Gov’t must explain how it’s financing JGHS project

| 29/10/2020 | 76 Comments

Johann Moxam writes: The legacy of mismanagement by former Minister of Education (2005-09) and now Premier Alden McLaughlin (2013-21) will feature many chapters on project mismanagement and his government’s penchant towards initiating institutional or infrastructural projects without the ability to manage them. This determination to build big shiny structures or black shiny roads regardless of the need or the costs or the alternatives says everything about how the country has been and is currently being run. Minister of Finance Roy McTaggart is a good man and highly respected, but he is not a magician.

The recent proceedings of the Finance Committee included a full set of minutes on the finances of various capital projects. All were over budget by varying millions, some single-digit millions and others tens of millions. New projects are one thing, but the reported financial situation with the John Gray High School merits a closer look.

The John Gray High School project was first started under the 2005-2009 PPM administration with Mr McLaughlin as Minister of Education and Mr Kurt Tibbetts as Leader of Government Business. See links below:

High Schools get OK (Cayman Compass, 5 July 2007)

Schools contractor slams PPM (Cayman Compass, 18 November 2009)

PPM: Things will get better (Cayman Compass, 14 September 2009)

High school project to restart in June (CNS, 23 March 2016)

UK architects say they won $40M JGHS contract (CNS, 16 January 2020)

In this country we have become numb to political rhetoric, abuse of parliamentary privilege and misinformation by our leaders. We are too accepting of excuses from elected leaders and senior civil servants. We fail to appreciate that if we don’t demand openness and transparency, if we don’t hold the elected members of the Legislative Assembly to account for their decisions and spending, they are doing more harm than good, and it will ultimately impact each household, which will be forced pay for MLAs’ irresponsible spending. Without accountability and transparency, there is waste, millions of dollars of waste, and possibly conflicts of interest.

In the case of John Gray, there is no denying that new and improved facilities are needed. However, the procurement and management of the long overdue project is the issue. There are a few questions that must be asked and for which the public must demand answers:

  1. How can the resumption of the not-so-new John Gray High School cost KYD106M in 2020? What is the breakdown of the spend? How much of this KYD106M is due to the fact that both PPM-led coalitions did nothing with the site from 2013 until now? (In comparison Dart built the new CIS high school for $60M.)
  2. What lessons were learned from the failures and fiasco with Clifton Hunter? How have they been applied to benefit this project? Has the current government really learnt any lessons from the costly construction of the Clifton Hunter High School, which cost over KYD100M?
  3. How has this been allowed to happen again?
  4. Was there a competitive bidding process for all phases of the project or was McAlpine just awarded the construction contract?
  5. In light of the cost overruns associated with airport redevelopment project that was managed by the Ministry of Tourism, how was McAlpine awarded another major capital works project, given the ongoing concerns and results?
  6. Expensive buildings do not guarantee a quality education. What else is the CIG doing to improve education in the Cayman Islands?

I ask these questions out of genuine concern as a citizen who fears the worst for our financial and societal future. Beyond the overspending and waste, which is fiscally irresponsible under any circumstances, the CIG owes the public an explanation as to where it will get the revenues to pay for these projects? Where is the money coming from to pay for the continued relief payments, full salaries for all civil servants and financing for small- and medium-sized businesses, given the current economic woes and deficit position the CIG public purse finds itself in at present?

It is imperative to note that this same administration, the PPM-led coalition Government of National Unity, has agreed to surrender possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in current and future revenue by granting untold amounts in concessions via an ad hoc politicised process in multiple development agreements, which, when asked by the leader of opposition, Minister Joseph Hew deemed to be “confidential” or “commercially sensitive information“ that could not be shared in the Legislative Assembly or with the public.

Development deals to remain secret (CNS, 29 June 2020)

How can they ignore the reality that CIG has lost the majority of the KYD37M in annual tourism revenues due to COVID-19? CIG has not announced any new revenue measures. Therefore, how can CIG afford all of these opulent projects and expenses going forward without having to further tax the current population with duty increases and fee increases? Who is going to pay for these massive expenditures? Is it going to result in more fees and higher duties for existing businesses, particularly in the financial services industry that now represents over 65% of the GDP? It cannot be. That would be reckless and result in dire consequences for industry going forward.

Fiscal mismanagement, poor decisions and signing bad deals will accelerate the inevitable introduction of some form of direct taxation. Cayman’s tax neutral status is what makes us a premium offshore destination. However, if this status is compromised due to mismanagement, then, like death, direct taxation is inevitable. If we continue on this path, it will alter how Cayman operates and impact our ability to remain self-sufficient and not be desperate to be bailed out by wealthier benefactors, including the UK. These actions will potentially drive the Cayman Islands towards independence and a fate similar to many of our regional neighbours.

The government must have the answers and information available to share with the public. We must demand transparency, accountability and good governance standards on all matters. The public must request from our elected government that the current administration and Cabinet present evidence of the ‘magical hectares of money trees’ that they have kept hidden from the public, or specifically how the public purse will pay for these projects. Maybe they know how they are going to pay for it, but the public has the right to know and to know now, not after the 2021 election.

Poor decisions that may be driven by the quest for political survival going into the 2021 election season will impact the quality of life for all. This will inevitably drive up the cost of living and the cost of doing business, as well as increase crime and safety concerns as one half of the people living here may become desperate to survive in one of the most expensive countries in the world.

I support a world class education system for the Cayman Islands and all of its citizens. However, I have yet to be convinced that expensive buildings costing over KYD100M guarantees academic success and a world class education system for all.


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Category: Education, Government Finance, Local News, Politics, Viewpoint

Comments (76)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So the big question is how much longer will Caymanians rule themselves before the UK must take over and will they wait until all the money is gone or try to save something? My own small opinion is that CIG will run it full blast right up to the edge of the cliff and then start to cry and yell for help as they go over. Caymanians without access to other peoples money. How will they make their own? How will they pay the only thing they own? Their debt.

  2. Anonymous says:

    what annual operating costs are?

  3. Bishop Nicholas Sykes says:

    Appropriate for an unconstitutional government

    J. Moxam’s queries are pertinent and need to be properly answered. Perhaps the more alarming part of them is this question, which must be asked about the apparently still impending Beach Bay project as well as others:

    ‘It is imperative to note that this same administration, the PPM-led coalition Government of National Unity, has agreed to surrender possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in current and future revenue by granting untold amounts in concessions via an ad hoc politicised process in multiple development agreements, which, when asked by the leader of opposition, Minister Joseph Hew deemed to be “confidential” or “commercially sensitive information“ that could not be shared in the Legislative Assembly or with the public.’

    But what is just as alarming for me is the question, still unanswered, that I have asked already about the constitutional legality of the present government. Surely if nobody much cares about this question. wouldn’t the resulting masters not think they can pretty much do anything they want, regardless of process?

    The question?

    Simply, Why after the 2017 General
    election was s.49(3) of the Cayman Islands Constitution blatantly ignored, with the then Governor declaring a government was formed before the required ballot was held?

    THAT was the coup.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Due to the unfortunate fact that most voters aren’t analytical, or forward thinking, the entire country will suffer. This same swath of electors will keep returning the same useless bunch.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dart built the new CIS high school for $60M
    Dart built the new CIS high school for $60M
    Dart built the new CIS high school for $60M
    Dart built the new CIS high school for $60M
    Dart built the new CIS high school for $60M
    Dart built the new CIS high school for $60M
    Dart built the new CIS high school for $60M
    Dart built the new CIS high school for $60M

    • Jotnar says:

      His money so spend tightly controlled. CHHS/JGHS – your money so CIG doesn’t give a damn.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Excellent viewpoint.

    The Government should be forced to do a line by line response before they spend any more money on this project

    • Anonymous says:

      True, people sick and tired of these “Unity” politicians blatantly taking out of the public cookie jar to grab for themselves and their exclusive club of oligarchs and wannabe dictators. I am no longer accepting ‘soon come’ promises and I.O.U. gift vouchers that come a day late and a dollar short.

      I can’t buy no groceries with dat!! Tired man!

    • Anonymous says:

      Why is it that everything that helps caymanian children and young people is a bad thing. We complain about building a world class school for our children and we complain about the Regiment which has over 40 young caymanians enlisted.

      Complain about the lack of succession planning in the financial services industry.

      Perhaps the writer can tell us how many caymanians he has trained.

      • A. Caymanian says:

        The JGHS is estimated to cost $160 MILLION

        Buildings are nice but do not guarantee results. 80% of public school graduates are not getting passing grades. That is more important than any building costing $160,000,000.00 MILLION

        Dart built the new CIS high school for $60M
        Dart built the new CIS high school for $60M
        Dart built the new CIS high school for $60M

        Let that sink in…

        • Anonymous says:

          Concrete and nice paint don’t give children skills, proper teaching faculty and learning resources do.

        • Anonymous says:

          The only difference between expat students and Cymanian students is their upbringing, their culture.
          Put them both in the same class and who will prosper and who will continually fail? Why? From my point of view the kids who have been brought up to work within the system, get a job they want to do will do well. The ones who have been brought up to not trust the system, not trust hard work, and not trust anyone (especially teachers) will continue to fail. Don’t blame the school unless you are looking for an easy out.

      • Anonymous says:

        The Regiment has cost – so far – $1.4 million, and provides occasional and part time payment to those Caymanians. For the $35000 a head you could have given them scholarships, put them through trade schools, sponsored employers to give them jobs – instead of teaching them how to march and salute the Governor.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Diction, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence construction all spot on. This Moxam laddie never went to a government school!

    • Anonymous says:

      He went to Cayman Islands High School just like the rest of us

      • Anonymous says:

        11.27 Well they must have broke the mould after that boy left!

      • Anonymous says:

        And what has happened to the education system since then???????

        • Anonymous says:

          We moved away from GCSE is what happened…

          • Anonymous says:

            We had to move to Caribbean exams, trying to please the African diaspora forgetting if it’s not broken leave it alone! Students are taking the easier CXC subjects, sitting exams from year 10 and taking ‘second part’ i.e. the advanced level of main subjects like Maths and English. The a level system was removed from public schools to increase attendance at UCCI.

            Return to British system in high schools including A’levels in public schools and leave the American and Caribbean options to private sector. UCCI is now becoming a normal and competitive option for stdudents so time to put English system including A’levels back in public schools.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Was(is) he Pro-Port or agains Port project?

  9. Anonymous says:

    I hope and pray Johan and Shirley are part of the next Gov. We need true leadership from Caymanians who care about Cayman.
    Make Cayman great again Johan. YOU GOT MY VOTE!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      To 8.43pm Neither of those two care more about Cayman than the 19 members currently in the LA. That is just your attempt to promote them and disparage others. Obviously you want them in the LA for your own selfish reasons. Neither of them has shown an interest or effort to seriously advance the quality of life for Caymanians. All that they have done so far is supported a very popular referendum movement. Opposing is easy . Where it gets tough is when you have to propose and produce. I have yet to see any thing that Moxam did for Caymanians when he was president of the Chamber of Commerce. His usual theme was to take the expat view of things and suggest that unemployed Caymanians shou8ld go to work in fast food restaurants as if there was no one capable or able to hold a more prestigious position.

      • Anonymous says:

        Based on your comments you do not know Johann that much is clear but every one is entitled to their opinions

      • Anonymous says:

        I have my doubts too. He is a great talker and I really do support almost all he has stated publicly and would be very tempted to support him.

        However, his participation as President of the Chamber of Commerce shows me where he will likely lean on most matters and I personally prefer and desire leaders in 2021 to be able to focus on impact of business rather than catering to business.

        Also, if you review his videos on election night 2013 or around that period he did state (not verbatim) that all candidates will say everything we want to hear to get elected, so if he runs I will hold those views to be very telling.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Lets hope that if we do elect new people in 2021, they are not just a bunch of new EGOS….though that may be ridiculously impossible since we are talking about politics.

  11. Anonymous says:

    What about the Dump?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Johann for Premier

  13. Anonymous says:

    Now this is the cold hard truth!

  14. Anonymous says:

    We will never get answers. If they cant even account for the millions in revenue spent now from indirect taxes, how will they possibly be able to do so with any newly introduced direct taxes such as property or income?

    But as far as overruns- heres the basic problem (my 2 cents from being in the construction industry for the past 30 years) How any contractor, general or sub, makes its money is by signing on a contract where half the information is either missing or not established (and the contractor knows it). Boils down to pathetic design and development. Decisions, additions and solutions are being made DURING construction, outside of budget and way beyond contingencies. Thats NOT TO SAY anything we’re seeing is acceptable or the norm (100% over budget – really???) as Im sure theres always a little deal here and there (and everywhere!)

  15. Anonymous says:

    An honest and insightful article on the reality in Cayman about how big decisions get made. It highlights the possible negative outcomes when there is no planning and transparency. These type of discussions and questions are necessary in helping to illustrate how accountability works and sets the table for a wider national discussion.

  16. Anonymous says:

    7. Why tropical design architects weren’t given preference in designing an energy efficient school?

    Throughout the tropical island climates, energy demands are on the rise. Energy costs in tropics already higher due to geographic limitations and transportation issues

    By incorporating energy improvements into construction or renovation plans, schools in tropics can significantly reduce energy consumption and costs. These savings can then be redirected to educational needs such as additional teachers, instructional materials, or new computers.

    Few examples

    *Shading strategies are vital for schools in tropics to reduce cooling costs.
    *By orienting a school building effectively, you can maximize solar access and boost the effectiveness of daylighting strategies to reduce the need for electrical lighting and cooling loads. *Designing the site to reduce or eliminate vehicular travel to the school helps to reduce fuel use and emissions, which improve the air quality in and around the school.
    * Water requirements can be reduced by incorporating vegetation native to the local ecosystem in the site design.

  17. Anonymous says:

    It is time to implement meaningful school fees. Government can’t be expected to continue to finance the decisions of individuals to have children and to make those children a burden on the rest of society.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I hope you run against useless Joey Who.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Johan the man … don’t do a Austin once you get in. Can you run against Alden in red bay please . I am hoping someone decent shows up in Red Bay ballot.

  20. DLF says:

    BOOM. Johann you need to be leading this country.

    • Got ya number says:

      Aha johnan leading this country ? You think Alden and Mckeever are bad check his dictator napoleonistic attitude.

      Yeah Emperor Johann reign we will be going to hell in a crab basket. Oh Johann don’t be offended . I know you like to have one and ones as if. My name is of no consequence Iah but 50 votes in the area surely have a serious sting. Oh I already have your number sah don’t need it again.

      • Anonymous says:

        Moxam has proven himself to be a born leader. He is the type of man that can be trusted to say and do the right things. He has done more than current mla’s and clearly states his position.

        • Anonymous says:

          He was president of the chamber of commerce….name ONE thing he actually did (not spoke about or blamed government for)? Johann grabs favour by saying the right things but can you name one actual event, or venture or community effort he spear headed which was for the benefit of this country?

          Yes, he was involved with CPR but he didnt do the heavy lifting. Shirley Roulstone and Katrina Jurn did.

          • Cpr volunteer says:

            You have no clue what you are talking about. Those of us involved know who was involved and leading our group concerned citizens. Cpr was truly a team effort that made history.

          • Anonymous says:

            Hate has blinded you like the dark side of the force. You have no clue what you are talking about but carry on as it is your nature

      • Anonymous says:

        7.42 Need to have a look at the drug problem too. Step away from the bong mate.

      • Anonymous says:

        Cut the Trump foolishness! I saw that sly attempt at intimidating people voting! For your benefit, I hope you don’t find any more tools in that trick box, because the only number you going have is the one at your jail cell.

      • Anonymous says:

        What you need is the number of an english language grammar teacher so you can learn to spell correctly.

  21. Disorder of Cayman says:

    None of this matters to the higher ups, be they elected or administrative. As long as Government’s coffers overflow (current deficits are to be ignored) the reckless overspending on vanity projects will continue.

    Never in the history of public administration has so little been achieved with so much.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Well said. I just drove on a newly resurfaced south sound road tonight. I wondered why all that expenditure. Then I remembered an election was coming….

    • Chris Johnson says:

      NRA needs fix the dump road . It is a joke.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yet they will let roads like the one in front of Cayman water deteriorate to the point where it’s basically useless. I understand it’s a private road that belongs to Cayman water but surely they must have to fix it if not for the local residents that live nearby then for the larger group of us who have to use it to service homes in that area. SMH

  23. Anonymous says:

    Well said Mr. Moxam

  24. New Voter says:

    A real leader has emerged that I can put my hopes in and will vote for in 2021

    • Anonymous says:

      Are these the same ones that were frothing at the mouth to build a $300 million port? Wonder why!

      • Anonymous says:

        Do you even know what CPR stands for?
        Government was going to handout million dollar taxpayer gift cards to build the port without asking permission while we all were supposed to foot the bill!

        I don’t know about you but my CUC bill is high enough!!! Not going to pay somebody else’s too, much less for their brand new yacht!!

  25. Anonymous says:

    AMEN Johann AMEN. “Straight talk causes no falling out”

  26. Anonymous says:

    Good questions. Good luck getting answers.

    We have repeatedly elected corrupt officials. They will not come clean else they walk into jail. So… we elected them, our fault.

    Will we do better the next election cycle… Sadly I expect not.

    I have little faith in our electorate and candidates. Please prove me wrong.

    • Anonymous says:

      7.36pm Pity you supported them by voting for them . You are just as corrupt. I have not voted for one politician while at the same time believing they were corrupt. If you know they are corrupt then expose them. If you don’t expose it then you support it. FYI I don’t believe that any of the 19 Caymanians currently in the house are corrupt. I know some out there are pushing the narrative that all Caymanian politicians are corrupt and that we should replace them by allowing expats to hold office; but if we do that then “Dog eat owa suppa”. Since these expats can’t run for office they are supporting Caymanians who think like them.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Where do I sign up to vote for this man? He is a beacon of light in the political darkness.

    • Anonymous says:

      We need more than just him. Can he recruit a full slate of well educated like thinkers to form a new party that can form and lead the next government? If not he will continue to just be a voice crying out in the wilderness of Cayman corruption.

      • Anonymous says:

        The next government will be a coalition government. We need a strong group of pro-Caymanian thinkers and leaders like Johan in the LA. Caymanians do not trust the parties for good reasons

      • Anonymous says:

        He has done more than the official opposition. More independents will be elected in 2021 and they will work together. The ppm and udp joined forces and look at their mess so parties are not the best answer. Electing quality representation people like Johan will be the key for Cayman’s future.

        • Anonymous says:

          Has he stated yet that he is standing for election?

        • Anonymous says:

          We need more than opposition and independents. We have seen what happens when independents try to form a Government. Each pursues their special interest and compromises their principles to get it done. No, we need a strong slate of like minded candidates campaigning together for a common well articulated goal.

        • Anonymous says:

          All independent candidates should be asked or state for the record if they will be jump to help the numbers of another PPM/UDP coalition if elected. We cannot have this horse trading happen again.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Mic drop!!!!!!!! Enfuego just smoked all of em

  29. Anon says:

    Rubbish. Try build something and then report back to us.

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