Ethics law undergoing another review

| 30/01/2019 | 63 Comments
Cayman News Service

PAC in session, 30 January 2019

(CNS): The long-awaited Standards in Public Life Law, which was first passed by the Legislative Assembly more than four years ago, is going through another review because of backlash from private sector board members, who don’t want their information being made public, government officials told the Public Accounts Committee Wednesday. Although the law was amended two years after it was first passed, the changes, which have been described as having “watered down” the original legislation, do not appear to have addressed the concerns of board members, who are often politically appointed. So the premier is said to be taking another look at the law.

Cabinet Secretary Sam Rose was the first witness to appear as PAC began its first hearing this week on the Office of the Auditor General’s report, published earlier this month, on fighting corruption in government. One of her major recommendations was the urgent need to pass the Standards in Public Life Law.

Rose told the PAC that he has not had direct discussions with Cabinet about the law or any of the concerns in the public domain that he was aware of surrounding the legislation. But, he said, although he had no first hand information about the law itself, to the best of his knowledge there are concerns, which is why it has not yet been implemented.

“It is my understanding that the premier has plans to conduct another review of the law and is discussing this with the attorney general. I anticipate a further announcement on this in the not too distant future,” he said, adding that he did not have a time frame for when that might happen.

Rose was followed by Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, who noted that the concerns are coming from private sector appointees who are still concerned about the details they would be required to disclose about personal investments under the legislation. He said that while there were people who were happy to serve on boards, they did not want their “entire life being made public”.

The DG explained that while the amendment was intended to address this, feedback he has received suggest that they still have those same concerns. He said the issue was not about reporting conflict of interest but making personal wealth details public.

“I know the matter is being addressed and I know the premier has heard the auditor general and …the public,” he said. “No one wants the status quo to continue.”

The deputy governor stressed that the problems regarding the law were coming from the private, not the public, sector. “I have never heard anyone from within the elected government or the civil service say they had an issue with this law,” he said, noting that members of parliament and senior civil servants already declare their interests.

Manderson said that the matter was a priority for government, but he could not give a time line. He nevertheless insisted that, even without the law, the members of the Commission for Standards in Public Life were still doing their work and carrying out their duties, though he accepted that the law would strengthen the powers of the commission.

However, the public has never been made aware of any investigations conducted by that commission and the members have repeated their call for the law to be implemented in every report they have made.

While Manderson said the civil service was following the spirit of the legislation, regardless of the fact that for almost five years it has not been implemented, PAC members raised concerns that conflicts have emerged.

As an example, they pointed to the recent planning application for a chicken farm in East End, where the owner of the proposed business worked at the Department of Agriculture. As a result, the PAC was worried that public servants are not necessarily declaring conflicts of interest, nor are those conflicts necessarily being detected.

During his appearance before the committee, Rose had also noted the difficulties finding people to serve on the many boards and commissions. But PAC members wanted to know who has oversight on those chosen, as this was usually for political reasons. Rose said that there were criteria for some board appointments but all are made via Cabinet paper.

But all appointments do go through close scrutiny and a “robust process” before they are made public in the government Gazette, Rose said. However, he accepted that his team at the Cabinet office can only advise government on appointments; they could not stop an appointment proceeding.

PAC Chair Ezzard Miller pressed the point that someone needed to take responsibility for the oversight of these appointments. He also raised concerns that the failure of government to enact the Standards in Public Life Law was “a way of short-circuiting the decisions of the LA”, and said that parliament had passed it with the expectation it would be implemented.

At the hearing Auditor General Sue Winspear highlighted a major issue resulting from the absence of the law, which is the public’s perception that there is corruption surrounding board appointments because of the lack of transparency. “This is a view which has been expressed to us,” she warned.

The PAC hearing on the latest OAG report is scheduled to continue Thursday afternoon, starting at 2:00pm.

 

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (63)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This was to be a dynamic register of immediate family interests and potential conflicts, to be updated in real time, and filed with the long-idle SIPL Commission. It was to be available for physical public inspection ONLY during normal 9-5 business hours from their office (wherever that is). It was not to be published anywhere. Yet, even this thinnest expression of transparency remained a bridge too far for our entrenched shills! There is no way to reframe this intentional deferral in any positive light. It is nothing more than a shameful indictment of the business practices of this regime.

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  2. David Shibli says:

    There is a very powerful globalist movement afoot.
    Our politicians have been overwhelmed. They are not bad people. It is just that Satan is pressing his last days agenda.
    Those of us who are of the faith should pray for our leaders.
    Who knows, perhaps some of them will renounce their ties to Freemasonry and send the expat locusts home where they belong?
    Ok, cue the anonymous haters, off you go.

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    • Anonymous says:

      This end of days nonsense has been so thoroughly repeated and reused
      You lot have been parroting this foolishness since at least the fall of the Western Roman Empire and to be honest you were saying it before then too
      Every generation is the last of the last of the last days, yet the world keeps turning

      Just go on back to your helpful prayer groups and your vague soothsaying
      Let people who actually have an interest in making the world a better place take the helm rather than these, “its all over but the crying”, roll over and give up “Christians”

    • Anonymous says:

      Surely one wouldn’t wish for the locust expat computer-repair geeks to go home? After all, a Terminator, even when confronted with the paradox of their own mortality, and the coming of the end of days, cannot self-terminate!?!?!

  3. Anonymous says:

    And the antics of Alden continue! I bet you that if he was the leader of the opposition and MAC was premier and he did this… Alden would carry on in the LA with his immature self, go on radio/tv and involve the FCO!! That’s whats so disgraceful about that lack of implementing this law! #2021sooncome #goretireinthebar

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Still waiting for the proceedings to be placed on YouTube so I can see this mess for myself

    I’ve noticed when the government doesn’t like particular proceedings they are sometimes delayed by days and if they end up being posted sometimes the video is conveniently removed which I have observed on at least 2 occasions

    CNS NOTE: It’s there. To be fair it was up that same day but an oversight on our part as we usually include the CIGTV Video.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    I am a current member of one of the many SA Boards for Cayman. I have no issue with declaring all known conflicts and potential conflicts of interest for myself and my extended family and it is already a requirement to do so. Where I do have a problem is being held accountable for providing a listing of all real estate and company shareholding’s of my and my spouse’s extended family. Some of us haven’t spoken in years and those family members sure as hell aren’t going to give me a listing of everything they own. Especially if they know that listing is going to be made public for every busybody in Cayman (Ezzard is one of them) to see. If there is reason to believe a Board member has not disclosed a conflict, I would expect the member to be investigated and if warranted, prosecuted for corruption. What I can’t be held accountable for is providing a concise listing of everything my relatives own.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I’m sorry but I am not buying that. You cannot possibly be expected to declare what you do not know! The boards are weak in my opinion, often letting the head dictate to them instead of proper governance. I have witnessed myself how some of these heads manipulate the system for there own gain and getting board approval! It is high time board members are held accountable, no one forces you to serve, but if you do, do it willingly and comply with the rules!

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      • Anonymous says:

        What exactly are you not buying? Have you read the law? It is very clear in the requirement to report all holdings of direct family as well as -in-laws. You aren’t allowed to say “I don’t know”. Regarding corporate governance, we have come a long way in the last 5 years and most if not all Boards follow good governance guidelines. Yes there may be a few rogue Board members that follow practices of the bad old days, but all Boards that I have knowledge of are trying to do the right thing in accordance with guidelines set out by the Governor’s office as well as the current government. If you are making negative comments just for the sake of being negative, I can’t help you.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Not asking for your help, just your cooperation. If you cannot meet the requirements don’t serve, as opposed trying to get the law changed to suit you!

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        • Anonymous says:

          Yet to be enacted SIPL was updated 06 May, 2016: in regards to declarations, “immediate family” was thereafter defined as “a spouse, a dependent or such other person as may be prescribed by Cabinet by regulations”.

          No mention of in-laws in there.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Even if one does concede there are potential issues with the law (which I am sure there are it was written by the PPM so that is almost guaranteed)

      That still does not justify the years that this law has sat untouched and unenforced, if there are issues just like any law they should have been amended and the law should have been put into force at the earliest opportunity
      Next month is 5 years since the original passing and we are closing in on 3 years since the amendments were put into place
      The constitution clearly mandates this law and the council that goes along with it
      and the constitution has been in place since 2009

      Just like the District Advisory Councils successive governments have no interest in establishing these constitutionally mandated laws and groups
      because they fear the results

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      • Anonymous says:

        There is nothing in SIPL Law, post 2016 revision, about in-laws. This was a pathetic Unity-attempt to control and re-shape the narrative on why it hasn’t happened. These are the same folks that have habitually lied on their honour-based “Registers of Interest” since 1996.

  6. Screwface says:

    God forbid these board appointees be made to hang out their dirty laundry for all to see. Awww, want to have your cake and eat it too I guess! Well if this is not to your liking then leave, quit the board you’re on for the good of country, NOT for the good of your pocket and vanity.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    I can imagine the calls “Alden if this passes they will find out about x, y and z, and we can’t have that”.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    The American principals of Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Lines are subject to the provisions and restrictions on commercial conduct defined in US Department of Justice’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Our Standards in Public Life Law, had it been enacted, might have haphazardly exposed those individuals to a level of scrutiny and consequence we can’t even begin to contemplate in our comfortable world of no responsibility. We can go at it from the other side, by instructing DoJ to launch investigation of how this Port tender has deviated from procedure. There already are sufficient grounds to suspect a colluding effort with foreign government officials.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Our SIPL Law was penned fairly loose to begin with. It was conceded as the barest of minimums in order to convince the UK’s FCO that we had some semblance of good governance. We should blame our past governors for not being critical of the subsequent bad faith. Time to correct past wrongs Mr Roper.

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  10. anonymous says:

    We need to educate our politicians as to the meaning of ethics as they clearly have problems with this what this means.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    This regime just want to stall this out, using any excuse, however improbable, until 2021, and after that, they’ll be retiring to their Bentleys and Marble in Dubai and it won’t matter.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Although corruption at the top is of course a serious concern, take a look further down the food chain and ask why certain civil servants are running businesses in government time, using government vehicles and fuel to enrich themselves. And, claim for hours they do not work.
    The HOD letter of permission should stop and civil servants must be forced to comply with the codes in place.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Each morning, I see a clearly marked government truck used to drop children to school! Even though it is against ‘policy’ they know they will not be held accountable. I have seen one senior official even direct a receptionist to go pick up her children from school in a government vehicle!

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      • Anonymous says:

        Red Herring.

        That has nothing to do with the SIPL. There are no less than 5 avenues for you to address it. The Department, the Ministry, the DG, the Ombudsman and even the Auditor General if you feel money is being wasted or improperly spent.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Imagine the corruption that would be disclosed if the people who got incredibly and unaccountably rich while coincidentally serving on some of these boards were forced to disclose the sources of their money and how much of it they had to pay out in brown envelopes to keep their board appointments.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    The PPM dont want to implement this Law becoz they want to carry on with their antics of putting political stooges in certain positions. For example, the Chairperson at CINICO is also a Director of CIMA which regulates CINICO

    These appointments were made by the PPM Minister of Finance, Roy McTaggart, a CPA (professional accountant) who is bound to abide by certain ethical standards, or else he can lose his certification.

    Maybe CIIPA need to have a chat with Minister McTaggart??

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    • Anonymous says:

      Roy also served a full 4 year term on the farcical “Standards in Public Life Committee”, which has been convened but idle for the decade since it’s creation under §119 of our Constitution in 2009.

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    • Anonymous says:

      We know who the two persons you are referring to are. We know they are professionals bound by the highest standards of ethics but we also know them to be persons of the highest personal standards of integrity and ethics. The problem is we don’t know who you are “Anonymous” and what personal or other reasons you may have to launch an unjust, unwarranted and unsubstantiated attack on the character of two upstanding professional Caymanians! Do tell so we may have clarity!

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  15. Anonymous says:

    This ladies and gentlemen are what government officials are being paid big salaries for. To sit on their ass all day long and talk crap. Sign me up!

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Watering down the Ethics Law, why in a government without corruption would the ethics law need to be watered down? Isn’t this the same Premier who took great issue with the Cayman Compass for saying there was corruption in Cayman and pulled all government advertising?
    I’m sure the Auditor General’s employment contract will be carefully reviewed.
    Corruption abounds.

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    • Anonymous says:

      The issue appears to be about board members. As a private citizen would you be willing to serve on a board if you had to declare ALL of your income, property holdings, etc. to the entire community/world on an annual basis?

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      • Anonymous says:

        Actually yes, any position on a board that affects the public either directly or indirectly should be held to standard even if the person is not a civil servant but the board is as close to government without actually being government.

        This isn’t about airing dirty laundry, this is about making sure the oxyclean is in the wash.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Yes and it’s also the same Premier who is thick as thieves with DART.

      Who owns the Compass by the way?

  17. Anonymous says:

    When you ‘serve’ you make sacrifices. What exactly are these people afraid of? So what if your wealth is made public. Is there something your ashamed of? If you do not want to disclose details like this then don’t ‘serve’!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly! Don’t get into a position that may put you in the public eye if you don’t want to be under the spotlight.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    We do not need these stupid laws. Mr. Premier and Mr. Speaker, stop this madness.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    The Boards are one of the core places where the edemic corruption flourishes – both by political patronage in appointments and in dodgy decision making. No-one is forced to go on a Board. Watering down the law is only going to prop up the corruption which Alden tried to silence the press from discussing by threats, intimidation and abuse of economic leverage.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    “Don’t stop the progress” more like “Don’t stop the corruption”

    And I am sure that MLA Harris was unavailable for comment on this issue
    Spends years talking about it and then conveniently lets it slide when he gets elected

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  21. Anonymous says:

    I would have no problem with my entire life being made public. I have not done anything that I am ashamed of and I have no problem revealing all of my investments as nothing that I have invested in is illegal in any way. Maybe we just have the wrong people being appointed to serve on boards.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    Finally the truth is told. I was impressed with the DG and Cabinet Secretary. PAC members did a great job. Well except Bernie who asked the most bizarre question. Clearly this man is out of his league. People of west bay you can so much much much better.

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  23. I nah no mouse says:

    One needs to look no further than the CPA Board. Most members have been there far too long. And have seemingly done very well for themselves since being on that Board. As the AG states also – the CPA is far too heavily made up of pro-construction / development persons.
    Whoever is a member and doesn’t want to comply with the law, as written, needs to be removed!
    And the need for Board Members should be properly advertised…before the “robust process” even begins.

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    • Anonymous says:

      After decades of complicit inaction, in a permissive environment, without scrutiny or consequences of any kind, the composition of ALL Boards and Committees need to be fully scrubbed going forward.

  24. Cavaet Emptor says:

    Any member of the public that does not feel it appropriate to comply with the law as currently drafted and passed should be appointed to any board positions. The tail cannot wag the dog. This exactly how corruption and unethical behavior is facilitated in the Cayman Islands.

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  25. Anonymous says:

    If people in positions of authority and influence told the truth, this would not be such a big deal.

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  26. Anonymous says:

    “ettics”?? wha’s dat?

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  27. Anonymous says:

    The Boards of corrupt regimes are preloaded with hand-picked favorites with substantial undisclosed conflicts, by design – and that’s the problem!

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    • Anonymous says:

      All easily corrected with some long overdue corruption prosecutions, but instead of even attempting to investigate massive and obvious questions about such things as historic cabinet status grants, we tie up the courts on a few idiots accused of helping some pretty girls pass an English test! We seem to chase small fry, not a bad thing, but leave the sharks swimming free.

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      • Anonymous says:

        The fully-staffed Standards in Public Life Commission, formed by requirement of section 119 of the Cayman Islands Constitution (2009), a decade ago, still awaits commencement of their supervisory authority. Their job was to scrutinize conflicts and finances of those in Public Life, and/or refer suspect criminal activity for deeper investigation and/or prosecution. Right now there is nothing they can do but shrug their shoulders, attend conferences, and accept thanks. The enactment of this Law has been in the Constitution for a decade, and this regime doesn’t care at all to enact it – passing blame, and making false excuses to shield the truth and perpetuate the sham. Enactment of basic conflict standards was mandated by the UK’s FCO, and all this regime has done is paper the file in bad faith. That’s exactly what corrupt regimes do.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Not enough room at Northward for the caseload that would follow enactment.

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