(CNS) UPDATED: Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller joined other public calls on Tuesday for the removal of the Linford Pierson as chairman of the OfReg board following revelations that he had threatened to punch the deputy chair during a recent special board meeting. Miller said that if the details revealed in the leaked minutes are an accurate reflection of what happened, the government should replace the chairman and do something to get the authority back on track. Concerned about the utility regulator’s failure to do anything but “allow price increases and spend public money”, Miller said it was another example of government failing to follow its own laws.
He said that if what was written in the minutes about the chairman’s attempts to make himself CEO is also correct, that certainly appears to fly in the face of anti-corruption legislation and also seems to be in violation of the public authorities law.
“Hopefully government is going to dismiss the chair,” Miller told CNS, adding that the government must be feeling uncomfortable by what has been recorded in these minutes.
He lamented the Utility Regulation and Competition Office’s apparent inability to address any of the major issues in its remit, such as regulating fuel prices and tackling the problems relating to the lack of fibre roll-out in the Eastern Districts. He also pointed to the repeated complaints that the telecommunication firms are charging people top dollar for internet speeds and services but actually supplying only a fraction of that speed.
“After almost two years we still can’t get fuel regulated and still can’t get the telecoms companies to comply with the law,” he said, adding that the utility companies are still able to threaten and manipulate government into not enforcing the laws.
But he raised concerns that things could get worse, following news that OfReg is now engaged in a public consultation about its takeover of the regulation of the country’s water supply.
“Given the Water Authority was self-regulating, it was doing a relatively good job,” the opposition leader said. “I have real concerns now that we are taking it away from them and putting it into this quagmire at OfReg. This is water we are talking about — an essential utility.”
He pointed out that this goes way beyond economic problems and into health and safety. “The public needs to know it is properly regulated, but looking at things now, it appears things are likely to get worse.”
The government has remained silent on the issues surrounding the near-violent outbreak at the August meeting and none of CNS questions sent to various government officials and the chairman have been answered. It also appears that the minutes may well be adjusted to remove the references to the threats of violence. After Pierson apologised at the next meeting, the board had agreed to amend the minutes.
Several hours after this article was published OfReg issued the following statement:
The Board of OfReg, the multi-sector regulator of the Cayman Islands, acknowledges that recently leaked meeting minutes described a heated discussion that has since been amicably and responsibly resolved. The board is focused on getting down to the business of providing a solid consumer protection infrastructure through effective and sound regulation.
The recruitment process for a qualified CEO is a high priority for OfReg and until there is a successful candidate, the Acting CEOs are being supported from both the board and the staff, to provide stability and solid leadership in this short-term transitionary period. The Chairman, Dr. the Hon. Linford Pierson, OBE, JP would like to state for the record that he sought legal advice in relation to putting himself forward for the CEO position and was advised that there is no breach of the Anti-Corruption Law.
The board understands the concerns of the public and would like to provide the assurance that it is working towards continuing the excellent work of the employees of OfReg to move the Cayman Islands forward in terms of providing a high level of consumer protection.