Changed ethics law ‘soon come’, premier says

| 03/02/2020 | 51 Comments
Cayman News Service
Premier Alden McLaughlin updates the LA on the Standards in Public Life Law

(CNS): The long awaited Standards in Public Life Law, which was first passed in the Legislative Assembly more than six years ago and then amended and passed again in 2016, will be implemented on 1 March, the premier has said. In a statement to the LA on Friday, Alden McLaughlin said that the law will be changed via regulations. He did not outline the changes but indicated they were made to accommodate board members.

The more than six year wait for this important legislation has caused considerable controversy, with many people suspicious that politicians, senior civil servants as well as board members are reluctant to participate in the levels of disclosure the law requires even after it was watered down.

But McLaughlin denied that politicians or civil service leaders were behind the delay and blamed board members of government authorities and companies for the problems and the threat of mass resignations, even after the 2016 amendments.

“Despite what some protagonists and naysayers in some parts of the media like to infer, the initial delay in bringing the law into effect had nothing to do with elected members not wanting to make our interests known,” he said.

He said board members remained concerned about the law, even after the changes, and that presented government with the dilemma of either implementing the law and triggering a significant number of resignations from key boards, committees, and commissions, or taking the time to have another look.

Government obviously chose the second option, but that further review ran into years, which the premier blamed on the elections and the administration’s workload.

“In the run-up to the 2017 General Elections, and indeed even after the elections because of the demands on government’s time, the amended law was not reviewed again, as intended, ” he told the LA Friday. “The truth is …time just did not allow.”

He said the goal was to draw a better balance. “A balance that allowed the public, especially those with particular expertise, to be willing to serve the country without feeling that their personal affairs were being unduly intruded upon whilst at the same time ensuring that the law performed as intended. We also understood that there may be areas where the law was being misunderstood and therefore there was a need for further clarification.”

He said government consulted with members last year to see if the concerns could be resolved in an even-handed way and asked chairs to poll their board members and report back the concerns. Given the number of questions, the consultation was extended to make sure that this time the law would be acceptable, he said.

At the end of last year, he said, sufficient feedback was received for an analysis to be done and to establish that additional changes were still required but that they could be done via the regulations.

This means the bill will not return to the LA, and the premier indicated that those regulations will not be public until after the commencement order, which will bring the law into force on 1 March.

He said that on this occasion it was important to get it right, “so we do not have the concern again of mass departures from important government boards”.

The premier added, “We will also include a public education campaign as part of the roll-out of the law.”

Claiming that politicians were more than happy to publish their interests, which are updated annually under the Register of Interest Law at the Legislative Assembly, he claimed the media typically reports on the changes to the register or when members are late providing updates.

“That is the scrutiny that is placed on members… We have no issue with that,” he said. “There are many senior civil servants, including chief officers, heads of departments and anyone dealing with financial transactions, who are also required by law to file their interests annually and these are audited by the auditor general’s office, also annually.”

The premier did not, however, explain that seeing the register of interests requires an appointment, that members of the media are watched as they read the register, that we are not allowed to make any copies and permitted only to make hand written notes. Also the committee which is supposed to ensure the disclosures are truthful has not met at all for the last two parliamentary terms. At this point there is no public access to the interests reported by senior civil servants.

The premier said he regretted that the law was not moved to implementation quicker, as he claimed government was “handling many urgent matters, including… protecting our jurisdiction from blacklisting”.

None of the members of the opposition commented in response to the statement in the LA, as the premier immediately left the chamber.

But North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, who has been the most vocal member of the House calling for the law, has on previous occasions said that government should not have bent over backwards for board members. He has said that if they could not be honest with the people, they should not be serving on public boards.

Miller has raised concerns that government recycles the same old faces on its boards year after year and it is time to look to other, especially young, Caymanians who are not conflicted and don’t mind being honest with the people they would be expected to serve.

See premier’s statement below:

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Category: Laws, Politics

Comments (51)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Once a parasite finds a host it usually will die before giving it up. They must be forced to resigned or they will not. And they are the ones tasked with it. What do you think they will do? Right. Soon come. Their work is already done. So is any hope the Standards of public life Law will be passed. UK will have to step in to make them make it work. They would then go for independence just to save themselves. Caymankind.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The delays and threats of resignations only serve to confirm the many conflicts of interest that people have been concerned about for a very long time. If any individual is unwilling to meet the disclosure requirements they should resign and make way for other individuals.

    The law will eventually be about “Standards in Public Life” in name only.

    • Anonymous says:

      No. It just means that my business is none of your business. And I have no problem turning down the next board appointment offered in order to keep my business private.

      (Note: Private, audited, declarations like the CS use are fine. I object to public disclosure of my – and my family’s – business just for doing my civic duty by participating in a board, i.e., doing the CIG a favour since we can all agree they need good people on these boards.)

      • Anonymous says:

        When you enter public life your business is the peoples business, always has been whether you feel it is a civic duty or not.

      • Anonymous says:

        We don’t need any more shady characters having power in these islands
        We will make do without you and your ilk, who think you should be able to call the shots without ever being held accountable
        When you enter a position of public authority you are also open to public scrutiny it is that simple

        If you don’t like it, you know where the door is, feel free to use it

  3. Anonymous says:

    instead of drain the swamp lets fix the dump

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great news What will CNS posters complain about now.

    • Anonymous says:

      Seemingly you never read beyond the headline?

    • Anonymous says:

      Telling that you seem to have no concern for transparency and accountability
      But going after regular citizens and their concerns is where you focus for some reason

      Perfect fit for the PPM and Unity Government

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ok Alden…. but your ass still getting booted

  6. Anonymous says:

    So we can eradicate corruption at all levels but the very top. Top 1% still protecting each other. What a farse.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Regulations should follow “immediately” in 2056.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Note: Under SIPL, direct conflicts are still allowed, they just have to be reported. It becomes criminal not to report, or to report falsely. Whistleblowers are to be protected. It would still be up to the CSPL, ACC, RCIPS FCU and DPP to decide whether to take conflicts to the next level. The CFATF report talked about the diminished role and power of the ACC in their 5th of 6 recommendations. I guess we’ll see what happens, but Alden should be aware that implementing SIPL and avoiding Blacklisting for extensive “local corruption” sighted in the report, are in fact the same thing.

  9. JTB says:

    Maybe we actually need mass departures from Government boards?

    If the inference is that many of the current members cannot live with the exposure of their potential conflicts of interest, the correct answer is surely not to water down the law. This issue is why the law was needed in the first place. If those members are conflicted they should not be on the boards.

    • Anonymous says:

      I wonder … I know in other Caribbean islands, when there is a change in the ruling party, the heads of public sector boards mandatorily are required to turn in their resignations. Some will be accepted others would be extended.

      • Anonymous says:

        Which leads to mass confusion as the new government has to repopulate all of the boards at one time. Instead of following other places we could stick with our process of letting the appointments run out (if they were good appointments their politics should not matter) and the government can re-appoint, or appoint, whoever it wants in a nice, unrushed, way. Without being accused of playing politics with what should be ‘neutral’ postings. (Politics should not be a determinant for a board appointment. Ideally.)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Parents, spouses and children should definitely be covered and all that info made public. If that is too much I welcome their resignations. Get AL Thompson off Central Planning for starters.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I am a member of one of the Statutory Boards in Cayman, and I opposed the changes to the Anti-Corruption Law as originally drafted for the simple reason that it required way too much personal information for my relatives. It would have required a full register of interests for brothers, sisters, children. parents, spouse, and in-laws. This included all land holdings, corporate shareholdings, stocks, bonds, and I believe club affiliations.
    I am happy to provide those details for myself and my spouse, and I do so annually as already required by the current law. In addition, I attest annually to the fact that I have no conflicts of interest other than the ones (If any) listed on my declaration. If a Board member were untruthful on their declaration, the the law is already in place to deal with that through the ACC.
    What I can’t do, is delve into and publish all of my relative’s business interests, investments, and land holdings. Its none of my business and I have no right to ask for that information.
    I serve on a Board for the sole purpose of giving back to the community that I dearly love.
    I am confident in saying we have enjoyed the most corruption free period in recent history over the past 2 administrations and I hope and pray we can continue down that path. That said, we are approaching the silly season of politics and many of our wannabe politicians will say and do just about anything to get their hands into what many see as the CIG cookie jar.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is no requirement in the Amended SIPL that extends disclosures to relatives as you claim. The entire Law is only 25 pages, maybe if you care as deeply as you say, you should read it?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s supposed to be a declaration of all income, assets, and liabilities – which obviously includes loans, pledged collateral, and credit card debt. I don’t think anyone is doing it properly.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why would personal income be relevant or reportable? I wouldn’t blame Board members for refusing to report personal income. That’s nobody’s business.

        • Anonymous says:

          It rather depends on the source of your income!

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s part of the Nolan Principles that you agreed to as a Board member. Please resign if you don’t get it.

          • Anonymous says:

            I absolutely abide by the Nolan Principles as a minimum standard of conduct. The principle of Integrity speaks to lack of conflicts and as a man of honour I would never leave a conflict undeclared. That principle does not however require me to report my income or shareholding’s to a bunch of busy bodies

            • Anonymous says:

              Obligation is to report all sources, not the amounts.

              S.12(1) of the Standards in Public Life Law requires that the following categories of information must be declared as a part of one’s interests, income, assets and liabilities:

              * shareholdings and directorships held in any company or other corporate body;
              * any contract made with any public entity;
              any company, partnership or association in which money is invested;
              * any trust;
              * any land, whether beneficial or otherwise;
              * any investment fund in which an interest is held;
              * sources of income other than a salary or money from other perquisites of office;
              * other substantial interest whether of a pecuniary nature or not, which raise or may appear to raise a material conflict of interest;
              * any loan, secured or non-secured, other than from any institution regulated under “regulatory laws” as defined by section 2 of the Monetary Authority Law (2013 Revision); and
              * such other details as Cabinet may prescribe in regulations.

              NB: Disclosure of actual amounts or extent of financial benefits, contributions or interests is not required (per s.12(4)).

    • Anonymous says:

      “It would have required a full register of interests for brothers, sisters, children. parents, spouse, and in-laws.”

      Perhaps because it is well known that when the “elite” are scared or don’t want to declare their interests/conflicts they simply transfer them to one of these parties thereby avoiding disclosure?

      • Anonymous says:

        Of course and everyone knows that, including the Statutory Board Member above. They will know very well the areas of influence which can benefit their son / daughter / brother and in the meantime other relatives are, in turn, looking out for them.

  12. Hopeful says:

    Hopefully the implimentation WILL include the declaration of whether or not your a member of any club, public or secret (like the Masonic Lodge).

    As well as benificial member of any entity and whether or not you have property involved in any public/private dealings with any Govt departments.

    Just hopeful thinking.

  13. robert hamaty says:

    Well overdue chairpersons of any board must not have personal or family interest. saying i will recuse my self is a joke he or she has a profound influence over the entire board during the meeting or in deliberations later. Regards .

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s why Board members fill out a register of interests for themselves and their spouse. Your comment “saying I will recuse my self is a joke” is only accurate for crooks. You might be surprised to find that many people still honour their word and abide by the law and what is right.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you recuse yourself, you leave the room and do not participate in any discussions, before during or later…

  14. Anonymous says:

    that will come when pigs learn to fly

  15. Anonymous says:

    I say go with the ‘significant’ number of resignations. The boards need to be cleaned up anyway.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure why the board member names should be private? If you are concerned with being unknown, maybe you shouldn’t be on that board.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Politicians in Cayman seem to operate with impunity.

  18. Anonymous says:

    yep…’soon-come’ from the do-nothing ppm…zzzzzzzzzzz

  19. Anonymous says:

    Why can’t the CIG or News just post the differences between the old law and the update.

    CNS Note: As soon as we get anything we will post it but at the moment we are in the dark regarding what changes have been made since the 2016 amendment bill. The new changes are now expected in the regulations but the premier gave no indication Friday, what the changes are.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Typical Alden..pressure mounts so he presents a watered down version in the twilight of his term…

  21. Caveat Emptor says:

    Typical Alden McLaughlin working hard to accommodate the Cheque writers that control the politicians, the party and drivers of key policies that directly impact their bottom line or interests.

    If the political appointees are allowed to direct policies why do we need Elected politicians? Surely Cayman can find enough persons to serve that believe in transparency prepared to serve on boards and commissions.

  22. Anonymous says:

    “He did not outline the changes but indicated they were made to accommodate board members.” And “He said board members remained concerned about the law, even after the changes, and that presented government with the dilemma of either implementing the law and triggering a significant number of resignations from key boards, committees, and commissions, or taking the time to have another look. In other words they need to make it so that they can still break the law while getting paid to uphold the law. “Significant number”
    Still third world.

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly. The substantial conflicts lie directly with all the Boards. This is the very thing that poisons our society and enables corruption and it needs stamping out.

      • Anonymous says:

        “substantial conflicts lie directly with all the Boards”…really? And which orifice did you pull that little nugget out of?

        • Anonymous says:

          Local corruption is called-out in the CFATF Review. The level of corruption and direct interference is illustrated quantifiably from the difference between dozens of SARs filed, and less than a handful reviewed/prosecuted…and something like 3 convictions recorded (for minor offenses).

  23. Anonymous says:

    Ah..didn’t want to rush the Ethics law like he did the referendum legislation. What could rational for different prioritie$ po$$ibly be?

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