Travel policy saves $1M for CIG

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

Cayman Islands Deputy Governor Franz Manderson

(CNS): The deputy governor has revealed that the implementation of a proper travel policy across the civil service, which has also been adopted voluntarily by the elected arm of government, has saved the public purse over $1 million in the annual budget. Franz Manderson told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Wednesday that the policy had cut spending on travel by some 26% in the last financial year and 19% the year before, representing a significant positive impact.

The head of the civil service said he did not believe that this confirmed previous serious abuse of the public purse when it came to travel but that there had been a cultural switch brought about by the pressure for accountability.

Manderson and his chief officer, Gloria Nixon, were called as witnesses to yesterday’s PAC hearing, when members examined the report by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) on the management of travel and hospitality spending in core government.

The deputy governor said the message that any travel had to be absolutely necessary had been driven home and civil servants were being as judicious as possible. The public sector was now trying to ensure value in everything it does and government workers were being proactive about revealing expenses, he said.

“Shining a light … has had an effect,” Manderson told the committee.

In the light of the already positive results, the deputy governor explained that he was waiting on the results of an internal review of the new policy to examine compliance and to iron out any issues relating to the provisions.

The damning report by the auditor general had revealed a lack of consistency across government about how travel, hospitality and entertaining was managed.

Manderson said it was clear that in addition to the need for consistent procedures, the government should address value for money and the justification for any travel. Under the new policy document, civil servants must present a short business case to justify travel, fly economy and stay at more economical locations. Per diem rates have been standardised and they include food as well as incidental out-of-pocket expenses, so public servants will not be able to double bill.

The policy does not formally apply to politicians, who can still, according to General Orders, sign off on their own travel expenses, but the premier has formally adopted the policy for himself, his Cabinet and his backbench MLAs.

The next step is to introduce a hospitality policy, which CO Nixon said had proved to be more complicated because it is not as easily defined as travel. She described it as a wide-sweeping area that covered a lot of things, from functions to funerals. However a draft policy has now been drawn up, which will go out for consultation. Nixon pointed out that it applied particularly to the tourism and trade and commerce ministries but other agencies also entertain for various reasons.

While travel and hospitality account for less than 1% of government spending, both the chief officer and the deputy governor emphasised the point that it was still the public’s money that government employees are spending.

The deputy governor did point out, however, that while the civil service had moved to address all of the recommendations made by the auditor general in the report, the administrative arm of government had no control over the elected. He described the problem of compliance by elected officials as a “sticky area” and said that it was the premier who must ensure that ministers and government MLAs comply, since the current premier had voluntarily adopted the policy.

Manderson said here was a system for financial officers to report their concerns about non-compliance by politicians, in particular the lack of documentation supporting the money spent by them when travelling. The DG said they can report to their chief officers or his office and he will take the matter to the premier. But he said that financial officers should not be put under pressure not to ask for the information they need to reconcile travel expenses and that they now have sufficient armour to press for what they need, regardless of the seniority of the civil servant or politician.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , , ,

Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (4)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Sad Situation says:

    How really can this be justified DG? when budgets were cut drastically in the areas for travel for all Ministries! sweet talk yes and it sounds good in PAC but is it a reality of savings!??

  2. Fred The Piemaker says:

    “Manderson said here was a system for financial officers to report their concerns about non-compliance by politicians, in particular the lack of documentation supporting the money spent by them when travelling.”
    The system only applies when the financial officers enquiring are not f%^&ing driftwood, of course.

  3. Fido says:

    Everyone should read the last paragraph of this article about “reporting their concerns” carefully and then reflect on what happened to Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn when (in compliance with what she was supposed to do as a Chief Officer) she dared to ask her then Minister, Osbourne Bodden, for some information to back up claims he was making for some calls on his private phone to be paid by Government. Hell and damnation descended on her from the Great Ozzie and Ezzard “Sage of North Side” Miller suggested she should have to resign along with said Great Ozzie. Sad.

  4. Get Real says:

    The MLAs should not “voluntarily adopted the policy”! They should, and have the power, to make it law. But do you think they will do so????? It is to the peoples benefit to do so but to the benefit of the politicians so we know the answer to that question.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

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