Travel expenses questioned

An answer to a Parliamentary Question asked by West Bay MLA Cline Glidden Jr. shows the Government spent more than $2 million on official travel in the nine-month period between 1 May, 2005, and 31 January, 2006.

The People’s Progressive Movement Government was installed on 18 May 2005 after the last general elections.

In his question, which was answered in writing while the House was not meeting, Mr. Glidden also asked for a breakdown of travel by ministry and for the number of days out of the country on official travel per trip.

The response showed that the Ministry of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce spent the most in the nine-month period, with an amount of $924,094.45 of the total $2,000,901.51 spent during the period.

Mr. Glidden said he noticed the high amount spent on travel for the Ministry of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce.

‘What strikes me is whether we’re getting good value for the dollars spent,’ he said. ‘[The Government] needs to show us what was achieved.

‘Are we getting good results?’ he asked. ‘Not for the spending we’re getting.’

Mr. Glidden noted that representatives of the Ministry of Education, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports and Culture had been off the island 217.5 days on 36 trips, but had spent only $327,327.15.

The response also shows that Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing representatives had been off the island 642 days on 82 trips in the nine-month period, and spent only $135,725.17. Those figures, however, excluded the number of trips from the Ministry of District of Administration.

Mr. Glidden pointed out that when they were the Opposition, PPM members were highly critical of the amount of travelling by McKeeva Bush, former Leader of Government Business and Minister of Tourism, Environment, Development and Commerce.

Mr. Bush said last week that the travel for his Ministry for the entire year 2002 was $533,719 and for all of 2003 was $517,721.

‘They complained about me and accused me of travelling too much, but they’re doing the same thing and worse,’ Mr. Bush said, noting that his travel figures also included trips taken in his capacity as Leader of Government Business.

Mr. Bush said he had seen the written response to Mr. Glidden’s question, and he noted that number of days off island and the number of trips was marked ‘NA’ for the Ministry of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce. All other Ministries provided responses to those questions.

He also said that by responding to the question outside of the House, no supplementary questions could be asked on the matter.

Minister of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce Charles Clifford responded by saying his ministries were charged with, among other things, the responsibility for marketing the twin pillars of the Cayman Islands economy – tourism and financial services – through the Department of Tourism and the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau.

‘As such, travel is a core requirement of these agencies in order to facilitate face-to-face sale blitzes with the private sector, trade shows, sales meetings, consumer events, training, internal meetings, conferences and other general promotional events,’ he said.

Mr. Clifford stated that the answer on the Parliamentary Question with regard to his Ministry had actually been overstated by $123,771 because some expenses had been duplicated when the answer had been prepared.

Of the $800,310 remaining, Mr. Clifford said the combined travel expenses of the Department of Tourism and the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau amounted to approximately 83 per cent of the figure.

‘These travel expenses aren’t restricted to staff operating locally, but also includes expenses for staff based in the DoT and CIIB’s overseas offices in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom,’ he said.

Mr. Clifford explained why the answer to the Parliamentary Question had ‘NA’ with regard to the number of days off the island and the number of trips taken.

‘Given the nature of the work conducted by the Department of Tourism and the Investment Bureau, reporting the total number of days and trips off island has no direct bearing to the overall travel… as the travel occurs from four different countries, including the Cayman Islands.’

Speaking specifically about the Ministry of Tourism’s travel expenses, Mr Clifford said they totalled $85,771 for the nine-month period in question, which included $12,443 of expenses incurred prior to May 2005.

‘Still… the Ministry’s total travel expenditure for the period is less than half of the total amount spent on travel in the proceeding 10 months by the then Minister of Tourism, the Hon. McKeeva Bush,’ he said. ‘Under the prior administration during July 2004 to April 2005 (a 10 month period), the Office of the Ministry of Tourism spent $183, 148.’

Mr. Clifford also said it was important to point out that the Cayman Islands Government’s new fully-implemented financial management system prohibits things like Ministry of Tourism expenditure on official travel being charged to the Department of Tourism’s budget instead of the Ministry’s budget.

‘The expenditure as reported now therefore reflects the true costs of the Ministry’s official travel,’ he said. ‘I make this point because it was common place prior to the new financial regime being fully implemented for some of the previous Minister’s travel expenses to be reported under the Department of Tourism’s budget as the Department’s expenditure.

‘Therefore, the amount of $183,148.00 that is reported as spent by the previous Minister for the 10 month period from July 2004 to April 2005 is probably understated.’

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