Saunders urges release of audit on $2B ReGen deal

| 27/03/2023 | 112 Comments
George Town landfill
George Town landfill

(CNS): The war of words between Premier Wayne Panton and Chris Saunders MP (BTW) escalated Monday when the former minister said the real reason why he is no longer in Cabinet is that he was not prepared to support the ReGen deal PACT is about to finalise. Saunders said it could cost as much as $2 billion and has urged the premier to release a report by the auditor general that his office has had since 4 December 2021.

Saunders posted a social media message after Panton appeared on Radio Cayman this morning, in which he said there were “material differences between” himself and the premier, the first being the proposed Integrated Solid Waste Management System (ISWMS), known as the ReGen project.

He urged people to ask Panton to release the audit report so they would know the truth and everything would be made clear.

“If the report is not released, I suspect that, as usual, the excuse will be ‘commercial sensitivity’. If that happens, I would suggest that the premier be asked the nature of the commercial sensitivity and whose commercial interest is being protected over and above the public’s interest,” Saunders stated in his Whatsapp message.

“The last set of numbers that I saw makes this project unaffordable for the public purse and there is absolutely no way I would have signed off on that project when I was Minister of Finance.” He said that efforts were already being made to promote that project.

“I implore you to reach out to your members of parliament and insist the government does not move forward until the country knows the full costs. The last number that I saw for the project was around $2 billion,” he said. “At a minimum, if they don’t want to release the report, ask the amount of the winning bid at that time. The difference between those two numbers will surprise you.”

Saunders said that while the dump needed to be remediated and a long-term solution to waste management found, he did not believe the entire country and an entire generation should be mortgaged to pay for it.

“Sending this message this morning wasn’t easy as it will keep me in the firing line for more personal attacks,” the two-term MP said. “I am a big boy, I can take it. But I cannot afford to sit by and watch our children and grandchildren be saddled with a tax burden that they will not be able to afford.”

Saunders referred to past warnings that were ignored but came back to haunt subsequent generations. “For those of you who are old enough to remember, didn’t past elected representatives tell you not to sell your land? They were vilified, smeared, and call everything under the sun. Look at land prices today,” he said.

“Didn’t past elected representatives tried to get a portion of revenues from Financial Services set aside for housing for Caymanians? They too were vilified, smeared, and called everything under the sun. Look at the challenges we have today for housing.”

Saunders urged the public not to let this warning go unheeded. “We already have challenges on healthcare costs that are rising rapidly and we have a responsibility to educate and prepare our children for the future. If we add this ISWMS project, in its current form, to that burden, our children and grandchildren will never forgive us,” he said.

During his appearance on Radio Cayman on Monday, which came before Saunders’ social media message, the premier implied that the ReGen project was close to a final deal but that it had not been without its challenges.

Not for the first time, he told listeners that it had been a difficult road. Despite the previous government’s decision to sign a preliminary agreement just before the election, Panton said the bulk of the project was not covered in that deal.

“We are very close to being able to finalise the position,” he said, noting that the “major core” of the project signed by the Progressives included some 30 documents that were “left open”, and it had taken a long time to deal with that.

“Remediation began on the landfill, in my view perhaps, a lot sooner than should have been,” he said. “I thought they should have been focused on the documentation agreed before they committed fully to the remediation and removing options from the government… Only a small area was left in the northwest corner where landfilling can occur.”

Panton added that the estimates about the landfill area that would be needed were also less than what has actually been required and left some challenges to managing waste before the waste-to-energy system is completed

The premier warned that this was one of the projects that the government had to think about in the face of rising costs in public spending.

See the related story here.

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Category: Environmental Health, Health

Comments (112)

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  1. XRebellion says:

    We need to operate WITHIN environmental limits – that means stopping growth in BOTH consumption and population.

    If rapid rates of growth are leading to obvious critical infrastructure shortages and eroding our quality of life and if the majority of the population has significant reservations around the speed of growth why are we doing it?”

    🟢Protect our environment
    🟠Halt overexpansion
    🔴Stop duplicity

  2. Human Specie says:

    I know the issue the trash buildup has to be dealt with, but doesn’t the Cayman Islands Government realises how many “residents” and I quote the word residents t because if you’ve been living here for more than 10 years and you do not require a Work Permit to work, you pay your bills, shopping and pay for your rent should be treated as equally as being born here. Then a major world event happens that makes and the common residents that’s getting by on their monthly salary month to month because its obvious that they come from a working class family and not a family of money wouldn’t it be the government’s responsibility to assist the residents in need of financial assistance. It’s almost as Cayman being a British jurisdiction then they should have more say in politics than they actually have now. Or maybe there should be an age limit like a maximum of no more than 35 years. I don’t mean to insult no one but all these elected politics were elected by the public, the same residents that were promised different assistance as each household has their own issues which they also need assistance with. This comment might seem all over the place and inconsistencies towards the story but if you read on I can promise that to sine it will make very much sense.
    The elected members seemed more worry about the next election, the worth of position their given once elected. Not to mention that someone who specialises in Finance all of a sudden is the Minister of Health or the Minister of Sports, that makes absolutely no sense. Now back the issue with spending 2 BILLION dollars on the RenGen project. Does the Premier realises how many residents are going without food because they can’t afford the high cost on low salaries or what about the ones that can’t work nit because they don’t want but because of disability that either mentality or physically makes them
    unable to work but yet there is no one to turn for assistance. NAU doesn’t help people as that department is meant to. When you apply for their services its such a tedious and uncomfortable process, bad enough if you depend on others to assist you physically and worst when you’re dealing a chronic illness and you have one to assist you either physically, mentally or financially. I reiterate what I said at the beginning; the issue with the trash has to be dealt with. But just because something worked while during the time some of Minister were younger doesn’t mean that will work for future generations. There are many residents that don’t even have running water or electricity because they can’t afford them and yet the government can’t or won’t assist them and no other electrical provider can even be chosen because of a deal the Cayman Islands Government made with CUC for a 30 year deal. How many residents could benefit from even a third of that amount if divided equally so each resident can have a chance to give their children and their grandchildren a better life than they had. In the UK you receive Assistant if your unable to work and assist with housing as I believe most other countries do as well so why is it so difficult for the government to properly assist those residents that need the most help. There are residents who have a family member that might need assistance with a mental health issue and if you go to HSA instead of giving that family a proper psychological diagnosis of the family member mental state they’d rather pump them up with medications to suppress the symptoms and the places on island that can assist as for those that can afford to pay uo to 2k monthly for private school, which goes to show that if they can afford 2k a month then most likely they can also afford to 80k for college tuition instead they apply for scholarships as if its a prize for being the best yes its a prize but it would benefit someone who can only afford public school instead of a 2k monthly fee private school. Why don’t the private and public schools have access to the same curriculums. In the Cayman Islands in public schools the teach Spanish as a second language, in private wchools you get choices like French, German even maybe mandarin. If you’re the type of person who’s into sports instead of academia know that it will cost you if that what you want to do.
    This government should really do a proper census of the residents of the Cayman Islands and make an effort to make things fair. For instance, the Departmwnt of Labour and Pensions approved for retirees and non retirees of private pension companies to make an Emergency Withdrawal from their pension during COVID-19 to assist them financially but even though its a government entity the retirees and non retirees whom are considered Civil Servants and have their pension with the Public Service Pension Board were not allowed to do that as if they too don’t have financial struggles just because the work within the Government. Some of those ministers have to start thinking of their grandchildren future because some of them come from money or have properties which give them an extra income but who knows if that will be their for their grandchildren. The Bible states that it takes a village to raise a child but it seems the villages of Cayman no longer exist its every man, woman or children for themselves.

    Thank you and have a blessed evening.

    With Love & Gratitude always,


  3. Anonymous says:

    The more PACT demands, the more it’s going to cost.


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