By Staff Writer
Intended to safeguard government ministers from a plethora of pitfalls in their official and private capacities, the Cayman Islands finally has enshrined a Ministerial Code of Conduct.
Built on what’s known as the Nolan Principles of conduct in public office, the code places the responsibility on ministers of government to live up to expectations of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership which underpin their respective roles.
A government statement announcing that the PACT (People-driven, Accountable, Competent and Transparent) administration had implemented the code outlines that it “provides a comprehensive general code of conduct and also gives guidance on a wide range of specific issues, including dealing with possible or perceived conflicts of interests; the acceptance of gifts and/or favours; and Ministerial travel.”
Aligned in many respects with the commitments and claims spelt out in the PACT coalition's acronym, Hon. Premier Wayne Panton said he was “beyond pleased” with the approval of the Ministerial Code of Conduct by his cabinet last Tuesday July 27th.
The code is unfinished business left over from the previous Progressives-led government which had prepared the code but didn’t follow through with its implementation.
Taking credit for pushing it through, Premier Panton pointed out that it’s one of the achievements of his PACT administration in its first 100 days in office.
“This is another historic moment for the Government and people of the Cayman Islands. I am especially pleased that this matter was given priority by my colleagues in the PACT Government for completion within our first 100 days in office.”
Reflecting on the principles enshrined in the code to those of his government coalition, Mr Panton noted: “Our commitment as the PACT Government is to be People-driven, Accountable, and Transparent. This Code of Conduct reinforces this commitment and clearly sets out our standards for adhering to the principles of good governance. It also addresses one of the Broad Outcomes outlined in our Strategic Policy Statement which is Strengthening Good Governance for More Effective Government and promotes greater accountability within the Executive branch.”
The Premier also said, “The more transparent we are, the more accountable we are to the public. The better we are at transparency, the better we will get at decision making and resource allocation.”
In reiterating his government’s commitment to the principles outlined in the Code of Conduct, Mr Panton added: “We remain humbled by the awesome responsibility of our role as Ministers. It is our duty to engender the trust and maintain the confidence of the people we serve. We as the PACT Government believe that to whom much is given, much is required. The call for greater accountability and transparency has been answered by the publication of a framework for the conduct the public can expect from us and that we expect of ourselves.”
In a statement marking the occasion, HE Governor Martyn Roper declared: “The approval and enactment of the Ministerial Code of Conduct is a strong indicator of the government’s commitment to accountability and transparency. It is an integral part of good governance, and encourages greater trust between the wider community and those they have elected to represent them.”
In noting its historical significance, Mr Roper also said: “This is the first time in our modern history, and under our current constitution, that such a code governing standards and behaviours expected of elected representatives has been implemented. This is an excellent step forward underlining the Premier’s and Ministers’ commitment to good governance, transparency and accountability. It will build trust between our wider community and those that it elects. I look forward to Parliament adopting one in the very near future.”
As far as penalties go, the document outlines the process facing any minister considered to be in breach of the code.
“If a Minister is the subject of an official investigation into a matter or case of serious impropriety or alleged illegal behaviour of a serious nature, the Premier may require that Minister go on leave and the Governor acting in accordance with the advice of the Premier may appoint a person who is an elected Member of the Parliament to be a temporary Minister or assign responsibility for the performance of the functions of that Minister to another Minister (including the Premier).”
The Code also applies, where appropriate, to the ex officio members of the Cabinet.
The Nolan principles, or The Seven Principles of Public Life, outline the ethical standards those working in the public sector are expected to adhere to. They were first set out by the UK’s Lord Nolan in 1995 in the first report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.