(CNS): The Cayman Islands Government has developed a comprehensive national framework to prevent fraud and corruption, according to Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, who welcomed the Office of the Auditor General’s report on the subject made public last week. But in a press release issued on Friday, he said nothing at all about the OAG’s main criticism, the failure of the administration to implement the Standards in Public Life Law, which was first passed more than three years ago.
While Manderson welcomed the more positive findings in the audit results about progress made, he accepted more still needed to be done, while avoiding any explanation about the missing ethics law.
CNS contacted the offices of the governor, the deputy governor and the premier about the missing legislation and the continued delay, but no one has responded to our questions so far.
Auditor General Sue Winspear stressed in her report that government needs to implement the Standards in Public Life Law because it would fill the gap in the increasingly comprehensive anti-fraud and corruption regime. However, the deputy governor focused on the positive findings of the report and dodged that significant issue.
“As the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) itself has recognised, the civil service has instituted a zero tolerance approach to corruption and has a proven track record of referring cases of corruption to the Anti-Corruption Commission,” Manderson said.
“Over the years we have implemented a range of legislation and established government bodies to help us protect the integrity of the service. These findings provide an opportunity for us to continue to evolve our response to this challenge which every jurisdiction faces to ensure that we are as effective as possible.”
Manderson accepted that the measures the government has put in place do not mean the Cayman Islands is completely free from fraud and corruption but he pointed to government’s additional efforts to combat the problem.
He said the accountant general was now responsible for coordinating a review of the Anti-Fraud Policy by chief financial officers annually or within 30 days of any significant organisational change. Following each review, the leading government accountant will report back on the outcomes and any proposed changes to ensure the policy is regularly updated, the deputy governor explained.
Also underway is the formation of an Audit and Risk Assurance Committee, a proposal to seek Cabinet’s support to extend the Anti-Fraud Policy to statutory authorities and government-owned companies, and more anti-fraud training. Manderson said that government was also exploring the possibility of increasing the list of designated authorities to which whistle-blowers can turn, as recommended by the auditor in her report.
Planning Director Haroon Pandohie commented on Winspear’s findings in the report where she highlighted the vulnerabilities of planning decisions to corruption and conflict, especially regarding the Central Planning Authority and the Cayman Brac and Little Cayman Development Control Board.
“We are always seeking ways to improve the work we do and the service we provide to the people of the Cayman Islands,” he said. “The recommendations made by the OAG to strengthen processes have been considered and taken on board. We’ve started the work of developing the necessary policies and procedure, and will continue to encourage and support the Central Planning Authority and the Development Control Board in their efforts to improve transparency.”
Winspear’s comments about planning and the concerns that the CPA membership is heavily weighted towards the construction sector as well as its failure to be transparent about how it makes decisions have been made by most of her predecessors. While planning meetings are now open to the public and decisions published in a relatively timely manner, how those decisions are made remains under wraps.
Although the make-up of this all important board has been criticised several times, the previous planning minister nevertheless reappointed the owner of the largest hardware store on the island as chair and the owner of a leading metal construction company as deputy chair, even after direct recommendations from the previous auditor general in 2016 that they should be replaced.