The Utility Regulation and Competition Office, known as OfReg, has spent at least another $132,895 on travel-related expenses this year, according to OfReg records obtained by the Compass.
This year’s expenditures bring the regulator’s total travel costs to nearly $400,000 since the office was created in January 2017. The travel records, which show OfReg’s expenses through the end of May 2018, also show that the office spent $254,749 on travel-related expenses last year, which was more than the $234,233 in expenses stated in OfReg’s 2017 annual report.
The expenses have been used to carry OfReg officials far and wide, to places such as Brussels, Dubai, Singapore, Copenhagen, London and Barcelona.
Highlights in the travel records include $8,066 spent to send OfReg CEO J. Paul Morgan to Brussels from Oct. 6-15 for “Communications Policy and Regulation Week 2017;” $10,269 spent on “EU Competition Law Summer School” in London from Aug. 6-11; and $23,121 spent to send telecommunications officials to Copenhagen, Denmark from March 8-17, 2017 for the “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers 58 Conference.”
The Compass has not interviewed OfReg officials about their travel expenses. Mr. Morgan has told this reporter that it is his office’s policy to only respond to written questions, and it is this newspaper’s policy to generally avoid written interviews. OfReg Deputy CEO Alee Fa’amoe did, however, appear on Cayman Crosstalk last week with host Woody DaCosta, where he was questioned about his department’s expenses.
“About 44 percent of the travel expenditure for last year was directly related to training and education of staff, and we make no apologies for that,” Mr. Fa’amoe told Mr. DaCosta. “These aren’t courses you [can] just drive to UCCI to do … These are very technical courses on the how network infrastructure works … this isn’t gallivanting across the world.”
The OfReg deputy chief added that some of his staff were sent to Texas for “fuels and emergency services” training, while others were sent to accredited universities, such as the University of Florida – Gainesville.
The rest of the expenses went to sending OfReg officials to regulatory meetings, he said.
“Part of our responsibilities is representing the [country] at international forums like the [Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers] meetings where the international domains are represented,” Mr. Fa’amoe said.
OfReg’s 2017 annual report does not project how much the office expects to spend on travel in 2018, but $132,895 in expenses through May this year puts the office on pace to surpass last year’s $254,749 – more than double what OfReg budgeted for travel in 2017. OfReg ran a nearly $1.5 million operating deficit last year, and asked government for a $1 million cash injection to address its budget shortfall in May. The regulator is also pushing for fee increases across the sectors it regulates.