Cayman Islands lawmakers will meet next month in the Legislative Assembly’s finance committee to go through a list of “exceptional expenses” that were paid during the term of the previous United Democratic Party government, but which did not receive legislative approval.
Some of the expenses – which were not identified by either Premier Alden McLaughlin or former Premier McKeeva Bush – date back to 2009. Mr. Bush said he couldn’t remember what the exceptional expenses were for, while Mr. McLaughlin said he didn’t have a full list of the expenses.
Although post-approving government expenditures through a supplemental appropriations process is nothing new for government, waiting four years and until the next government’s term to do so is unusual, Mr. McLaughlin said.
“That’s irregular,” the premier said. “Exceptional expenses are in the [Public Management and Finance Law] to give Cabinet some leeway. The corresponding requirement is that you’re supposed to account [for those expenses].
“They [referring to the previous UDP government] never did.”
Former Premier Bush denied that there was anything “irregular” about belated approvals of Cabinet expenditure. He said there was no “big fuss” about approving the exceptional expenditures, as far as he was concerned, because it’s a process that has to take place.
“But it’s usually done in the House, not through finance committee,” Mr. Bush said. “We had to do this after the People’s Progressive Movement government [of 2005-2009]. It’s not done each year, but I know this is a normal process. It’s a clean-up exercise.”
The last supplementary appropriations to be approved by the full House occurred in early 2012.
During the course of that budget year, Mr. Bush said additional cash given to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and to social welfare programmes boosted the operating budget of government by some $27.8 million. Government also had to fund the completion of Clifton Hunter High School in Frank Sound, which opened in September 2012.
In total, government increased its budget for the 2011/12 year by nearly $50 million through supplementary appropriation.
Mr. McLaughlin said the former PPM government had spent millions in “exceptional expenditures” on items like Hurricane Paloma recovery on Cayman Brac and funding for the Operation Tempura corruption investigation. However, the premier noted such items were generally considered emergency expenses that were outside of the government’s control.
There is also a limit to the amount of “exceptional expenses” any government can approve. The Cabinet cannot approve more than 10 per cent of government’s overall expenses for the year in exceptional expenses, according to the Public Management and Finance Law.
There was no indication the previous UDP government had done so, Mr. McLaughlin said.