Central Planning Authority Lacks Diversity – Auditor Calls for a Change

A report titled “Fighting Corruption in the Cayman Islands” was recently released by Auditor General Sue Winspear.

It discusses a recent assessment of current legislation, anti-corruption bodies and policies in the Cayman Islands. Winspear highlights the lack of diversity within the Central Planning Authority and calls for the membership of the board to be balanced and include members from sectors other than the building and development industry.

Article Snapshot:

  • Auditor General Sue Winspear recently released a report titled “Fighting Corruption in the Cayman Islands” assessing current legislation, anti-corruption bodies and policies.
  • In it, she requests that the Cabinet consider more diverse candidates for the CPA (Central Planning Authority).
  • All 13 members of the CPA – including chairman A.L. Thompson and deputy chair Robert Watler – have known interest in development, construction and other related areas.
  • The audit noted that while this provides expertise to the CPA, there are also “potential and perceived risks of conflicts of interest.”
  • The CPA is currently required to host all meetings in public and members must fill out declarations of interest to indicate which companies they own/have investments in.
  • The Auditor General noted these improvements but stated that “There is still scope to improve.”

Who is the Central Planning Authority?

The CPA is a statutory authority appointed by the Cabinet to review and oversee the physical development of Grand Cayman. All 13 members of the CPA – including chairman A.L. Thompson and deputy chair Robert Watler – have known interest in development, construction and other related areas. The CPA is the deciding body on all applications for development and dictates any and all conditions of approval.

Lack of Transparency

Although the report details the significant progress that has been made within the CPA since the 2015 audit, Winspear notes that there is “still scope to improve.” For example, the voting process remains a mystery to those outside the board, and there is a marked lack of transparency. The CPA is not currently required to provide evidence that they have taken into account technical advice from agencies like the Department of Environment.

“We appreciate that given the size of the Cayman Islands, the limited pool of people who may be willing or able to serve on public boards will be a constraint. […] However, we believe it is important that the composition of boards be balanced to avoid any perception of bias or conflict and that appointments made promote fairness and equal opportunity.”

Preventing Corruption in Cayman

Could the fact that every single member of the CPA has an interest (financial or otherwise) in the building and development industry be purely coincidental? It seems unlikely. Although the nature of the CPA clearly demonstrates a need for experienced board members, checks and balances must be in place to prevent corruption and self-serving legislation.

In response, planning director Haroon Pandohi wrote “The recommendations made by the OAG to strengthen processes have been considered and taken on board […] we will continue to encourage and support the Central Planning Authority and the Development Control Board in its efforts to improve transparency.”