Credit card probe stretched to other officials

| 18/09/2014

(CNS): Police investigating the alleged abuse of the former premier’s government credit card also requested statements and related credit card documents for four other government officials in the ministry at the time, the court heard Thursday. When the former chief officer in McKeeva Bush’s ministry of finance, Sonia McLaughlin, gave evidence to the court via video link from the US, she said she was asked to locate credit card related information for the then premier and four other individuals from the ministry and hand it all to the police. Understood to have been senior civil servants, their names were not revealed during the fourth day of Bush’s trial, when the evidence turned to the procedures and processes relating to credit card management.

Government officials were probed on how the premier received his statements and how he reconciled the payments of personal withdrawals as well as how and when he made some of those payments were revealed.

The jury also heard that Bush was not the only person to come under the police spotlight in the early stages of the investigation. However, despite the details of four other individuals’ cards being handed overto the police there was no indication from the crown what happened with those other officials or who those civil servants were.

During her evidence, McLaughlin also said she had been to a meeting at Bush’s house with Kenneth Jefferson when he had instructed the financial secretary to organize a review of all CIG credit cards and when he had spoken about using his own card in casinos. She said however, that she had only made a short note and was not able to remember much of the details. However, McLaughlin echoed the comments of Jefferson in his evidence Wednesday when she said Bush had told them that he had withdrawn the money on his CIG card to pay for security personnel.

The former chief officer confirmed that she was aware that in general orders there were guidelines relating to legitimate claims and allowances for officials traveling on government business. She recalled that they related to hotel, food, transport and other costs that government would cover when civil servants or ministers were overseas for work. 

Alongside Sonia McLaughlin Joseph Solomon, the deputy financial officer, Kerrilyn Rivers, accounts officer and Jodi Whittaker, Bush’s former PA when he held the office of premier were asked to detail there role in dealing with the statements, memos and other documents relating to the management and payments of Bush’s credit cards.

The crown emphasized its points that Bush had made random payments on his cards with personal cheques and that on a number of occasion’s staff made interim monthly payments on Bush’s card to ensure that he did not exceed his $15,000 limit while travelling or when there had been considerable activity on the card. Rivers told the court that Bush would usually itemize payments that were not work related, when he returned and request calculations. The court heard he would then make various payments with personal cheques that did not always equal the sums outstanding.

There were few revelations during the day’s evidence in the case against Bush in which he is accused of misusing his government credit card by making personal cash withdrawals at casinos in Las Vegas, Florida and the Bahamas and using the cash to gamble, during officials and personal trips.

The case continues at 10am tomorrow morning in Grand Court One.


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