Welfare problems neglected for years

| 13/08/2021 | 99 Comments
NAU officers see clients at the West Bay Library

(CNS): The report released by the Office of the Auditor General yesterday highlights the last government’s neglect of the welfare system throughout its time in office. Over two administrations, the PPM failed to develop appropriate policies, leaving the departments that deal with those in need in a perpetual state of crisis management.

In 2015 the OAG completed a comprehensive report, Government Programmes Supporting Those in Need, and outlined more than a dozen recommendations to improve the situation. But the majority have still not been addressed and Public Accounts Committee hearings, which also exposed the shortcomings in the welfare system, did little to move the government towards solutions.

This latest review shows that over more than six years, government officials made commitments to implement recommendations by the OAG. But in most cases, although officials gave the dates when things would change and policies would be in place, very little has changed to address the problems of how the welfare system is managed, the question of value for money and how, if it all, government is helping and supporting the most vulnerable members of the community.

As the number of people needing government support grows and the budget increases year on year, the law has still not been changed and no cohesive policies and strategies have been implemented. In addition, the goals of welfare policy have not been defined or the inequities and ad hoc nature, in the absence of clearly defined criteria, been addressed on how public money is distributed to whom and when.

In the OAG’s latest performance audit report, Auditor General Sue Winspear documents the issues over the last six years, including the Ministry of Community Affairs losing a chief officer after a disastrous appearance at a Public Accounts Committee hearing, money being thrown at a costly consultant report that failed to address most of the main issues surrounding the future of welfare provision, the upgrade of a database that didn’t work, and a catalogue of commitments that were never met.

Andre Ebanks, the new minister responsible for what is now termed “social development”, said the PACT Government was committed to addressing both short-term and long-term challenges, including the serious deficiencies that were identified many years ago but have gone unaddressed.

“We intend to deliver on a decade of reforms that were not prioritised previously,” he said following the release of the OAG’s report. “The unfortunate reality is that Cayman’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people have been sidelined and frustrated by unduly burdensome bureaucracy, outdated policies and procedures and IT systems.”

Before the election, in an updated summary to the auditor general from the former community affairs ministry during the process of this report (pages 60-61), officials pointed the finger at COVID-19 as a reason why so little has advanced. But the pandemic did not really begin to impact government’s work until March 2020.

Staffing shortages and other issues also seem to be behind the problems but a government minute in response to the OAG report shows that Cabinet had failed to put into action many of the policy advancements made by civil servants.

The ministry said it had supported the upgrade of the existing database and case management system that was being used by the Needs Assessment Unit between 2018 and 2020, but that appeared to be a failure.

“Despite the provision of funding and upgrades made, this proved to still not meet the needs of the organization or offer the statistic information necessary to guide the Ministry with planning,” officials said in their summary to the auditor, which is attached to the report. They did not explain why this was so but said that they would be seeking more public money for a new database system in the forthcoming budget.

Another major problem identified in the original report that remained a major concern for the auditor general and PAC was the failure to update the current antiquated legislation that underpins the welfare system. The ministry said that efforts have been made to address the outdated legislation, “but the process took longer than anticipated as the Ministry could not support recommendations that were not addressing timeliness or enhancement of services”.

Officials said that progress made in 2019 was impacted by the 2020 pandemic. “Despite attention and efforts on many levels, progress and restructuring was slower than anticipated as the Ministry continuously faced urgent operational issues. This was only escalated by the pandemic of COVID-19 and with the uncertain of the election process aspects of work was temporarily put on hold and has now been transferred to the new Ministry responsible for Community Development,” the officials said in their submissions to the auditor.

Officials said there had been numerous revisions and changes, which resulted in a draft act and regulations. This was handed over to the new ministry for consideration and consultation.

But the new minister said the PACT Government was re-imagining social development, which means developing a coordinated strategy to solve deep-rooted, longstanding problems with modern solutions, as recommended by the auditor general in this latest report.

The ministry has already set about consolidating the multiple reports over the years on Cayman’s social development and has begun a broad review, which has identified the need to create a swathe of legislation, regulation and policy to improve social services, as the budget needed to support and improve the welfare services government provides.

The ministry has also been involved in operational improvements and is supporting the rollout of digital infrastructure for the Needs Assessment Unit. During June and July, the ministry’s eGovernment Unit spent a great deal of time working alongside the NAU staff and created a series of recommendations for improving their workflow processes and interactions with members of the public who seek assistance.

A plan was proposed and agreed with Minister Ebanks to create and launch a dedicated NAU website for clients to obtain necessary information and use a digital application for assistance. This and other work is well underway with a launch targeted for this year.

“I am very optimistic that the entire ministry team, departments and units will utilise their expertise, enthusiasm and innovative thinking to bring about meaningful and measurable changes,” Ebanks added.

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Category: Community, Government oversight, Local News, Politics

Comments (99)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Close the Turtle Farm(s) and halve the Cayman Airways and RCIPS subsides and invest in the people and neighborhoods ravaged by decades and generations of social neglect. We need programs that address the decay, alcoholism, drugs physical and mental abuse, that proliferates ignored by successive regimes. Kids born into these neighborhoods really have the odds stacked against them. It’s not fair to write them off from birth.

    • Anonymous says:

      Um how about people get to work and make all those baby daddies and mamas get to work. Only the elderly and sick should receive assistance. Enough of foreign women coming here and getting pregnant to secure a benefit.

  2. Anonymous says:

    PPM always stood for Poor People’s Mistake. The welfare of the people of the Cayman Islands never really mattered to them beyond campaign platitudes. They were more about cosying up to rich developers, giving sweetheart deals to their friends and family, attending fancy shindigs, drinking fine wines and single-malt whisky and galavanting to places like Monaco where they could hobnob on yachts with the rich and famous.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m supposed to trust these clowns with my health?

    Can the cayman government get anything right?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Put NAU back under the children and family services with the social workers. The social workers and their admin staff were doing a much better job. They cared about people welfare. Things gone from forward too backward in the hands of NAU. Do not care what system or more staff minister Andre Ebank put at NAU. The workers need too get up out of their comfort zones and do their work with care compassion professionally fast and efficient.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Here is what is needed:

    1. Better leadership at the Ministry Level.
    2. Better leadership within NAU.
    3. More assessment officers at NAU.
    4. Less political interference from Cabinet members.
    5. Updated regulations and enforcement of existing regulations.


    Former NAU officer

    • Anonymous says:

      Just yesterday my taxi driver was telling me her stipend was not enough to support her. I paid her $15 for a 5 minute ride. I needed a taxi today to go from Snug Harbour to close to Calypso Grill. Round trip fare quote was almost $60. Why are people being paid a stipend if they are working? Duh, no wonder people are not getting vaccinated

      • Anonymous says:

        $60 would get you twice round London. The taxi cartel here are a complete rip off. But they are all connected to politicians in some way so nothing gets done

        • Anonymous says:

          The Jamaican drivers Certainly have their countrymen in high places in this government .

          • Anonymous says:

            @15@3:15 How it irks you that a Caymanian had the opportunity to study at one of the leading Jamaican schools. Xenophobia is an insidious malaise… let’s not spread it.

    • Anon says:

      So a capable, non corrupt and accountable government, in other words!

    • Anonymous says:

      It should not be overlooked that the current minister was a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Community Affairs, until he snagged the plum job as head of the CIG office in London. The reality is that most of these unaddressed issues are not issues of policy but rather the execution and administration of policy. In other words, it is for the civil service to deliver on the government’s mandate. That’s where the big fail lies.

    • Concerned says:

      Excellent response, and accurate, but delving just a bit deeper….

      What is *really* needed:

      1. At the Ministry level, a Chief Officer and Deputy Chief Officer who not only contractually but also morally are obligated to actually serve to Government in power. At the moment, we have a CO and DCO who think they are running their own show, and smile and nod for the cameras when the Minister is present, but have alternate personal agendas that do not serve the government of the day. It is still continuing to this day.

      2. At the Department level of NAU…. where to begin. The “Commander in Chief” is long overdue for departure. She is the main reason for the deep rooted issues with NAU. Leadership does not exist at the department of NAU. Again, she has her own agenda, and she continues to do as she pleases. She also is contractually and morally obligated to actually serve the Government in power.

      3. When a true leader is appointed to the department, NAU officers will be trained properly and assessed regularly to ensure they are doing their jobs correctly.

      4. Unfortunately, political interference will never cease. Perhaps Minister Ebanks can address this, and reduce the volume of interference.

      • Sad. says:

        Let’s expand on your #1. The Chief Officer of Community Affairs at the time prided herself in being better than the previous Chief Officer who was fired after a disastrous PAC hearing. She was placed there as a personal favor from the Deputy Governor because she felt ‘entitled’ to a Chief Officer post. She spent three years with the subject and accomplished almost nothing except to run away anyone who had a half a brain to see what the current issues were… PPM loses the election and she had the subject area removed from her and given another set of subjects over her head. Has two Deputy Chiefs are equally as clueless… a former NDC director and a Deputy CFO running Sports and Culture? How does this make sense?

        All you senior Civil Servants should be embarrassed to have ‘Chief’ in y’all name and collecting these lofty salaries!! Please can we get our people help? When will the Deputy Governor be held accountable for his choices in senior leadership? If government was privatized, some of you all would not make it a month.

        On #2, all I can say is that we need a change. We need new ideas and fresh minds. Not the same recycled seat warmers. We need to clear the board and reset.

        The sad part is now NAU is under a Chief Officer who couldn’t give a damn if there was someone starving on the road as long as he can prance around in his nice suits and travel. Not sure which Chief Officer is worst.

        • Anonymous says:

          And don’t forget they have in that Ministry a Chief Human Resources Officer who used to work for Government then left for the private sector which was under pressure to appoint Caymanians ( sighs of relief all around in government) then was fired by THREE private sector companies for incompetence and was rehired by Government despite cautionary words of advice against it by those who were so relieved to see the back of the person. Chaos and confusion abound but, well, we employed one of our own. Again.

      • Anonymous says:

        I hate to bring his name up but you sound like a Donal Trunk acolyte with that “serve the government” crap.

        The job of any Civil Servant is to carry out policy, not this today and that tomorrow, depending on the whims of a Minister who says “oops, I didn’t know that I couldn’t do that”.

        It is an easy process for a Minister to charge the Deputy Governor to discipline any Civil Servant who refuses to follow policy. I have heard a lot of ex-Ministers say “the Civil Servants in my Ministry did not do what I told them to do”, but I never once recall any Minister saying “the Civil Servants in my Ministry refused carry out approved policies”.

        The usual excuse is asking the Deputy Governor to reassign a Civil Servant because the Minister says “I can’t wok wid dem”, which really means they are looking for someone to do their bidding outside what is acceptable.

  6. Anonymous says:

    That’s definitely WB library. Not Bodden Town.

    CNS: You’re right. Thank you!

  7. Anonymous says:

    The iPhone in the hand though🤣🤣🤣🤣🤑💰💵 #needs

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is part of the coverup that was happening under previous administrations. Someone should ask Alden to explain why these serious issues were not addressed in any meaningful way.

    • Anonymous says:

      Too busy indulging the wealthy boys club to be interested or concerned.

    • Anonymous says:

      O.K., I’ll ask him. Alden, why didn’t you do something to help people in need……… instead of wasting time and money trying to build an unwanted dock that the people didn’t need or want!……..?

  9. Caymanian says:

    So now we know. The real Caymanian PPM hacks were never interested in anything or anyone except themselves. Professional trough feeders!

  10. Wean people off NAU says:

    I suggest: People who seek assistance need to be quickly, but thoroughly, assessed. If found to be unemployed or under-employed, they should automatically register with WORC (if not registered yet).
    Once they are hired, NAU gets an e-mail from WORC advising accordingly, so they continue to receive assistance for three more months only—enough to get them on their feet. If they are able and willing to work, then we need to get them working; if they are able, but unwilling to work, they need to feel the consequences. Harsh but true.

  11. Chet Oswald Ebanks says:

    Yes, The reports are true. For 9 years almost I have begged, and begged. And still nothing has changed. When will those like myself, in this country. Finally get assisted. Stress it is a killer.

    Thank you,

    Chet Oswald Ebanks.

  12. Anonymous says:

    come election time, Alden will spin this to make it seem like the current government is at fault and people will believe it.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Welfare, health, education. These portfolios are massive and must be entrusted to people with the knowledge, experience, drive and foresight to see them through. They are not to be given to people due to family connections, business connections, for political expediency or just because they are Caymanian. That is utter folly. And with the reports submitted by the OAG, it is proving to be true. PACT now have a real opportunity to undo some of the dreadful damage done by PPM over the last 2 terms.

    But to do that requires courage and strength and it won’t be quick. The courage to say no to those who would claim that it is still better to have local people in charge of these huge responsibilities, despite the obvious failings and the strength to admit that there are serious failings and ask for help in fixing them. That isn’t an admission of weakness. Quite the contrary, it is having the strength to know there are problems and having the desire and will to fix them.

    Get the help required. Pick your best, brightest and most driven Caymanians and get them alongside so they can pick up the skills necessary to push the island in the right direction. Resilience and succession planning and a win/win for the island.

    Over to you PACT.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ezzard Miller would have made a formidable Minister of Health. I worry with the present minister.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ezzard’s problem from day one was arrogance: my way or the highway, hence the name Blizzard. During the Doctor Hortor hospital years 30 years ago he bullied civil servants with technical knowledge far in excess of his own ( he is a pharmacist) into saying things they didn’t believe. Inexcusable. Having said all that, he is one of the brightest of our politicians and it is very unfortunate that we have lost his presence on the political scene, warts and all. The present government apart from Wayne seem to be rather slim pickings.

        • Anonymous says:

          We should have built the Dr Hortor hospital though. At present we’re buying commercial premises for millions and then spending millions to convert them to medical facilities. It would be cheaper to build another hospital in the Frank Sound or Savannah area.

    • Anonymous says:

      To 12.39 Here you go again promoting Foreign is better. Rubbish. Entitlement mentality. Just want those big paycheques for your own kind.

      • Anonymous says:

        @ 2.56 Here we go again. Head in the sand mentality. The OAG has reported that years of homegrown leadership has produced the square root of nothing. If you had bothered your arse to digest what I had actually written, you would have seen that I want Caymanians to run the island. But the previous lot have proven they didn’t. Wake up. Its nothing to do with ‘entitlement’. If anything, that is the problem this island has had for long enough. And ‘for your own kind’. Classic example of local racism.

  14. Anon says:

    Auditor General must’ve decided she’s going home because if not it won’t be long before she’s pushed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hopefully not pushed by this government who purport to also tell the truth.

    • Chris Johnson says:

      This AG ain’t going anywhere believe you me. She is a breath of fresh air, tells it as it is and takes no prisoners. Compare her with the other AGs in the Caribbean and be thankful.. Her position is difficult and stressful. She earns every penny and rightly so. Even Bush would not take her on. That tells you something.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why are auditors paid so much…incredibly so in some cases… and teachers and nurses paid so little? Don’t all of them provide essential services? And who removes the auditors’ garbage every week? But that’s another issue.

  15. Have to say this again... says:

    the answer to this is corruption. Many slip through the cracks and get little to no support while others are benefiting from a Scandinavian level of assistance.

    As long as politicians are able to dole out favours to voters and other constituents nothing will change.

    You don’t have to be overly cynical to believe that many of our elected members like it this way.

    It would also be interesting to see a report on the hiring practices within CIG and the authorities. We have far too many people doing far to little and yet headcount increases year after year.

    • Anonymous says:

      In house corruption is common, like a senior well paid civil servant securing financial assistance for a child with “learning difficulties”, when other applicants have to jump through hoops provide bank details, wait,wait, chase chase and then get so fed up waiting that they give up.

      • Anonymous says:

        2:00 pm, you are 100 % right corruption are running wild in these Cayman Islands. Stupid voters very 4 years.

  16. Anonymous says:

    This is a result of the previous administrations caring more about looking out for the interests of the developers and not the people of Cayman. I hope the new government changes this.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Education education education. Make all young persons understand that without it their future is not very bright. All family members need to be enforcing & assisting with this from the moment school commences.
    Every person has ability in some area. Find it and grow it. Get proof of that ability.

    • Anonymous says:

      And stop importing the worlds poor and spending the countries increasingly limited resources to deal with the consequences.

      • Anonymous says:

        and start teaching Caymanians that ANY job is a job, so they don’t pass by these lower level jobs and we wouldn’t have to import cheap labour…

        • Anonymous says:

          Oh they are importing cheap labour at all levels my friend. That’s why wages haven’t really moved in the last 40 years but the population is up over 300%

    • Seriously?! says:

      Who can possibly dislike this comment? Honestly. Education is called the true equalizer simply because… it is.

  18. Hancock says:

    Thank you once again Mrs Winspear for all your hard work even though your recommendations fall on deaf ears. It must be a frustrating job you have.

  19. True story says:

    I will never forget this: it was either 2013 or 2014; the NAU was in the same building as Guy Harvey’s and I was trying to apply for temporary assistance while looking for employment. As only 15 people were seen per day on a first-come/first served basis, people would line up outside the door from 7am. Well, on my third attempt to be seen, I arrived at 6:30am and found a lady sleeping across the door—the poor soul had arrived from 4am to make sure she was seen because she had tried several times with no luck! I will never forget the gut-wrenching despair I felt that day; for her, for me, for Cayman. I got through with God’s help, not NAU.

  20. Anonymous says:

    NAU paying way to many people that shouldn’t be getting a penny! They need someone with no political or family connections to come in and audit their list of recipients. Government is being sucked dry by plenty of lazy people that just don’t want to work.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with you wholeheartedly, plenty had jobs and because of chemical dependency namely alcohol, cigarettes and applied for poor people relief and was granted I don’t know why and it pisses me off dearly. They getting $950 a month to stay home and drink 2 six packs of beer daily and smoke a pack of cigarettes. People who are deserving of the govt funds aren’t getting them

      • Anonymous says:

        And on the Brac, a lot of these same people get cash for working on the roadside cleanup. Seriously doubt that those funds are included in their assessment form.
        But you can count on these same folks getting money from the bank, going across the streets – get something to drink and loiter in anyone of the three public parking lots in the immediate vicinity.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m going on national TV and start to call names too, Pure crap been going on and need to stop

    • Anonymous says:

      9:26am: I would not dislike your comment because I am sure that more than a handful of people fit your bill, but I would not like it either, because there are people who desperately need the help and they do not get it. Either the NAU is understaffed, or their staff is overwhelmed, or their processes are simply too archaic. One thing is for sure, that unit works hard and long hours.

    • Anonymous says:

      9:26 am, you are 100% right, lots of people are just plain lazy and don’t want to work so they go to NAU, and the Government will give them and they know it, so the won’t work . 65 years ago when i was growing up, it was NOT no NAU, and everyone went to work and i mean we all worked , not like many Civil Servants of today , that’s so lazy that they won’t even answer the phones, comes in to work late and calls in sick, and gets paid. Sad , very sad what these Islands have come to.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Welfare issues turn into personal issues after election. Despite promises to reform the system, every politician once elected looks after the welfare of those who voted for him/her and will expand that grouping as a means of increasing his/her chances of being re-elected. Country as a whole can go to he11 for all he/she cares.

    For another good example, take the campaign promise of reforming the system of duty concessions, specifically with regards to concessions given to Dart, Fin etc. Now that he has been appointed Minister of Finance, do you think Chris Saunders is going to be in a hurry to draft a policy document and take it to Parliament while he is so happy reveling in the new-found power that now resides solely in his pen?

    From what I am hearing, the four most frequently spoken words on the fourth floor of GAB are “I make the policy”.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Many hundreds of foreign nationals are receiving financial and other assistance in direct breach of various laws. As a general rule (there will be exceptions) if people are not Caymanian and are unable to maintain themselves and their dependents they should not be here! This issue is making our economy unsustainable in the longer term. Why oh why do we not follow our laws, especially where they are designed and intended to protect the Caymanian people?

    • Anonymous says:

      Because some people, namely politicians and friends of politicians indirectly benefit from laws being broken, bent and changed and lack missing or outdated policies. This is business as usual in a place that is run by morons that see laying down more concrete for the super rich as being progress.

    • Anonymous says:

      How do you know how many there are? Hundreds, really? Do you work for NAU? If it’s in breach of the law have you reported it to the police? Is there any evidence of this? Honestly I have no idea how bad the issue is, it could even be worse than you say for all I know but your post makes some big claims whilst being incredibly vague.

    • anon against ignorance says:

      8.48am So all these desperately poor Caymanians are starving without handouts, whilst many hundreds of foreigners are being deluged with payments and assistance. Also pigs will fly!.

    • Anonymous says:

      While I agree with you in general 848AM – please note that most of these foreign nationals have children with/for a Caymanian.
      In the vast majority of cases the Caymanian parent abandons the child/children and does not financially support them. OR they have Caymanian Status as a result of the Status giveaways around 16-18 years ago.
      I used to work at NAU and heard your type of claims from plenty of people. But rest assured these foreign nationals are not getting assisted based upon being a foreigner, they getting help based upon their child being Caymanian.
      Yes there are plenty of Jamaicans, Honduranians, Filipinos, etc getting NAU assistance – if they don’t have a Caymanian Status or a Caymanian child/children you got a legitimate complaint.

      • Anonymous says:

        6 11pm Many of those with Caymanian born children only had them to get their foot in the door. They’re called anchor babies for a reason. Assistance to the foreign parent should not happen. Why don’t they go home instead of fighting to stay here.

        • Anonymous says:

          We’ve figured out what causes these pregnancies now, just need to educate people on how to avoid them

      • Anonymous says:

        6.11pm Their child is not Caymanian just by being born here. They would have had to be married to the Caymanian parent or else the chold takes their nationality. If this was enforced many would not be assisted.

      • Anonymous says:

        …and all the foreign children that are brought in with no ability to maintain and sustain them?

        • Anonymous says:

          Blame that all on Linford Pierson who mandated that Jamaicans working here could bring in their children and step children and any others they had had by their various women back in Jamaica and the stupid Caymanians they married for convenience legally adopted them. It worked. He got the “Jamaica vote” of those long time JA residents who had the vote.

  23. Anonymous says:

    This story is really a story about a lack of accountability within government and the continued attempts from the people at the very top of the civil service to make excuses for incompetence instead of holding people accountable for their actions or inaction.

    The only conclusion that can reasonably be reached is that our problems start at the very top and that meaningful change can only be achieved after we make fundamental changes at the top of the Civil Service and related Ministries. The system does not work and there is no accountability.

    The reality of the neglect by the PPM that led the country for two terms until April 2021 is now formally documented and clear for all to see.

    • Anonymous says:

      The entire system is a shambles. It needs serious reform, but they won’t allow anyone with any clout or new ideas take the top posts because they are scared of rocking the boat and having to fire/train so many incompetent civil servants.
      Instead they appoint nodding dogs people who are similarly unwilling to explore reform

  24. Anonymous says:

    Just like every other tiny third world edumacated and run island. Get used to it or go home is really your only option. (Unless your from here in which case your used to it.)

  25. Anonymous says:

    Franz this is all on you as DG and ppm that failed the people

  26. #EYESWIDESHUT says:

    NAU is an expensive tool used by politicians particularly the progressives to buy votes and keep the voter base content. There is no accountability the same people that abuse their positions and fail to implement recommendations got re-elected because the used NAU and cash to buy loyalty for those that are desperate and destitute.

  27. Anonymous says:

    The legacy of Alden’s PPM in black and white captured by multiple Auditor General’s reports. They do not care

  28. Anonymous says:

    another glorious day for our world class civil service!….zzzz

  29. Anonymous says:

    do-nothing-ppm did nothing??????…..shocker!

  30. Anonymous says:

    Andre got all the big fancy words and woke plans. Bottom line, 3 1/2 years from now, nothing will have changed.

    • Anonymous says:

      I hope he is counting the 4 years under Osbourne Bodden (PACT candidate and supporter) because that’s where the failure started!

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, I can se it makes sense to bitch about Andre before he has even had a chance to deal with it rather than talk about the 6 years of related failures by the PPM. You wouldn’t happen to be a PPM supporter by any chance 😉

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