Customs Chief Retiring
Published 31st May 2012, 1:42pm
After a distinguished career spanning 40 years, Collector of Customs, Mr. Carlon Powery, MBE, JP, will be retiring on 31 May 2012.
Mr. Powery, who decided last year to retire after four decades in service, has seen revenue collected by his department grow from a few million dollars annually in the early 1970s to over $150 million now.
Ever mindful of his role as chief, Mr. Powery has run a tight ship over the years to ensure the Customs department remains the single biggest revenue earning government entity. "We've taken this task very seriously. We want to ensure that whatever revenue is due to government is collected. And we have no extravagances here, being really prudent in our expenses over the years," the Collector revealed.
Yet he has overseen, and indeed driven, the steady growth of his department in staff, infrastructure and technological advancement befitting its lead money earning role. He is equally proud that his staff is 100 percent Caymanian, including 12 new officers who joined in April this year.
Mr. Powery's steady progress began when after high school he joined a team of nine staff members in Customs in February 1972. They were all housed in a small office located first near Hog Sty Bay, then at the old airport terminal and a small unit located in the General Post Office in downtown George Town, before moving into the Tower Building in 1984 and finally Customs Headquarters on Airport Road in 1993.
Through on-the-job training and experience, he steadily rose up the ranks from clerical assistant earning $138 in Jamaican dollars (which soon changed to a similar amount in CI dollars). Within a year, he was promoted to Customs Officer, then Senior Customs Officer, followed by Assistant Collector and Deputy Collector before taking over the helm in 1988 and becoming the longest serving Collector to date for the Cayman Islands.
The department's impressive development under his guidance reflects the Cayman Islands' overall progress. In addition to enhanced revenue collection, Mr. Powery also led in establishing procedures to ensure full compliance with laws and regulations. Additionally, he assisted with creating new laws, including a range of customs fee rates. These were crucial to meeting the growing needs of rapid development and maintaining the pace of progress. His input included valuable advice to government pinpointing areas where revenue could be increased.
Moreover, he led the department's focus in evolving from merely collecting revenue to becoming one of Cayman's major law enforcement agencies with equal emphasis on border protection and control, counter-terrorism and combating crime. The department's marine and K-9 units are among the Islands' invaluable law enforcement resources now.
Correspondingly, the department's infrastructure and technology improved substantially, including a highly sophisticated, non-invasive inspection system for containers. In contrast, the Collector recalls, when he joined, all cargo, even an automobile, was off-loaded manually, using a block and tackle and containers continued to be inspected manually. "We have come a very long way indeed!" he commented, simply.
He is equally proud of the emphasis he has placed on staff training. All recruits, junior and senior officers receive training from in-house and international trainers locally as well as through institutions in the Dominican Republic, Australia and international Customs organisations.
His determination to provide top-notch professional service to the public has worked in tandem with the department's aims. Under his watch, the department's goal of 100 percent inspection of all cargo entering and exiting the Islands is finally a reality. Equally important, the penalties for import violations have been raised substantially to act as an added deterrent.
Other accomplishments he cherishes are his lead role for a number of years at the Civil Service Association Cooperative Credit Union and his, and the department's, involvement in the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council. The establishment of the council secretariat in St. Lucia during his tenure as Chairman has benefitted all the members, especially the smaller islands, he noted.
Above all, he values his bond with his staff whose welfare matters deeply to him. His wish to provide an opportunity for senior staff to advance prompted his decision to retire, even though under the Civil Service law he could continue to work. However, he remains willing to offer his services in whatever way Government can benefit from his 40 years' expertise, Mr. Powery said.
A Justice of the Peace for several years, Mr. Powery received royal honours when he was made a Member of the British Empire for his outstanding work.
Happily married to his wife Judy for 32 years, he is looking forward to family time, especially with his grand-daughters, his beloved Boatswain Bay Presbyterian Church and concentrating on his hobbies, notably gardening and raising cattle.