Avoid using gov’t card for personal use, former AG says

In the reams of government credit card statements spanning a three-and-a-half year period for the former minister of community affairs, there is an $87 one-time charge at Auto Spa.  

Former Minister Mike Adam admits that this charge and a few others on his government-issued credit card were for personal reasons. He clearly remembers the circumstances that led to the Auto Spa expense.  

“I pulled into the car wash and gave them an American Express card, which they didn’t accept,” Mr. Adam said. “I pulled out another credit card and ended up giving them the government card.”  

Later on, a staff member from Mr. Adam’s ministry came to him and asked if he had made the charge, which he remembered and promptly reimbursed. After this occurred a few more times, the former minister said, “I eventually threw the damn thing in my briefcase.”  

Former Cayman Islands Auditor General Dan Duguay said he ran across similar situations more than once in looking into various public accounts. 

“What you’re describing is an error that could happen,” Mr. Duguay said. “I commend Mike if he can remember back three years ago what he put through as a charge. I don’t know that I could.”  

Mr. Duguay said the thing to do is just what Mr. Adam did: reimburse promptly and make sure it is properly documented. However, the former auditor said this situation can raise uncomfortable questions for public figures.  

“It, at a minimum, causes people to document this and then later on, be subject to the exact questions people are asking now,” he said. “That’s a reason you don’t want to have personal charges [on a government-issued card].” 

Mr. Duguay said he refused to hold a government-issued card during his six years on island, even though he was eligible to receive one as a department head. Rather, he said, he put every government-related expense on his own card and filled out an expense form for reimbursement.  

“This also forces the issue of documentation for the expense having to be provided [immediately],” he said.  

Asked whether government-issued credit cards should be eliminated entirely, Mr. Duguay said that probably wasn’t practical.  

“They are a necessary evil,” he said. “But [government-issued] credit cards should be kept to an absolute minimum. If anybody can get away without having one, they shouldn’t have one.”  

With a handful of exceptions, incomplete credit card statements for 10 current and former senior politicians and civil servants reviewed recently by the Cayman Compass revealed relatively few charges of a personal nature. The statements dating between 2005 and 2013 showed that in most cases personal charges had either been reimbursed, or that charges appearing to be personal were not.  

There are a few personal charges in the records for which the Compass has not received an explanation and where it is unclear whether reimbursement for the expense has been made. Those expenses include US$3,500 spent in December 2007 for a ladies diamond-studded watch and about US$2,800 for a 2008 shopping trip in Florida, both charged to the card held by the former Minister of Communications, Works and Infrastructure, Arden McLean.  

Mr. McLean has not answered directly questions regarding whether he reimbursed the charges made on his card.  

Dug-Duguay

Mr. Duguay
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