Two government ministries spent $47,000 on six Christmas parties and two other “special functions” between 2010 and 2012, with more than $12,000 of that for alcohol.
The expenses, according to a report released Monday by Cayman Islands Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick, were chalked up to “hospitality” costs in the respective budgets of the former Ministry of District Administration and the former Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development.
According to Mr. Swarbrick, the alcohol costs were for three Christmas parties apiece for the two ministries. Additional costs were for a “special function” and a birthday party. Information provided later in the report revealed that on one occasion, $3,398 was spent on a “birthday lunch” for the former Minister of Finance, Tourism and Development.
Between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2012, the government spent a total of $1.5 million on what were considered “hospitality expenditures,” the auditor general’s office noted, with no detailed guidance in place to manage such expenses.
“We would … expect to see a clear link made to business objectives and consideration given to value for money,” Mr. Swarbrick said. “We also noted that there was no guidance on alcohol consumption.”
The report did not state who attended the Christmas parties or “special functions” or what business purposes they might have served.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, in his response to the audit, which also looked at government travel expenses over a three-year period, noted that the government service still does not have a general policy concerning hospitality expenses.
However, he said the Portfolio of the Civil Service – the human resources arm of the Cayman Islands government – controls a central budget for employee Christmas functions.
“Expenditures are not to exceed $25 per employee,” Mr. Manderson said.
On Monday, Mr. Swarbrick said it was up to government leaders to decide on policy on whether taxpayers should fund alcohol consumption at government parties.
He noted that for any Christmas parties hosted by his own office, no alcoholic beverages would be expensed on the public’s dime.
In total, government entities spent $223,000 on Christmas parties between July 2009 and June 2012. The Ministry of District Administration spent $13,000 alone on one Christmas party held at the Cayman Turtle Farm in December 2009.
Also in 2009, the former Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs bought $22,000 worth of turkey and ham products for employees, auditors found.