Government adds $40,000 to expenses website
Expenses of $40,000 were added to the Government’s online travel calendar yesterday after it was revealed that globe-trotting ministers had not kept their accounts up to date.
Details of nine overseas trips made by Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, were added to the webpage after a report in The Royal Gazette yesterday highlighted that many costs for travel abroad remained unpublished.
Mr Caines’s costs included a $9,449.64 bill for a trip to London in April for “fintech presentations”.
He spent $4,954.70 on air fare, $164.50 on ground transport, $4,256.39 on accommodation and $74.05 on meals.
Mr Caines made presentations on Bermuda’s fintech plan at a series of meetings, including one at the House of Lords, and gave media interviews during the weeklong visit.
A string of entries added to the website yesterday amounted to expenses of $32,858.57 for Mr Caines’s overseas trips, in addition to the $2,132.14 already attributed to him before The Royal Gazette highlighted that several were missing.
Yesterday, he said: “The delay in updating the website was due to an administrative oversight, which has been addressed.
“Moving forward, the site will be updated regularly.
“I believe in complete transparency and my travel on government business will at all times be available for the public to view.”
Expenses were also racked up by Mr Caines on trips to Las Vegas to attend a London Trust event and Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, both in January.
He also attended a fintech/blockchain conference in New York in February, the Montgomery Summit on innovation in Santa Monica, California, and a science, technology, engineering and maths event in New York, both in March.
Mr Caines visited New York for the Bermuda Executive Forum and reception in May, and returned to the city less than two weeks later for a Consensus 2018 Conference on blockchain.
The Government website said he “met with key stakeholders, law firms and key business partners”.
Mr Caines attended the CogX convention in London last month, where he met companies looking to set up in Bermuda.
The travel calendar said Mr Caines had no airfare costs on that trip because the ministry had an airline credit from a previous flight and his $36 ground transport bill was “lower than average because the minister used the London Underground”.
Details for a trip made by Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, to Geneva, Switzerland, were also published on the webpage yesterday.
Mr Brown’s attendance at the International Labour Conference on behalf of the Government from May 28 to June 8 cost $7,053.69 in total.
The site on Monday showed $70,641.94 in overseas travel expenses for Progressive Labour Party ministers since they came to power a year ago.
The figure compared with $113,864.29 said to have been spent by the former One Bermuda Alliance administration during its last 12 months in Government.
David Burt, the Premier, was among those with several trips still unpublished on the site last night.
They date as far back as last October, when he travelled to Miami for a special meeting of the Caribbean Overseas Territories to discuss the regional effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and a trip to the UK and Europe in November for meetings with the Joint Ministerial Council and tax officials.
Costs for Mr Burt’s trip to Jamaica for the Caribbean Infrastructure Forum in December have also yet to be listed.
A government spokeswoman said on Monday that updating the travel expenses page was “an administrative task” and that the information should be up to date by the end of this week.
Mr Burt added last night: “Ministerial travel is hardly a secret and there is absolutely nothing to hide, but we can and will do a better job of keeping the information on the travel website updated.
“Growing and diversifying this economy, creating educational and employment opportunities for Bermudians and reversing four years of OBA neglect of the people has been our priority for almost a year.
“With the hectic pace demanded of this work there have been times that filling out forms and ticking boxes have taken a deserved second place.
“The people of Bermuda fully understand what we have been doing and what we have had to do to ensure that they have greater opportunities for success in this country.”
The statement from Mr Burt also included a list of more than a dozen press releases and interviews about Bermuda’s push to become a leader in fintech.
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