Very few government ministries have complied with a transparency requirement to proactively publish credit card and travel expenses for senior officials.
Data is supposed to be uploaded monthly to each ministry’s website as per the terms of a policy introduced by Deputy Governor Franz Manderson in 2014.
The policy was part of a raft of measures introduced at the time to help control travel expenditures and ensure government credit cards were used for official business only.
It does not appear to have been strictly enforced, however.
A Cayman Compass survey found that only the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure were regularly publishing details of their travel and credit card expenses.
Several other ministries did update their records after the Compass made inquiries.
As of last week, Moses Kirkconnell’s Ministry of District Administration, Tourism and Transport had not published any expense data since August 2015.
The Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports, Agriculture and Lands, led by Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, did not appear to have published any records at all, although officials did provide a 2018 expense report to the Compass after an inquiry.
The Compass was also unable to find any published expenses for the Ministry of Human Resources and Immigration, which officials attributed to website problems.
Several other ministries had not posted updated records since the May 2017 election.
Even the Deputy Governor’s Office and Portfolio of Civil Service, responsible for implementing the policy, had fallen behind on publishing records.
The policy is mandatory for senior civil servants but is optional for elected members. Premier McLaughlin is the only government minister who appears to be consistently and proactively posting his credit card and travel data online, on the Premier’s Office site.
Gloria McField, acting deputy governor and head of the Portfolio of Civil Service, acknowledged that compliance from various ministries had been mixed.
She said travel was often required for government business and the civil service aims to ensure all trips are cost-effective. She said credit card postings should happen on a monthly basis and chief officers had been instructed to bring their records up-to-date.
“We recognise that transparency is an essential tool. Chief Officers have been reminded of this and I expect that these entities’ publications will be brought current very shortly, and maintained in fulfilment of the performance expected,” she told the Compass in an email.
The Portfolio of Civil Service had not updated its own records since April 2017 at the time of the Compass inquiry. Ms. McField said that department had fallen behind during a handover of responsibility for web postings, but the site had now been updated.
She said the civil service had made great strides in demonstrating accountability and value for money in travel expenditure since a critical auditor general’s report in 2014. These include implementing a travel policy and achieving significant savings on expenses compared with the period studied by the auditor general.
As part of a survey on this matter, the Compass emailed every government ministry to ask them to verify and explain their publication record on credit card and travel expenses. The Compass did not receive any response from the Ministry of Tourism, whose records were last updated in 2015, or the Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, whose records were up-to-date for senior civil servants.
The Ministry of Finance, which had last updated its records in January 2017, published data for 2017 and 2018 for both Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson and Minister Roy McTaggart on its website on Tuesday, following the Compass inquiry.
The Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports, Agriculture and Lands provided the Compass with spreadsheets covering credit card and travel expenses for senior civil servants, as well as Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly and councilors David Wight and Barbara Conolly.
The Ministry of Health, Environment, Culture and Housing provided the Compass with data for Minister Dwayne Seymour, Councilor Eugene Ebanks and Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn, and updated its website early this week.
The Ministry of Financial Services and Home Affairs had not updated its information since January 2017, and no information was available for Minister Tara Rivers, who took on the post in May of that year. Chief Officer Dax Basdeo said that data would be made available to anyone who made an FOI request. He said the ministry had been delayed in the launch of a new website, which will contain a section for the regular posting of this information.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Immigration had no data on its website. Chief Officer Wesley Howell attributed this to a technical problem which he said he would seek to resolve.
The deputy governor’s own records were up-to-date through the end of 2017 at the time of the Compass inquiry. Records through September 2018 were posted online earlier this week.