Government commits to tackle travel scandal

| 12/06/2014

(CNS): The premier has said that the Progressives-led government will be working with the deputy governor to implement recommendations made by Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick in his recent damning report about the potential misuse of government funds for travel and hospitality by both the elected and administrative arms of government during the previous government. Alden McLaughlin has said that in addition to the introduction of a formal travel policy, the government would continue to report reasons and costs for travel and ensure accountability. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson also acknowledged the deficiencies in government raised by Swarbrick’s report but said the new travel policy was a significant step towards addressing the shortcomings.

The Office of the Auditor General's report found that at least $8.6 million, and very possibly more than $10 million, of public money was spent on travel and hospitality over a three year period during the UDP administration. However, McLaughlin said the new travel policy implemented in July 2013 sets out rules and criteria for all civil servants and his government had readily adopted the policy for politicians, who were now traveling under its guidelines.

“My government is committed to good governance practices, transparency and accountability as well as prudent financial practices in seeing that the public’s money is spent only when it is absolutely necessary,” McLaughlin stated in a short release from his office following the report’s publication. “We have made it a habit to report to the public on the achievements, outcomes and costs of all overseas travel incurred by this administration.”

In his formal response to the report, Manderson said that the new travel policy was developed after careful consideration of best practice and in consultation with senior leaders across the service, including finance and audit personnel. The policy seeks to avoid risks of travel advances being written off by severely limiting them and relying instead upon prescribed per diems.

“The policy provides uniform guidelines to minimize the range of risks identified in this report. This policy will be monitored for compliance,” he added.

Acknowledging the inherent risks associated with this sort of spending, the deputy governor said the policy tried to strike a balance by providing cost-effective controls which manage the identified risks.

He said that expenditures on Christmas functions have now been harmonised with a central budget for $25 per head. In the management response to each of the OAG's recommendations, the deputy governor indicated that government would be introducing a government-wide hospitality policy.

In light of Swarbrick's findings that staff were signing off and clearing travel and hospitality bills outside the parameters of the law, Manderson said that chief officers and chief financial officers, who are already expected to possess a sound understanding of their roles and responsibilities, will be receive further training to ensure continuing education on the “nuances of these responsibilities within the context of the evolving nature of the policies, laws and regulations”.

See report below

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Category: Politics

Comments (26)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The AG's review on wonton abuse of travel priveleges should extend to Authorities as well.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You can implement as many policies as you want but until they are strictly enforced with reprimand or punishment to hold persons accountable this abuse will continue. Simple example, the chief officer travels on business, returns. The policy is that within a week of conclusion of travel, receipts/expense reports are to be submitted. This is not done, a month goes by, accounting clerk has made several requests in vain, CFO has made several requests, promises to submit receipts/expense report are made but not forthcoming. Question is who is monitoring the chief officer? They report to the minister/deputy governor but is the accounting clerk going to report their boss? They should after diligent efforts with the chief officer but they don't. Years pass, chief officer promoted/transferred/retired, expenses are written off. Slackness in the government! 

    If the policy is one week after trip has concluded then if no receipts/expense report is forthcoming, salary deduction is processed for full amount of travel advance the next pay day. Unfortunately no one has the backbone to actually do such an action but that is the only way you will get people to adhere to policies……when there are actual consequences enforced when they don't.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The budget for travel is way down for next year. Obviously the DG travel policy is working. Thank you Premier and DG for dealing with the abuse.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Come on Franz and Alden your new policies will be ignored just as the previous policies were if you do not act on accountability and utilize the punishment provided under the PMFL and PSML of which there are plenty. The CFOs and/or CO in Public Service who supported, agreed and inabled these abuses must \\be called to account.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Our Deputy Governor saw what was happening and issued the travel policy a year ago- thank Godness he did. Our Premier has adapated the policy for his elected members-and the main culprints are no longer in the Civil Service- has anyone noticed the dramatic decrease in travel costs in this budget?  Please stop talking about the past and focus on the now and the future. Our Premier and DG are leading by example and the next audit will prove this.

     

  6. Sam Putt Putt says:

    Yes, this is surely a result of an absence of policy and laws. After all, one can't really expect a politician or civil servant to act ethically and have the capacity to differentiate between fundamental principles like right and wrong. They must have a policy backed by the threat of prosecution. So it is a bit unfair at this point to blame them if they were never explicitly told that they could not steal the money.

  7. Gran Heffe says:

    Yet again – NOT ONE BIT OF ACCOUNTABILITY or PUNISHMENT! Now you are going to train these people who have held these jobs for years if not decades as to proper ethics! What a pile ofBS – Franz you are just as poorly equipped to manage the CS as the people in question! All you ever do is talk about policy, blah blah blah – Why dont you tell us who is getting fired, who is going to court for their misconduct and gross negligence. The Cayman people are sick of hearing about policies that are being drafted by people of dwarfed intelligence to be monitored by whom? You? the police? who is going to monitor this? the same financial controllers? Or maybe the renowned Attorney Generals office?

    I want to see young caymanians running for office next election and entire team of them and lets show the world that we are not what we are perceived to be which honestly, is a bunch of island monkeys who cant get anything right as we glide on our silk magic carpets through scandal after scandal, embarrasment after embarrasment. At no point in time in this islands history has the people been more disappointed with their government and their obvious inability to handle the publics business.

    • Rose says:

      Heffe where are you been living- Franz dveloped a travel policy long before the AG's report and has enforced it. Thank God he did as the waste would have been much more. Remember he has been in office for 2 years and this audit was from 2009. Oh and in those two years the Government has expenditure hasdecreased and now we have an $107m surplus-  who do we thank for that?- I know who we would blame if there was a defict.  Thank you Franz

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said!

  8. Sucka Free says:

    Complicity by silence or inaction aiding & abetting a charge every single senior official in Government is guilty of and will never be charged our held responsible or accountable for SoTry Hush!  

    • Anonymous says:

      Could this be some of the promised benefits of decentralization and improved accountability introduced during  PPM's previous term?

  9. Anonymous says:

    When the public purse is open for anyone to grab and highly compensated safeguards are dysfunctional, who would you blame?

  10. Anonymous says:

    The silence of PPM is deafening on the abuses by now PPM member and their appointed Seaker of the House MLA JulianaO'Connor-Connolly.

    Where is the accountability and the rest of the campaign rhetoric about government's return to good governance? Ethically she must be made to resign from her position as Speaker instead of being rewarded by the PPM who effectively gave her a promotion to Speaker after KNOWING of the abuses of office and wasting the countries funds on trips and vacations for herself and the boyfriend as listed in the AG's report. Accountability is what happens in every other first world democracy so why must Cayman pay the  price for political expendiency?

    Anything less proves the PPM is no different from the UDP and they are comfortable being an ostrich with its head in the sand hoping nobody notices the hypocrisy.

    • Sam Putt Putt says:

      Yes, we will see whether blood is indeed thicker than water when it comes to party loyalty versus principle. I think Alden has essentially already signaled his position on accountabilty which conveniently includes his party member by assigning a root cause of the problem to lack of policy not corruption. Which he has now addressed. I am certain that Alden will not act against his Speaker of the House at this point. It will be intersting to see if he leaves her to face a possible the Anti-Corruption Commission investigation and/or Police inquiry alone.

  11. Anonymous says:

     

    Spending govenment money on your private pleasure is stealing. It doesn't need a policy, it needs a criminal investigation and prosecution.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Just another day in wonderland

  13. Anonymous says:

    Bullshit. If you don't believe me, come back in a few months.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Tell this to someone who will believe you Alden.  Thats the same reason you don't want your credit card statements released from 2005 to 2009!!  This is a joke!!

  15. Anonymous says:

    The Premier's response confirms that the problems start from the very top. No urgency just business as usual 

  16. Anonymous says:

    Why should we taxpayers give civil servants even $25 for a Xmas lunch? If they want Xmas lunches, let them buy them with their own money. It's ridiculous!

  17. Anonymous says:

    And the Deputy Governor's office (both past and present) wasn't at least a little bit aware that all this was going on? Yeah, right! What do they think we all are – stupid? 

    • Peter says:

      Thank God our Deputy Governor saw what was happening and issued the Travel Policy!!

      Thank you Premier and Deputy Governor for dealing with this abuse and leading by example.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Controllers and CFOs are also responsible for misuse of public funds. And if they continually and knowingly cover-up deceptive, untrue, or fraudulent representations, they are also committing fraud or deceit.  Or they are negligent and incompetent.  By virtue of their positions, they are responsible for overseeing processes, inspecting compliance, and protecting people and assets.   

    • Anonymous says:

      Fully agree with you, one of the ways this can be solved is to get rid of the CFO's.

      Treasury handled all before and we didn't seem to have as much or any of this corruption then.

      Would also save a hell of a lot of money for CIG. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes and the DG is ultimately responsible! It seems that he needs a crash course in recognizing corruption and acting against it instead of dreaming up more policies that he knows will be ignored!