The nearest most of us will get to Barcelona, Milan and Qatar is a copy of National Geographic, or an atlas at the George Town Public Library.
Most people in Cayman don’t get to experience that kind of luxury. However, that does not mean they don’t get to pay for it.
All the public money that our elected officials and top civil servants have lavished on their foreign exploits (to all corners of the globe) is, we must never forget, our money.
Likewise, all of the records related to their spending on government-issued credit cards — whether it was for business or personal items, reimbursed or not — are our records. The 52 credit cards distributed among public officials are public credit cards, and the public deserves to know exactly how they are being used.
Some of the five current or former ministers, and five current or former chief officers, whose government credit card statements were released via a Freedom of Information Law request, have been candid about their expenses, even eager to provide exculpatory detail in order to avoid possible misinterpretations of their activity — or even the onset of criminal investigations.
Others have not. For more than a week, Compass reporters have been seeking straight answers from East End MLA Arden McLean about the Christmas Eve 2007 purchase, from Kirk Jewellers, of a diamond-studded women’s Ebel watch for US$3,500.
The direct question, posed on talk radio as well as by the Compass, is: “Did you pay back the money for the watch?”
Most of us would expect a one-word reply to that question. Either “yes” or “no.”
Both to the Compass and to his radio hosts, however, Mr. McLean responded with Proustian streams of language that touched on the respective natures of credit vs. debit cards, 30-day billing cycles, scenarios contemplating whether personal credit cards were “maxed out” and on and on.
The question, lest Mr. McLean forget, was: “Did you pay the money back?”
And, if Mr. McLean’s answer is yes, the follow-up question is: “Would you make public the supporting documentation that puts this issue to rest, once and for all?”
Distinct, but similarly unacceptable, ambiguities surround credit card expenditures by House Speaker Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who has previously held the posts of premier and deputy premier.
We call on Ms. O’Connor-Connolly to explain her billing the government (meaning us) nearly $34,000 for hotel rooms on Cayman Brac for her personal assistant/executive aide Paul Leonce.
The question presents itself: What was he doing staying for extended periods at a Brac hotel?
Her explanations shouldn’t be directed to an auditor or a judge, but to her fellow Caymanians who are paying these bills.
The Compass applauds Deputy Governor Franz Manderson for enacting a new policy where all senior-level civil servants will “proactively” publish, on the Internet, official travel and credit card expenses.
However, there ought to be no leaks in the good ship Cayman, and the obvious leak (huge gaping hole?) in this policy is that it does not include elected members and others who are beyond the deputy governor’s remit.
Any new credit card policy must apply throughout the public sector: That means among lawmakers, the core civil service, statutory authorities and government-owned companies.
If the Cayman Turtle Farm and Cayman Airways aren’t included, the policy cannot be said to be adequate or complete.
Consequently, we call on all our officials to follow the deputy governor’s new policy and to declare publicly that they will voluntarily publish all of their government credit card transactions.
We expect that they will — and we presume voters expect it, as well.