The Bernie Bush debacle, constitutional breach & consistency of rules | Loop Cayman Islands

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

Over the past couple of days, a controversy has surrounded MP Bernie Bush, who, until recently, served as Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Youth, Sports, Culture & Heritage. Details of the issues giving rise to the controversy have now been shared publicly, including via statements by His Excellency The Governor Martyn Roper and Deputy Governor Hon. Franz Manderson. In summary, the issues involve alleged breaches by MP Bush of the Ministerial Code of Conduct and the Cayman Islands Constitution.

Breach of Ministerial Code of Conduct

By way of background, the Cayman Islands Ministerial Code of Conduct (the “Code”) was approved by the Cabinet on July 27, 2021. The Code sets out standards for adhering to principles of good governance and addressed one of the Broad Outcomes outlined in the Strategic Policy Statement which is Strengthening Good Governance for Most Effective Government and promotes greater accountability within the Executive branch.

In the case of MP Bush, the allegation is that he breached sections 2.4 and 2.6.3 of the Code in connection with his alleged conduct and statements in relation to the staffing of the Cayman Islands Fire Service.

Regarding section 2.4, this requires MPs to observe the Cayman Islands Constitution, all other relevant law, including but not limited to the Standards in Public Life Act (as revised) and the Anti-Corruption Act (as revised).

In relation to section 2.6.3, there is an expectation that MPs to comply with the Nolan Principles, in particular, objectivity, which requires the holders of public office to act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

As to exactly how MP Bush allegedly breached the above sections of the Code with his comments and conduct, this remains unclear.

Breach of the Constitution

The other allegation is the MP Bush’s conduct and comments amounted to an “infringement” of section 55 of the Cayman Islands Constitution.

While the exact details of the infringement are unclear, the implication is that MP Bush’s conduct and comments infringed on the Governors powers under section 55 to appoint, promote or transfer any person to any public office.

Regarding this, His Excellency The Governor Martyn Roper explained that “section 55 of the Constitution states clearly that public service appointments and civil service issues are the Governor’s responsibility, a power that is largely delegated to the Deputy Governor as Head of the Civil Service.”

Our good governance rests on full observance of our Constitution and I urge all elected representatives to fully respect the separation of powers. For example, Ministers who use their position to influence which individual is selected for public service roles would be infringing on the Constitution and represents political interference.

The Governor added.

Consequences for MP Bush

As a result of the alleged breaches, it was reported that the Premier, Wayne Panton, announced that the responsibility for the Ministry of Home Affairs was reassigned to Minister Sabrina Turner, effective Monday, April 11, 2022. In addition, MP Bush will be subject to two weeks unpaid leave effective Monday, April 18. During MP Bush’s leave, Parliamentary Secretary, Isaac Rankine is expected to act as Minister of Youth, Sports, Culture and Heritage.

In relation to the measures taken against MP Bush, the Deputy Governor, Franz Manderson, said that he supported “the decision taken by the Premier with regards to Minister Bush.”

As Head of the Civil Service I am responsible for ensuring all staff feel respected and valued in the workplace. I take these responsibilities seriously and when concerns are brought to my attention, as in this case, I will take action as set out in the Public Service Management Act.

Manderson added.

Reactions from members of the public

The public reaction to the disciplinary action taken against MP Bush is quite interesting.

For example, one Loop reader shared with Loop News that “there are other situations where breaches of rules were said to have occurred in respect to other parties close to government, however, there appears to be silence on those matters.”

One of the specific matters, as referred to by the Loop reader, is “the Auditor General’s report about the Dubai World Expo and Overseas Offices that is now in the public domain.”

In relation to this, the Loop reader said:

According to the Auditor General’s report in the public domain, there were alleged breaches of the Public Service Management Act and, by extension, section 55 (1) (d) of the Constitution. If the rules of the Constitution and relevant Acts are to be applied consistently, it would mean that any person found to be in actual breach of the section 55 of the Constitution in relation to the Dubai debacle should be held accountable in the same way that MP Bush is now being held accountable. If not, then the authorities might be seen as touting transparency and good governance in some areas, but not others, a seemingly inconsistent application of the rules.