Former Premier McKeeva Bush and his companions doled out more than $350,000 of Cayman Islands money to make treks around the world between December 2011 and December 2012.
The numbers come from Mr. Bush’s former ministry, which had at first refused to disclose the figures in answer to a Freedom of Information request from the Caymanian Compass.
Excluding a $17,000 credit described as correcting an expense category for a magazine advertisement, the expenditures for accommodations, airfare, credit card reimbursements, “subsistence” payments and other categories total more than $367,000 for Mr. Bush’s and his companions’ trips scheduled or taken between 31 August, 2011 and 22 December, 2012.
More than $230,000 went toward plane tickets, with Cayman Airways the recipient of nearly all those payments. Nearly $87,000 went toward transfers to Mr. Bush’s government credit card. According to the records provided by the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development, “accommodations are paid using the credit card.”
In mid-December, the ministry refused a Freedom of Information Law request to disclose how much money had been spent on Mr. Bush’s trips, citing the police investigation into the former premier’s credit card expenses. Police arrested Mr. Bush on 11 December. A week later, lawmakers passed a motion of no confidence in the government. On 19 December, Sister Islands Member of the Legislative Assembly Juliana O’Connor-Connolly became premier. No charges have been filed against Mr. Bush.
The Caymanian Compass filed a request for internal review of the decision with the ministry’s chief officer Stran Bodden, who wrote in a letter accompanying the list of expenses: “By taking into account that the information would have been released if the police investigation had not commenced; and that the view of the police investigation team is that the release of the information will not harm the investigation, I am pleased to release the information that you are seeking.”
In addition to airfare, accommodations and any miscellaneous credit card expenses, Mr. Bush directly received more than $15,000 in so-called “subsistence” payments starting in January 2012, which translates to roughly a $90 to $200 per diem during trips, depending on the travel destination.
An earlier Compass open records request (that only targeted expenses incurred by Mr. Bush and not companions) revealed that between November 2009 and November 2011, Mr. Bush received nearly $30,000 in subsistence payments for travel.
Mr. Bush’s most frequent travel companion, political assistant Richard Parchment, received nearly $13,000 in subsistence payments since January 2012. Chief of Staff Leonard Dilbert received $4,650 in subsistence payments. Mr. Dilbert, who was appointed chief of staff in February 2012, and before that was Mr. Bush’s strategic senior adviser, also received a roughly $4,600 payment in the “other category” in late June 2012 in relation to a trip to London taken between 18 and 26 November, 2011.
Another open records request showed that government spent more than $91,000 for travel involving Ms O’Connor-Connolly and companions in 2012. That included more than $13,000 in “per diem” payments.
Viva Las Vegas?
The final three entries on the list of expenses are for subsistence payments to Mr. Parchment, Mr. Dilbert and Mr. Bush.
The entry for Mr. Parchment, in the amount of $1,275, is dated 22 November. The description is for travel to London between 28 November and 8 December, Miami between 8 and 9 December and Las Vegas, Nevada, from 18 to 22 December.
The entry for Mr. Dilbert, in the amount of $1,260, is dated 26 November. The description is for travel from 28 November to 8 December to “(London. Miami” – with the description of the locations appearing as if it could have been cut short.
Likewise, the entry for Mr. Bush, in the amount of $2,740, is dated 26 November and concerns the destinations “(London. Miami” –) with the description of the locations also appearing as if it could have been cut short. However, the description for Mr. Bush’s entry is for travel from 28 November to 22 December, the same dates as Mr. Parchment’s scheduled travel including to Las Vegas.
The Compass attempted to contact Mr. Bodden, the chief officer, by phone and e-mail several times over several days, seeking clarification of whether Mr. Bush intended to travel to Las Vegas, if Mr. Bush or Mr. Parchment travelled to Las Vegas after Mr. Bush was removed as premier, or, if Mr. Bush or Mr. Parchment had refunded to the government the portion of the subsistence payment for a trip to Las Vegas that was not taken.
As of press time, Mr. Bodden had not responded to the Compass’ requests for comment.
The most expensive single plane ticket cost about $12,800 and was for Mr. Bush to go to London between 12 and 15 November, 2011, to discuss the United Kingdom’s Framework for Fiscal Responsibility. The second most expensive plane ticket cost about $11,300 and was for Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson to visit Tokyo, Japan between 5 and 13 October, 2012.*
Other plane tickets include $10,900 for Mr. Bush to visit Singapore (no date is given for travel, but the date of the expense is 16 July, 2012); $6,800 for MLA Cline Glidden to visit London between 4 and 11 August, 2012; $6,400 for Mr. Parchment to travel to London between 12 and 15 November 2011; and about $6,000 apiece for Mr. Bush, Mr. Parchment and MLA Mark Scotland to visit Budapest, Hungary, between 19 and 25 May, 2012.
At that time, Cayman Islands Football Association president Jeffrey Webb was confirmed as president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football during the group’s meeting in Budapest.
Additionally, the ministry paid nearly $5,800 apiece for Mr. Bush and Mr. Parchment to travel to Shanghai, via Tokyo, from 5 to 28 October, 2012.* The ministry also paid nearly $5,000 apiece for Mr. Bush and Mr. Parchment to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, at the end of September 2012, for a series of British Overseas Territories meetings.
The least expensive tickets purchased were $124 for MLA Eugene Ebanks to visit Cayman Brac between 23 and 25 February, 2012, and $145 for then-Cayman 27 reporter Kenneth Bryan to visit Honduras between 9 and 12 March, 2012.
The ministry also paid $931 for Mr. Bryan, who is now a People’s Progressive Movement candidate for election, to fly to Houston between 2 and 3 April, 2012.