Ministry digs in heels on expense records

Ministry of Education refuses to release documents after McKeeva Bush trial

Specific credit card expense records dating to 2005 and covering three elected ministers’ tenures in office in the Cayman Islands Ministry of Education continue to be withheld following the end of former premier McKeeva Bush’s criminal trial. The Cayman Compass reported in September that records related to at least two former education ministry officials, Minister Alden McLaughlin and chief officer Angela Martins, had been released following a private citizen’s Freedom of Information request.

Those records provided no clarity concerning what was purchased with the cards, beyond stating that former Education Minister McLaughlin’s government credit card charges between July 2005 and December 2007 totaled $40,384.27, while his former chief officer Ms. Martins’s card charges totaled $72,082.26 during the same period. Additional charges recorded for Ms. Martins’s card in 2008 totaled $59,324.84 and another $19,858.04 through June 2009. 

Credit card expenses for former chief officer Mary Rodrigues and current Education Minister Tara Rivers were also released, but those statements showed very little activity on the government cards. For instance, Ms. Rivers’s card revealed total charges of less than $400 since she took office in May 2013. The specific items charged to the card were not revealed.  

No record was made available to the Compass concerning former Education Minister Rolston Anglin’s credit card use during his term.  

Argument against disclosure  

According to open records request responses sent to the private citizen who sought the documents, former education ministry chief officer Mrs. Rodrigues argued against the disclosure of the Royal Bank of Canada credit card statements. 

“I consider the government’s duty to protect public funds and to take all actions necessary to protect the security of all financial instruments to be a very important factor against disclosure,” Mrs. Rodrigues wrote.  

Number of reasons cited  

The response cited a number of reasons why specific credit card charge information – including Royal Bank of Canada credit card statements – could not be released by the education ministry. These included a claimed exemption of information in cases where “disclosure would prejudice the security of the islands” and another exemption where “disclosure … relates to law enforcement – the trial of any person or adjudication of any case.”  

Mrs. Rodrigues’s response was made prior to the end of Mr. Bush’s trial, in which it was alleged he had used government credit cards in attempts to seek personal enrichment. Mr. Bush was acquitted by unanimous jury verdict in October.  

Open records request appealed  

According to records obtained by the Compass, the ministry has continued to seek exemption of the credit card records in a “vague and unconvincing” manner. “The ministry states that the release of the statements, even in redacted form, would leave the government at financial risk,” according to an Oct. 28 email from a government official to the information requester. “I am not able to convince them otherwise or obtain more details in regards to their reasoning.”  

The open records request has been appealed to the information commissioner’s office, the Compass understands. 

Mrs. Rodrigues’s response was made in the context of several other ministries releasing government credit card statements for ministers and chief officers – typically identifying the cardholder’s name on the records.  

10 COMMENTS

  1. I do hope, that after reading this, members of the public will finally open their minds eye view as to what took place in the Bush saga. What a tangle web we have weaved.

  2. Very sad really!
    Do these people understand they are spending other peoples money, and do they not understand that when doing so you MUST apply higher standards than when spending your own? Surely they at least understand that refusal to release information is itself highly suspicious?
    The recent trial found that it was not illegal to use the cards for personal purposes, but anyone with half a conscience knows it is wrong. If the current information requests are being withheld against this pathetically low benchmark it is sad indeed!

    even against this low benchmark

  3. I certainly hope that this article was not written with a lot of surprise. Rarely do guilty people come forward with an admission of guilt. Bush being found not guilty was the equivalent of OJ Simpson being found not guilty.

  4. This is no surprise, how many politicians stood up and said I have never used my CIG issued credit card for personal use. I am sure they we’re all having hard nights sleep awaiting the outcome of the Bush trial. Had he been convicted and it was deemed to be illegal to have used CIG issued credit cards for personal use there would surely have been more arrests and more charges, probably of everyone in the LA as well as a good deal of the CIG upper echelon..

  5. So when residents express a desire to have their own privacy respected and protected, then the government supports the view that ‘if one has nothing to hide, what is the problem,’ but when a member of government who claims to be working on behalf of the public wants privacy from his or her employer, then it is said that ‘disclosure would prejudice the security of the islands’. This is really a sad state of affairs.

  6. Before criminalizing these folks and accusing them of spending the peoples money we have to realize that they were not actually spending the peoples money, what they were doing was making charges on their CIG issued credit cards. And we all also have to remember that this was not against the CIG policy at the time and they were required to pay for whatever charges were made.

    So let’s not get it twisted, these people were not thieves. If they didn’t pay for the charges they made then they are guilty of thievery, on the other hand if they did pay it back they did nothing illegal. Same as with Bush he paid back every penny that he charged on the CIG Cards which was the government policy at the time.

    A lot of people keep trying to make something out of this that it is not. If you want to criminalize a politician you need to find actual factual illegal activities not BS trumped up charges and rumors.

    So whether you like it or not the facts are that during that time it was not illegal or even against CIG policy to use your CIG issues Credit card for personal purchases as long as the charges were paid back whether it was 100 or 100,000 if it was paid back it was an allowed practice that it seems plenty of people took advantage of. And for as the Bush Casino thing, Gambling it’s not Illegal in US Casinos, nor is stupidly losing a lot of money. But it was his money that was lost not the peoples. So stop all the BS and get over it. You all need to be concerned about who will get your vote next time around.

  7. Mr Davis, I think you miss the point. It isnt just a question of did you repay the money, it is more a question of, did you really think that was what this card was issued for?. And then, did you repay immediately and in full?
    You see, even if the answer to all the above is yes, you ARE dealing with public money, and that requires you to apply a much higher degree of conscience, and demonstrate it. Ms Martin appears to have spent 150,000 dollars on this card. Maybe all of it was justified, and if personal, was fully and immediately repaid, but that MUST be demonstrated, you owe it to those whose money it is.
    I have travelled extensively on business, and used my own card whilst doing so. If any expense was personal, say a beer after work was done, I separated that and didnt claim it. If my wife accompanied me, I separated her half of the bill and didnt claim it. Maybe I was over the top, but that way I knew I was cheating nobody. The kind of behaviour that was described in court was a million miles from that, and whilst I may be obsessive on ensuring fair play, the use of taxpayers money is a million miles from that. I think that you and others are setting the bar far too low, you should demand more from those that represent you.

  8. Arthur, I do agree with you on the fact that you should demand more from those that represent you. And I do think it was in bad taste and not a good idea but the point you are missing is that while it may have been poor judgment there was no crime committed. I also find it really strange that you are fine with Ms Martin making personal charges and then paying it back but feel that Mr Bush should have been sent to jail for it why is that ?

    In this case the policy for CIG issued Credit Card use was changed to stop this type of behavior so what else is there to do other than make sure everyone has paid what they owe if they haven’t already.

    The point here that a lot of people are missing is how the whole system was manipulated, specifically to oust Bush and people are fine with that because of their hatred for him. Not a single unreimbursed cent came to light that Mr Bush charged to his CIG issued Credit Card so where is the theft ? He pay’d every penny back that he took off the card while gambling, so how did he gamble the people money away as people are accusing him of? And remember that using the card was within the CIG policy at the time. Yet you guys want to see him in jail over it

    If this is how you all feel then every single politician that used their CIG Card for any personal use should be arrested and charged with theft, even if they paid the money back.

  9. Michael, (glad to know we can be friends!), you seem to have derived meanings from my words that are not there!
    I did not say it was fine for Ms Martin to charge personal items to her card, I know not what she charged, I DO say that transparency is required because it is public money!
    As to Bush, I sensed from the outset that this was a stupid case to bring, but that doesn’t stop me disliking the man for what he has done with public money! The scale of the use, and the bad timing of the repayments are in my book unacceptable, but not criminal. There are other cases such as the Cohen (do I remember the name right?) deal on Government borrowing that was damaging to the Islands, and to my mind deeply suspicious. And to mention another case, the abandonment of due process, and the appointment of the Chinese company for the Cruise terminal, which again cost the Islands dear, and because of how it was done and the counterpart, in my mind deeply suspicious. There are many similar issues.
    Again, and to avoid any doubt, people using public money MUST show how they use it, or people will be suspicious, on that at least we agree!

Comments are closed.