Cayman Islands Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has laid down the law when it comes to curtailing official travel expenses for civil servants in a new 17-page policy made public last week.
“Individuals conducting official business or incurring travel costs at the [Cayman Islands government’s] expense are expected to exercise the same care in incurring expenses as a prudent person would in spending personal funds,” the policy notes.
The general idea is to reduce the demand for official travel by Cayman Islands government employees through using other means, such as teleconferencing and Skype. Where official travel is required for government employees to obtain training, the government will determine whether trainers could be brought here or if certain training could be provided through the civil service college on the campus of the University College of the Cayman Islands.
The policy does not set out specific penalties for failure to follow its directives, only that breaches of the policy will result in “disciplinary action”.
“There are numerous benefits of reducing official travel, including the following: cost savings, faster decision making … and increased staff productivity by reducing absence from work associated with physical travel times,” the policy states.
When official travel is required, each government department must justify that need via an application for official travel form submitted to the “accountable officer” for each department, ministry or portfolio. Travel for higher-ranking officers must be approved through the deputy governor or the governor.
The policy seeks official travel expenses to be pre-paid as much as possible. In most cases, airfare, hotels, transportation and any conference fees are to be paid in advance.
Airfares should be paid “at least 30 days in advance” to obtain the lowest airfare. The policy actually requires civil servants to travel on Cayman Airways unless there are no available flights on CAL to that destination, appropriate flight times are unavailable or if an alternate carrier’s price is at least 10 per cent lower than CAL’s.
Business class flights are allowable for senior managers and for government workers taking flights of longer than five hours, but those individuals must first submit a business case for doing so. Otherwise, workers fly in economy class.
Ground transportation while on an official trip can be reimbursed or paid by the employee’s per diem allotment. However, government business travellers will not be reimbursed for “specialty rental vehicles” – luxury cars, sport utility vehicles, convertibles, etc.
The per diem allowance is set at a fixed rate schedule, depending on what country the civil servant is travelling in, but it is never set higher than $150 per day. The allowance can cover meals (but not a bar tab), communication, laundry and some transportation services.
Any expenses not pre-paid on the official trip must be reconciled within seven days of returning to the Cayman Islands. This rule was observed by Premier Alden McLaughlin and Cabinet Secretary Sam Rose during a recent trip to a CARICOM conference in Trinidad.
The travel policy also stressed the importance of maintaining receipts for all items not prepaid.
This has been a major problem previously in tracking official credit card expenditures by government workers. An internal audit in 2010 revealed that more than $190,000 worth of purchases made on credit cards issued to high-ranking members of the Cayman Islands government could not be accounted for because no receipts for those purchases had been submitted at the time the review was completed.
The government’s Internal Audit Unit studied 1,125 credit card transactions between July 2008 and June 2009. Of those, supporting documentation for transactions totalling $190,594.32, about 10 per cent of the 1,125 purchases, could not be provided.
“Credit card statements or slips and other receipts that do not give details of purchases are not acceptable as a means of justifying expenses,” the government travel policy states.