Mac attacks travel audit report

| 15/01/2015 | 4 Comments
Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush

(CNS): The deputy chair of the Public Accounts Committee swapped roles Wednesday, when he instead appeared as a witness before the committee as it examined the auditor general’s damning report on the management of government travel and hospitality. Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush accused the office of nastiness, misinformation and false representation, as he went through the parts of the report that referred to his former ministry.

The report covers the time when Bush was premier and minister of tourism finance and development, which accounted for more than half of travel and hospitality spending across the entire core government. In the report the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) pointed to significant weaknesses in the management of expenses in that and other ministries.

Bush spent well over an hour refuting the findings and accused Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick and his team of making it appear that he and the staff in the ministry did nothing but party by leaving out all of the essential facts. He denied that any money had been spent on birthday parties for him, although Swarbrick said there were invoices that indicated cash had been spent on a birthday lunch for him at Casanova’s restaurant. Bush insisted that was only because they had got him a cake but it was eight days after his birthday. He said that in thirty years government had not “given any birthday parties for McKeeva Bush”.

The opposition leader justified the money for a trip to Panama and the rest of his overseas travel, as well as the hospitality, entertainment and Christmas parties. You couldn’t just give people a Pepsi, he said. Bush added that no one has ever audited the $800,000 given to the governor to run Government House or questioned how much she spent on rum and wine — “the good stuff too” — for her social functions with fancy finger foods.

Bush said hard-working civil servants deserved the parties and when it was broken down it was very little per person for a budget of $600 million that they all did the work on. He lamented the new $25 limit per head on staff Christmas functions, as he said they would be lucky now if they got food from Fosters Food bar.

He said that much of the hospitality spending went on official functions, such as the visit by the FCO minister at the time, Henry Bellingham, and the local Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.

Bush accused the auditor of not asking questions about the spending and finding out the truth. He said Swarbrick could have made a proper determination about how the money was spent if he had asked him or the senior staff responsible. He accused the office of leaving out “valuable information” and deliberately giving the wrong impression of what was going on.

“The wording gives readers the impression that government officials are just having parties on their money, which is far from the truth,” he said, maintaining that the office was missing important details to explain the background of the spending. “The full and complete picture is not being given to the public and it is done to tarnish the reputation of civil servants,” Bush alleged.

He said the report should have included the budgeted amount for travel expenses in the ministry so the public would see it was not exceeded. Nor, he said, did the report show how much he and his staff needed to travel, given the issues the ministry was covering, from the OECD to tourism.

Criticising the current premier for politicking by travelling to London for the Caribbean Council dinner or talking on the UK television, the opposition leader said he had to travel to promote Cayman, get it off the grey list and deal with the cruise lines and air arrivals. He said the current successes and investment here hadn’t happened overnight but was because of what he had done when he was premier.

He denied that there was no documentation to support the travel, claiming there were credit card statements and invoices. Bush said that, as had been revealed in the “sham case against me over the road” (referring to his trial and acquittal last year over allegations that he had misused his government credit card) there was a record of what was spent.

As he tore into the report, Bush was asked only a few questions by PAC Chair Roy McTaggart and members, Joey Hew and Winston Connolly. They pressed the opposition leader to acknowledge that the report was about trying to improve the management systems and asked him if he felt that, when he was leader, there should have been better policies in place to protect public funds.

Bush refused to admit that there had been anything wrong or that there was any real need to change things. Where the audit office could demonstrate areas for improvement he would welcome it, he said, but questioned the imposition of international standards and how they wanted things to be. Bush said it was burdensome and costly and did not improve matters as it was too much red tape.  The opposition leader said investors wanted to know that the country was safe and well-run, that their money in the bank was safe, that the credit rating was secure but didn’t care about the auditor general’s jargon.

Bush pressed on with his allegations that the reports were written in such a way that they were “spiteful” and designed to make “people look bad”, crucifying civil servants but not improving things.

“I don’t agree with his words,” Bush said, adding that he vehemently disagreed with the auditor general that the travel he and his staff undertook was not justified. The opposition leader warned the government members of the PAC that while he was in the firing line today, it would soon be their turn.

Following the onslaught on him and his office, Alastair Swarbrick insisted that the reports were not produced in isolation and that the audit teams worked with and consulted ministry staff throughout the audit process. He explained that after the audit the report had been sent to the relevant ministries and they had spent three months reviewing and responding.

Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands Opposition Leader McKeever Bush

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , , ,

Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (4)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Truth Seeker says:

    PAC is a waste of time and nobody on the committee has the courage to ask questions and demand proper answers from both parties UDP and PPM. The rants of Bush are embarrassing but to read that PAC members failed to ask any questions about the behavior and waste of Ms. Juliana as Minister in the last government makes a mockery of the concept of accountability. Is it because she is now a PPM member that no one want to embarrass a party member? Political expediency is the modus operandi of this PPM led coalition government from day 1 it appears.

    Roy, Joey, Winston, Eugene and McKeeva as the “star witness” should be embarrassed with their PAC performances to date.

  2. watching the comedy says:

    You have just got to love Mac claiming that a credit card statement / invoice represents documentation ‘supporting’ the expenditure as authorised / reasonable. Excellent….as long as I spend the money on a credit card it will end up on a statement therefore it is justified…QED. Too funny

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree that it is very unusual for the auditor general’s office to only audit one administration and not the other. Why not go further back to the PPM administration too? I as a voter am curious to know if they were always above board as they claimed. We know they have gone back on promises so I wouldn’t be surprised at anything. The AG’s office seems to lose credibility in my view when there is such an obvious disparity in who they choose to go after. Not objective at all.

  4. Dreadlock Holmes says:

    Louis XIV said something similar when he was building Versailles “Of course we can afford it.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.