Policy starts Sept. 1
Starting next month, all senior-level civil servants will be required – on a monthly basis – to “proactively” publish records detailing their official travel and all expenses placed on government credit cards.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said the publication of the credit card and travel records will begin on Sept. 1 and will apply to all civil service chief officers, deputy chief officers, department heads and their deputies.
“The information will be published on the [government] agency websites,” Mr. Manderson said Wednesday. “On a monthly basis, they will publish credit card expenses and [details of] how they use their credit cards as well as any costs to do with travel.”
Precisely where the disclosures will be placed on the various government websites was yet to be determined, but Mr. Manderson said it was likely they would be handled in the same way as Freedom of Information disclosures. The only difference being that the travel and credit card disclosures would be handled proactively, rather than upon receiving a formal request for information.
The disclosures will not be historical in nature. In other words, the travel and credit card expenses reporting will be only for the previous month. On Sept. 1, all travel and credit card charges incurred in August will be reported. On Oct. 1, all charges for September will be reported, and so on.
“Any charges in the previous month will be required to be reported before the start of the next month,” Mr. Manderson said. The civil service policy does not apply to elected members of the Legislative Assembly.
“As head of the civil service, I can’t require [MLAs] to report,” the deputy governor said. “The premier will have to deal with that on his side.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin has publicly reported some of his business travel costs within the first year of his administration, following the tenets of the current civil service travel policy in doing so. Not all government members who have traveled have done the same.
Mr. Manderson introduced a new travel reporting policy for all civil servants in July 2013 and indicated recently that the government’s Internal Audit Unit would look at travel expenses between then and now to “assess compliance.” That review is still ongoing, he said Wednesday. The policy’s general principle is to reduce the demand for official travel by Cayman Islands government employees through use of teleconferencing and Skype. When 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.
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 does not set out specific penalties for failure to follow its directives, only that breaches of the policy will result in “disciplinary action.”
The monthly public reporting requirement was not a part of the original travel policy for civil servants.
Mr. Manderson’s announcements about the travel and credit card reporting requirements come in the wake of Cayman Islands Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick’s report in May that uncovered some $458,000 in government travel and hospitality expenses between 2009 and 2012, the purposes for which were never identified.
More recent disclosures made under the Freedom of Information Law revealed extravagant travel expenses on behalf of both government ministers and senior civil servants, some of which Mr. Swarbrick said could constitute a “personal benefit” to the individuals involved.