(CMR) The Deputy Governor of the Cayman Islands, Hon. Franz Manderson has found that there were no breaches committed in hiring staff for the Dubai Expo and the opening of several overseas offices.
DG Manderson concluded his internal investigation, which resulted from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) report entitled “The Dubai World Expo and The Cayman Islands Overseas Offices – Examination of Potential Breaches to Legislation”, which was leaked before the internal investigation had concluded.
In July 2021, the Governor the Hon. Martyn Roper and the Deputy Governor were asked to commission an independent review into the decisions taken around Cayman’s participation in the Dubai World Expo, as well as the opening of Cayman Islands Overseas Offices in Brussels, Hong Kong and Washington, D.C.
As a result, the OAG was tasked with establishing facts on several matters to support a more comprehensive review. The OAG presented its findings in November 2021.
In its report, the OAG found that there had been breaches of the Cayman Islands Constitution, the Public Management and Finance Act (PMFA), and the Public Service Management Act (PSMA) by the Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs (The Ministry).
The OAG also highlighted irregularities around some of the HR practices used to employ staff associated with the Dubai World Expo and Overseas Offices. Additionally, the report stated that clear guidance was lacking on how the civil service should conduct themselves in relation to implementing specific Government policies once an election had been called.
The Deputy Governor has now concluded an internal investigation arising from the OAG report. The internal investigation included a careful review of the OAG report, obtaining responses from the Ministry, a review of the Ministry's audited financial statements, legal advice from the Attorney General’s Chambers, and independent reports from Internal Audit.
The most serious finding by the OAG was that the Ministry breached section 12 of the PMFA and the Constitution by spending funds that were not appropriated by Parliament.
With the 2021 financial statements for the Ministry now completed, the Deputy Governor’s investigation determined that sufficient funds were available to meet necessary costs associated with the Dubai World Expo and the opening of the Overseas Offices without the need for either the section 11 (5) or section 12 funding requested in January 2021. Given this, there was no breach of section 12 of the PMFA, or the Constitution.
Auditor General, Sue Winspear stated: “I agree that technically there is no breach of PMFA as the funds requested for 2021 were not actually needed after all. After the election, activities relating to the new Overseas Offices and Dubai World Expo were scaled back as a consequence of the different priorities of the new Government and so the actual costs were able to be funded from within the existing 2021 budget for that Ministry and the underspend that was carried forward from 2020.
“I prefaced my report by stating that I presumed the funds requested and agreed by Cabinet in January 2021 were both necessary and requested in good faith. The commitment to the additional staffing costs, of course continues beyond 2021,” he added.
Both the Governor and Deputy Governor condemned the leak of the OAG report, stating it raised material issues about the conduct of the Civil Service and should have been treated with the highest level of confidentiality in order to allow the entire review process to conclude fairly.
His Excellency Governor Hon. Martyn Roper said the Deputy Governor has fully investigated all the issues arising from the initial OAG report, including taking into account further relevant information and advice.
“I am satisfied that the Deputy Governor’s investigation has been carried out comprehensively and objectively in the interests of fairness to all concerned. It is unfortunate that the press commentary after the leaking of the OAG report, and before the Deputy Governor’s full investigation was complete, led to inaccurate and skewed views being aired in public,” Governor Roper said.
“Notwithstanding the findings of the Deputy Governor’s investigation, I am grateful to the OAG and Deputy Governor for ensuring that going forward the jurisdiction has learnt important lessons for the future, especially the need for clearer policies and practices during periods of election sensitivity,” he added.
The Deputy Governor stated: “As a Civil Service, we continually look for ways to improve and therefore welcome constructive reports which provide opportunities to further develop our Civil Service policies and procedures. As a consequence of this OAG report, we have now developed a formal policy entitled “Period of Election Sensitivity”. Once approved by Cabinet this guidance will provide clear information on how Civil Servants and Ministers should conduct Government business once an Election has been called”.