG can just step in and halt the process, what is the point? If the government wants to argue that no offenses were committed they can make their arguments before a magistrate just like anyone else the DG’s opinion should be irrelevant on whether the issue is forwarded.

    I also have issues with the PAC on this matter, 100 days really? You sit back and watch nothing be done for 100 days when you could have acted much sooner, you have the ability to and should have brought these charges the moment you were aware of the perjury. Why did you even give the government the option to handle this in-house so to speak? So we could have another CO on required paid leave? You accuse her of lying multiple times and then give the DG the option to “avoid the need for the more serious move of a contempt motion” To what end? Is anyone who lies to the PAC just going to have the option to get a slap on the wrist behind closed doors?

    The little power our opposition has to keep the government in check, and they seem reluctant to do the bare minimum, such is life in Cayman, where connections, family and decorum are more important than the truth or holding people accountable.
    Diogenes




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    • Anonymous says:

      Diogenes. Maybe you should wait to get the full picture before posting an ill informed comment. Just saying.




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    • Jotnar says:

      Sure its not intended, but there is an inference in your commentary that there was perjury. Entirely agree that if PAC sincerely believes that, it should act without the DG being able to stifle it. But at the same time, surely they should produce the evidence they claim supports their believe before making a public accusation of a civil servant committing a criminal offence. All they have put on the record is the motion – not the evidence they say substantiates it. And wouldn’t it be far more reassuring if these allegations were not made under the privilege of house proceedings? I am alive to the issue of potential cover up you deal with. But what about the potential abuse of the system for MLAs to make allegations about civil servants without foundation and without any fear of consequence? That cannot be right either.




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      • anonymous says:

        Jotnar, I think the motion is a precursor to open debate where all will be revealed.




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        • Anonymous says:

          What open debate? Ezzard has said he expects everyone to agree with him. Its the political club beating up a Civil Servant they don’t like. Total malpractice.




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      • Diogenes says:

        I favor taking the charges to the courts to be handled like any other offense, despite what you may have inferred that is what was meant

        “if the PAC feels as if perjury was committed the charges should be leveled and then taken to the appropriate court for adjudication?”

        ” If the government wants to argue that no offenses were committed they can make their arguments before a magistrate just like anyone else”

        The motion is the first step towards the process that determines if there were offenses as claimed by the PAC, they claim the evidence is attached to a report to the LA, which I am sure the DG had access to, and this motion will lead to a “debate” so I would expect we would be able to assess the situation once that occurs, the DG sits on the floor of the LA and I am sure he would address the motion once it is brought

        The questions I am more interested in are why did the DG not respond to the letter, and why claim she did not lie when this motion was being put forward but not respond over the past 100 days?

        Diogenes




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  7. Anonymous says:

    The civil service. A rat’s nest of incompetence.




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  8. Anonymous says:

    Get your pitchforks out and get on the war path people!! She’s Driftwood!

    (I can assure you, Jennifer Ahearn did not lie)




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  9. Anonymous says:

    Lol




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  10. Anonymous says:

    Well, its about time someone’s “head in the clouds” rests on the chopping block for the CarePay and other serious failures of the Health Ministry.




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  11. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like Deputy Governor Franz Manderson ‘MBE’ is showing his true allegiances here.




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    • Anonymous says:

      2:17 There’s an old joke in the UK that OBE means by ‘Other Buggers’ Efforts’ and MBE means by ‘Many Other Buggers’ Efforts’ – it’s not a generally well-respected award.




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      • Anonymous says:

        It’s a worthless cronyism award. I have more admiration for the ones that refuse it and here is why. A person who shows true altruism would not seek to be recognised or rewarded. While the ones that truly do good cannot help but be recognised, they would not accept a useless earthly reward.




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      • Anonymous says:

        4:30 In the Cayman Islands honestly, it is known as ” My Blind Eye “.




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      • kate says:

        Many have refused and some people have returned these useless awards. But in reality, many people who deserve recognition for their contribution and positive action in society go unnoticed, just too political.




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  12. E says:

    People may hate Ezzard, but how I see it, he is a necessary Watch Dog!




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  13. Anonymous says:

    I can make no comments on this case, but suffice it to say it is high time civil servants are sent a clear message that the country is demanding that they do their jobs conscientiously and with dedication to their duties.




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    • Anonymous says:

      And when its shown that she did not lie, will the PAC step down from being MLAs? – I’m ready for the bye-elections.




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  14. Anonymous says:

    For once,,,, I can see “eye to eye” with Ezzard. Not everyone who pops up on these shores, by plane or sea, is capable of jumping over the moon! And this is a troubled department! Something has to give!




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    • Anonymous says:

      We need more men like Ezzard with the testicular fortitude to ask questions when they sees things are not right. He should be made a national hero for his service to this country. Keep up the good work Ezzard and if you ever move to George Town you will be getting my vote.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Oh please Ezzard, move to GT and do your long suffering constituents a favour. He needs to keep his place as a playtime parliamentarian, he’s not a lawyer nor is he entitled to act as judge and jury. He XXXX wants to see the downfall of a very capable woman.




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  15. Anonymous says:

    Why is this even an issue? Franz should have dealt with this a long time ago. If there is proof she lied then take action, why is he dragging his feet?




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    • Anonymous says:

      Probably because there is no proof and he was trying to save the politicians from embarrassing themselves.




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  16. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps Ms. Ahearn is a well-meaning individual?
    I am also sure that the government she works for is dysfunctional, but this is the whole problem in Cayman.

    No one knows what the hell they are doing.
    This is why we bring in the consultants.
    We pay them a fortune, take our cut and hope that the problem goes away.

    Both Miller and Manderson are Lodge, so this will play out well.

    Watch for a result that softens the ire of the people.

    When will this bullshit end?




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    • Anonymous says:

      1:03, I hope you’re not from Europe! Talk about dysfunctional governments!




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    • Anonymous says:

      I am a little tired of highly paid COs blaming the politicians. I heard this same story from previous COs who made the same claims. It is all weak kneed cowtowing that is basically about keeping their job.

      And most of that is just simply a false belief.

      On the CarePay debacle, for example, while I don’t know any more than what I read from Court reports, I recall reading that the CFO at the time refused to comply with demands from the then HSA board chair re payments. As far as I know, he still holds his job. (Meanwhile, there seems to be some implications for the Health CO in CarePay).

      In another case that didn’t go so well, we had a CO acting contrary to his fiduciary duty on a most serious matter (a la Bridger) because “the Governor knew”.

      You see the rot at the top? And it is probably the tip of the iceberg.

      And some of you are attributing petty motives to the PAC?

      We are going downhill and someone has to at least try to draw the breaks. Or we are headed to a crash with terrible repercussions.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Why do you all pick on Lodge. You are so missed informed as Franz is not Lodge and yes I am proud to call Ezzard brother.




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    • Anon says:

      1:03pm, I would perhaps not call it “well-meaning.” My impression is that the top level is becoming complaisant due to the weight of the power that resides at the top of the civil service. For far too long many have felt empowered in ignoring responsibilities and proper protocols and regulations, and turning a blind eye to wrongdoings in their charges.




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    • Anonymous says:

      What you ignore you empower. Carry on, Mr.Miller.




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  17. Anonymous says:

    This should be interesting.




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  18. Anonymous says:

    I want to give Jennifer the benefit of the doubt but when I read the Minutes from this meeting I became very skeptical. The membership of the Board in question was completely changed just a couple of weeks before Jennifer gave testimony. She said there was continuity in the Board membership, but the entire Board changed. And it appears that new members had not been vetted by HSA. Maybe she didn’t know? But it’s alleged that she would have been the person drafting the recommendation to Cabinet for the drastic change in the first place. Hmmm…




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    • Anonymous says:

      If you read the PAC meeting minutes you would see that she siad she wasnt sure and was basing on memory etc. The sheer amont of things people at that level have to do they may not be abke to recall everything. So it looks like a genuine attempt to answer a query and she clealy stated she was going by memory and wasnt sure.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, she did state that she did not have any documents in front of her at the time of her testimony. But the Board was changed only 2 weeks prior to her testimony. And she was the person who drafted the document for Cabinet to approve these changes. How can she forget such an important change in only 2 weeks. Wouldn’t she make mental note that everyone had been removed and new members appointed?




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        • Anonymous says:

          Chief Officers normally review and approve Cabinet Papers; the Policy Officers draft them. Based on the hundreds of papers Chief Officers see it is entirely possible she may not have made a mental note of that. There are also a large number of boards, councils, committees with members being appointed, resigning, being removed, being added on an ongoing basis. It is almost impossible to track this with memory. A civil servant.




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          • Anonymous says:

            If Chief Officers can’t provide honest, accurate answers to simple PAC questions than who can? Do other COs answer straightforward PAC questions with, “I’m not sure. I can’t remember. If memory serves me.” I doubt that the PAC would tolerate such inadequacies.




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        • Anonymous says:

          She proved her competence levels during CarePay trial.




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        • Anonymous says:

          I believe that if her brain was tired she could have asked for a few minutes to secure the documents to give the PAC the proper information, instead of appearing to evade answering.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Listen, fair enough she can’t retain every freaking thing in her brain. Clearly she knew she was answering questions related to the Board and she should have come prepared or reviewed notes before the hearing. No excuse! As mr Miller said if people think they can say whatever to the board then what’s the point. Accountability is what is being stressed here




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  19. Anonymous says:

    I have no idea what is going on here but I do hope this is not a witch hunt. Surely Mrs. Ahern is not solely responsible for all the problems in the ministry. I wonder how many she could take down with her knowledge of past events?




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    • Anonymous says:

      12:24 pm: The buck stops with the Chief Officer — if she knows of problems in her ministry it is her job to fix them. That is what she gets the big bucks for.




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  20. Anonymous says:

    Will these MLAs make these accusations of the floor of the LA where they cannot hide behind privilege?




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  21. Anonymous says:

    If the evidence says she lied then she needs to be punished. Little man cant get away with speeding ticket but certain individuals in government seem to be running rackets all over the place with no consequence! I sense there is one rule of law for us and another for them, someone needs to look into the selective prosecution taking place in Cayman and take it to the highest courts possible. Its time to bring this circus of bias to a close.




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    • Jotnar says:

      And if the evidence says the opposite? Do you also say that their is one rule for MLAs – they can accuse people of lying with no blow back or legal consequences if they are wrong – and another for civil servants who can be accused of lying in the public forum but are prohibited by the civil service code from saying the same about MLAs?




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  22. Anonymous says:

    mla’s y ministers dont get involved in the running of the civil service….yeah..right! they who run the whole show….?




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  23. William Shakespeare says:

    Much ado about nothing – again!




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  24. Anonymous says:

    It doesn’t help that the website for the Medical and Dental Council was last updated 21 October 2011: http://www.gov.ky/portal/page/portal/cighome/find/organisations/azpublicbodies/mddc




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  25. Anonymous says:

    funny how they only seem to target driftwood….




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    • Anon says:

      Total falsehood, 11:14 am. We actually had a CO dismissed some months ago. Caymanian. Check the newspapers on the unfortunate slew of calls volume service cases involving Caymanians. By no means tejoicing but alas those are facts. Let’s not play the race card.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Caymanian is not a race nor is it a nationality, dummy. It is a descriptive term of someone who comes from the Cayman Islands, the same as being a Londoner or New Yorker.
        Ms Ahearn is Caymanian, so now whose playing the race card?




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        • Rudy says:

          I wonder if canover watson is caymanian? Thumbs up for yes




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        • Anonymous says:

          I still insist it is the nationality card — the poster said Ahearn was being unfairly attacked because she was “driftwood.” Keep up.

          And I totally disagree that “Caymanian” is similar to “Londoner”. Caymanians are a category of British Overseas Territories Citizens — quite different from “Londoners.”

          While we are a subset of BOTC’s, I see no reason not to think of Caymanians as having a nationality for the sake of this discussion.

          And by the way, calling names in a debate is usually a no-no.




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      • Anonymous says:

        correcting typos:

        Total falsehood, 11:14 am. We actually had a CO dismissed some months ago. Caymanian. Check the newspapers on the unfortunate slew of cases involving Caymanians. By no means rejoicing but alas those are facts. Let’s not play the nationality card.




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  26. Anonymous says:

    A bit late, but there you go.




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  27. Anonymous says:

    Interesting.




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  28. UnCivil Servant says:

    Chief Officer Ahearn should have been fired because of the CarePay fiasco signing contracts and approving payments that were not reviewed. The fact that she and HSA CEO Lizzette Yearwood are still employed today is a miracle and the power of knowing and the right people like DG Manderson and Premier Alden.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Uncivil. You again …you finally woke up. Boy try and do some work and stop being jealous of people who actually work.




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  29. Anonymous says:

    Ozzie’s frustration




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  30. PD says:

    Please stop this witch hunt. Honorable Premier you should intervene on behalf of this good lady.




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    • Anonymous says:

      10:14 “Good” do not make her competent! There are lots of good educated people around that are n-t very productive or dependable.




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