Ex CS boss slams waste
(CNS): The former deputy governor and head of the civil service, Donovan Ebanks, has said that the public money spent in Cayman Brac on paving private driveways should be paid back to government coffers. Following his recent retirement, the public sector boss is now free to express his opinion over political issues, which he did last week as part of a public panel discussion on government’s budget crisis. Ebanks also revealed that he believes the $9 million hurricane shelter project for the Sister Islands needs to be suspended, given the current financial circumstances of government. Asked about wasteful public spending, Ebanks said that there were some classic examples that stood out.
“Certainly the situation that we saw in Cayman Brac with the paving of the parking lots is at the top of the list and I think those expenditure should be recouped,” Ebanks said at the Generation Now discussion last Wednesday at the Harquail Theatre. “The other classic example … is this proposed shelter for nine million dollars which I think is absolutely unnecessary and should be stopped.”
This is not the first time since his retirement from the top civil service job that Ebanks has spoken out; he was vocal in his support recently on the referendum for one man, one vote and publicly signed the petition and encouraged all public sector workers to do the same.
On Wednesday Ebanks also express his opinion on the issue of over-development in Cayman, which he said put pressure on the local infrastructure and, in turn, the public sector.
During what prove to be an interesting and focused discussion, the other panellists also noted the issue of waste and mismanagement of public cash by government. Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin pointed out that here were many areas of waste that could be addressed but he pointed in particular to things like the Nation Building Fund, which had been allocated some $10 million in the last two budgets.
McLaughlin said it wasn’t that the all of the money was necessarily being wasted but there was serious potential for mis-management with a whole new structure for allocating public money and with a minister being so close to that allocation. He explained that if it was too onerous for young people to get scholarships, then government should address the criteria laid out by the Education Council, not create a separate way of awarding them.
“Why is it necessary for the premier to select who gets scholarships?” McLaughlin asked. “Anytime we give a great deal of discretion to ministers, whoever the ministers are, as to how they can dispense money you inevitably get into problems. The ministers get into problems because they are always going to be lobbied by people for this grant and for this assistance. It is far better if there is a system that is run where there is at least some degree of distance between the minister who makes the policy decision and those who actually dole out the money.”
Cayman Finance chair Richard Coles, who was also a guest on the panel, pointed to his own experiences as the head of the Legal Affairs when he was attorney general and how in his first year in post he was delighted to find that he and his staff had come in under budget, only to be told by his chief financial officer that this was bad. Not only would the department not be able to carry that savings over to the next year if they did not spend the money on something before the year end, the following year’s allocation would be cut by that amount as well.
“That is an absolutely crazy situation that was happening throughout the civil service,” he said.
UCCI Professor Dr Weishan said government all over the world had that system in place, where people are rewarded to be wasteful rather than thrifty and prudent.
Ezzard Miller pointed to some serious wasteful spending in government at present, not least because the proper processes and checks and balances were being avoided, ignored and even aborted.
Pointing to the premier’s claims during the Cohen loan controversy that substance was more important than process, Miller said that’s when government risks a serious level of wasteful spending. He also agreed with Ebanks that money spend paving private driveways in Cayman Brac should be paid back.
The Generation Now panel discussion will be broadcast on Radio Cayman at 7pm this evening.
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