CPA not covered by PA law, claim officials

| 21/03/2019 | 30 Comments
Cayman News Service

A.L. Thompson’s, owned by the CPA chairman

(CNS): Planning Director Haroon Pandohie and the chief officer in the ministry responsible for the Central Planning Authority have both said that the entity does not fall under the Public Authorities Law. Despite concerns from the public and some politicians that it is the Cayman Islands’ most conflicted board, the CPA does not fall under the legislation designed to make public authorities more transparent and accountable. Pandohie and Chief Officer Alan Jones told the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday that, based on a legal opinion from the attorney general, the law did not apply to the CPA.

In her recent report, “Fighting Corruption in the Cayman Islands”, Auditor General Sue Winspear used the CPA as a case study on potential vulnerabilities within government to corruption or perceptions of it. With the CPA’s membership being dominated by people in the construction and development sector, the issue of conflict has long been a source of concern.

Chris Saunders, the opposition MLA for Bodden Town West, said that it was no coincidence that the auditor general had looked at the CPA in a report about fighting corruption, adding that “just about everybody sitting on that board is conflicted”.

He also raised concerns about how the authority is being supervised in the absence of the Standards in Public Life legislation and the claim that the body is not covered by the Public Authorities Law. 

However, Pandohie and Jones both said that all of the board members had complied with the spirit of these laws by signing the planning department’s register of interest, which is available for public scrutiny. But the two men, who appeared separately, both indicated there was little way to verify whether or not members were recusing themselves appropriately or benefiting directly from their roles.

The Office of the Auditor General, including the current and last three office holders, have all questioned the make-up of the CPA, as well as the public perception of conflict and potential corruption. However, the government has appeared reluctant to follow advice about a better balance of membership, which includes the chairman, who is the largest supplier of building materials in the Cayman Islands, and a high number of construction company owners.

Jones, the planning ministry’s chief officer, revealed that all of the members currently serving on the CPA will be coming to the end of their time in July and a new board will be appointed. However, there are no guarantees that the Cabinet will take on-board the concerns about the membership and make the recommended changes.

The last time the board was appointed, even though this was shortly after the OAG had pointed out that the board was conflicted, the planning minister at the time, Kurt Tibbetts, re-appointed most of the members, including the chairman, Al Thompson, ignoring the OAG’s recommendations.

Implying that the same thing may happen again, Jones explained that Cayman was very small and difficulties finding people with the necessary knowledge to serve on the CPA meant that the Cabinet was likely to select people from the building sector.

He accepted that the board should be more diverse and that there should be a lawyer on it as well, but he said that attorneys were reluctant to serve because of the amount of time members have to commit to, when they have lucrative billable work.

Defending the current chair, Jones said Thompson had been appointed because he was an architect, and the fact he owns a large hardware store was just “coincidental”.

He said that the choice of board members is entirely in the hands of Cabinet. The members may consider technical advice from the ministry or planning department but the decision was also political, Jones said.

See Jones before PAC on CIGTV below:

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Category: Government oversight, Politics, Private Sector Oversight

Comments (30)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    There must be quite a lot of confusion over who is tasked with adjudicating “bad faith” in the Cayman Islands. Bad faith can apply both to actions and inactions. Eg. demonstrating abnormal preference in allowing the former Hyatt buildings to simultaneously sit derelict for 15 years without incurring daily penalties, while approving new conquests for the same developer might be construed as bad faith, or by approving two tunnels to nowhere, without designated supporting purpose or plan – even allowing an extension of one of the tunnels that probably should not have been authorized by the authority. This is separate to the enactment of “air-rights” legislation outlined in the NRA deal. “One day we’ll have a plan” shouldn’t be sufficient to green-light any public nuisance, obstruction, or eyesore. Yet it seems it is by this CPA not governed by SIPL or subject to normal PA laws.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Confused that MLAs in the PAC did not know that the CPA is not considered in the category of Statutory Authorities & Government Companies (SAGCs) covered under the Public Authorities Law. They have for years seen & approved the Government’s annual budgets which includes Ownership as well as Purchase Agreements from each of the Government’s 26 SAGCs! It is clear that the SAGCs operate differently from the CPA, have they ever seen an Ownership/Purchase Agreement between the the Government & the CPA? This not to say that similar principles in the Public Authorities Law shouldn’t apply to the CPA. If that is what MLAs would like to see, then they need to strongly argue for it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If you kick them all out for breaking the law who will be keeping it third world? Are you sure the island can adapt to the change?

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  4. Daniel says:

    Please have the freedom to buy building matterials from whoever they prefer.

  5. Anonymous says:

    It is understood that the chair operates the largest building supply store in the English speaking Caribbean.

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  6. Ambassador of Absurdistan says:

    Your government do not care about the will of the people nor do they appear remotely interested in doing the right things.

    The charade of accountability, transparency and good governance continues with no repercussions at any level in the governance structure.

    Just Another Day in Absurdistan

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Corruption and nepotism are absolutely rife on these islands. To even suggest it isn’t is laughable.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Structurally, the Department of Planning is the Public Authority under which the Central Planning Authority is supposed to operate, under direct supervision and accountability of that Minister and Cabinet.

    “The Central Planning Authority is a statutory authority appointed by Cabinet. Based on reviews and recommendations provided by the Department of Planning and other Government Agencies, the CPA decides whether to support or not support an application for Development and dictates any conditions of approval if applicable. The enabling legislation for the formation and function of the CPA is the Development and Planning Law and Regulations (2015 Revision)”:

    https://www.planning.ky/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/FOI/THE_DEVELOPMENT_AND_PLANNING_LAW_(2017_REVISION).pdf

    8A. The Authority, the Board, the Department of Planning, the Director or an employee of the Department of Planning shall not be liable in damages for anything done or omitted in the discharge or purported discharge of their respective duties or functions under this Law unless it is shown that the act or omission was in bad faith.

    The problem is that demonstrating “bad faith” requires transparency that only SIPL Law would provide.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I would like to see our CPA represent the people rather than just developers. I would like to see some people from healthcare, environmentalists, people who work in transport, social care, tourism etc. Each decision needs to be evaluated to see whether it truly benefits Cayman. That doesn’t always need to be by saying no to development, but by working with developers to optimise their designs. E.G. have a continuous sidewalk so people can actually walk rather than driving places. Don’t develop right next to the water so people can’t walk across the beach. Add cycle parking.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Coruption to the highest level for decades and it will not change.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    “Defending the current chair, Jones said Thompson had been appointed because he was an architect, and the fact he owns a large hardware store was just “coincidental”.

    So the fact that he is also a developer is also coincidental? coincidental does not change the fact that the conflict exists.

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    • Anonymous says:

      So Jones doesn’t know the difference between an architectural draughtsman and an architect? His statement is an insult to all those architects who have put in the effort, money, time and education to equip themselves to be called such professionals even in the absence of a register of such professionals mandated by law.

      There was a call in the post 16/3/2019 @ 5:03pm for proper engineers registration Act in the CNS article 15/3/2019 – https://caymannewsservice.com/2019/03/cal-didnt-hesitate-safety/

      A nurse cannot hold themselves out to be a doctor, neither can a bookkeeper hold themselves out to be a professional accountant or a paralegal say they are a lawyer because there are laws in place to prevent such abuse. Even a land surveyor is protected by law.

      Jones as the head of the technological Ministry responsible for such matters would seem to be out of his depth in portraying these details. Is there anything else missing?

      Jones should now state that if the chair is an architect, then which registration body or board the chair is or was previously registered with. This is important because it goes to the very heart of the appointments to this statutory body where allegations have historically been made.

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      • Anonymous says:

        He’s not the only “Architect” on the board.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Jones referred to the chair, so that is the focus. And yes there are others parading also as “architects” on the board and elsewhere.

      • Anonymous says:

        You are misquoting him: he reminded PAC of what the Chairman himself had said to the PAC about him being an architect. The Chief Officer did not say that this was his opinion or view.

  12. Anonymous says:

    “the choice of board members is entirely in the hands of Cabinet”….
    ….so there is where you prosecute/penalize for appointing a clearly conflicted CPA.

    Just out of interest, in anyone with an environmental interest appointed to the board?

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  13. Cess Pita says:

    The Register of Interests particularly at the L.A. is not worth the paper it’s written on. Interests are simply transferred to spouses, family members or nominees before a member makes their declaration.

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    • Anonymous says:

      …and even if honest at time of submission, it is an annual disclosure, not published for public inspection, nor are there any prescribed penalties (ie SIPL Law) for false declarations, and doesn’t extend to immediate family members (like SIPL Law).

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  14. Anonymous says:

    We need a copy of that legal opinion. Ole Sam could be wrong.

  15. Anonymous says:

    That is correct, it is just a coincidental that the chairman owns the biggest supply yard in Cayman. Of course it is also just a coincidence that most projects buy from his store. No big deal fella’s!

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Expat land owner here, with my own story of corruption.

    Your real estate investment, contrary to what the realtors will assure you, is not safe in the Cayman Islands.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Why’s that then?

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      • Anonymous says:

        Probably a Lime Tree Bay condo owner. They’re in final 30 years of a CIG leasehold where the land their buildings reside on revert back to crown on expiry. Yet, there are realtors flogging these units at >USD$600/sq foot as if they had freehold title. Caveat emptor.

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        • Anonymous says:

          No, I’m not a Lime Tree Bay owner and I am sick for the people who got caught or get caught in that mess.

          Sadly, my scam was at the hands of a corrupt, around for a very long time, boys club realtor and was just as bad. The bad luck, if you can call it that, only continued until we could sell.

          We tell everyone we come in contact with that the Cayman Islands are not what they seem. There is no recourse there, as there is here, towards lying, thieving business men in Cayman.

          Caveat emptor indeed. I would never invest in the Cayman Islands again.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Very sorry to read this, please let as many people know details of those who have allegedly scammed you. This is not a typical case hopefully and we all need to know who to be wary of.

        • Anonymous says:

          I believe that the Lime tree Bay lease was sold to a local private developer a few years ago.

  17. Anonymous says:

    “People with the necessary knowledge to serve on the CPA”…..excuse me but I hope Mr. Jones is not referring to Planning Laws, Planning Regulations or Building Code because I can assure you that not even the architects and engineers on this board are even well acquainted with those. A lawyer cannot give up an entire day each week of income to sit on this board but those the sitting members who are in the development and construction industry actually gain income BY being on the Board as this is how they get work! And that is why it will never change.

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