Big budgets for lawmakers

Constituency allowances could cost $340K

Elected lawmakers have sought more than CI$28,500 per month collectively to use for constituency allowances in carrying out the duties of their offices.

Individual lawmakers’ requests for constituency allowances range from $1,375 per month to $3,000 per month.

The total, if all that cash is spent each month, would come to more than $342,000 for the year.

Constituency allowances were requested by 14 of 15 elected Legislative Assembly Members. Opposition MLA Alden McLaughlin is the only member that has not made an application for a constituency allowance, according to records obtained by the Caymanian Compass under a Freedom of Information request.

According to information provided by the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, constituency allowances – also called constituency office allowances – are intended to help elected representatives defray costs incurred in making themselves available to meet with residents of their districts on a regular basis.

The funds are generally paid to acquire and maintain a designated location within that district, according to information provided by the portfolio.

‘It is not intended that this allowance will meet the actual cost of providing such a venue,’ a statement from the Portfolio read. ‘As the actual cost of each element varies relative to the position, the MLA will bear the difference or benefit accordingly.’

The portfolio also indicated that MLAs can maintain records of actual expense, but they would not necessarily by reimbursed for the full amount of those expenditures if, for instance, they overspent the constituency allowance budget.

The Legislative Assembly clerk authorises constituency allowance payments, and those payments continue on a monthly basis unless the applicant advises the clerk about a change. House members who are unhappy with the clerk’s assessment can appeal to the Standing House Committee for review.

There are guidelines for how much of the available constituency allowance can be spent on meeting locations.

For instance, if one lawmaker wished to maintain a separate office for constituent matters, they could receive the maximum monthly allotment under the constituency allowance.

Offices shared between MLAs can receive between 50 and 75 per cent of the maximum constituency allowance depending on how many elected members use that office.

MLAs are also given the option to use their own homes or personal offices to meet with district residents. If a commercial office is used for constituent purposes as well, up to 75 per cent of the full monthly allowance can be used. A non-profit office used for constituent purposes can receive the full monthly allotment.

A home used for constituent work can receive up to 60 per cent of the maximum constituency allowance.

Official members

Of the three appointed members of the Legislative Assembly, at least one, Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks, receives a constituency allowance of CI $1,500 per month. The chief secretary’s position also receives $444 per month for motorcar upkeep, entertainment, and other personal expenses.

The chief secretary’s monthly salary is $14,460, or just a bit more than $173,000 per year.

The Compass has previously reported the budgeted yearly salaries for the attorney general ($187,000) and the Financial Secretary ($179,292) as of the 2008/09 financial year.

Separate requests for any constituency allowances and other emoluments for those two positions have been sent separately to the attorney general’s office and the Portfolio of Finance and Economics.