Opposition leader McKeeva Bush is defending his now-defunct Nation Building Fund, this after public accounts committee members pored over the Auditor General’s report on the controversial programme.
He insisted he never acted as a rogue minister when handling $13.2 million dollars in public money, and says civil servants at the time, did nothing wrong.
“I actually hear ministers saying it, I don’t want another Nation Building Report,” Deputy Governor Franz Manderson told Public Accounts Committee members during Thursday afternoon’s (24 February) PAC hearing.
Mr. Manderson said the then-premier’s controversial Nation Building Fund, if nothing else, was a catalyst for change in the civil service.
“Civil servants didn’t do their jobs as effectively as they should have. Those persons are no longer in the service now, but we have overriding responsibility to learn from these mistakes,” said Mr. Manderson.
“The civil servants in my ministry did nothing wrong,” said Mr. Bush.
Oppposition Leader McKeeva Bush defended his programme, saying the Nation Building Fund fulfilled its mandate by helping the Caymanian people pursue higher education as well as providing funding for churches.
“Yes, I did that as minister. If they want to say that was wrong, let either one of them say that it was wrong. If Franz Manderson, if anybody else wants to say it was wrong, let them say so. I know that young people of this country benefited because of that Nation Building Fund,” said Mr. Bush.
The Auditor General’s report into the Nation Building Fund concluded that the government of the day failed to effectively manage $13.2 million of public money funded under the Nation Building Programme, which led to waste of public funds.
“Civil servants allowed themselves to be pressured to go about doing things they they shouldn’t have done, and they failed to carry out their responsibilities,” said Mr. Manderson.
As a result of the Nation Building Fund, and subsequent reports detailing ministerial overreach and lack of frameworks regarding transfer payments, Mr. Manderson told PAC members a draft governance policy has been created by Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson, which will address roles of key agents including ministers and chief officers, legislative authority, policy objectives, as well as other issues not addressed previously.
Mr. Manderson told PAC members the onus is on civil servants to stand up in the face of ministerial pressure.
“It’s incumbent on the civil servants to put their foot down and say this is not being done properly,” said Mr. Manderson.