Cabinet cuts spending on ministerial travel
Cabinet ministers spent almost $140,000 on overseas trips during their second year in power, according to the Government’s online travel calendar.
The amount was about $4,800 less than the total for the previous 12 months of Progressive Labour Party leadership and about $26,000 more than the total for the final year of the One Bermuda Alliance administration.
A spokeswoman said the Government was pleased to report that travel spending was forecast to be down this year by about 3 per cent.
She explained: “As with previous administrations, key travel by ministers is necessary to manage and oversee key national objectives that affect Bermuda.
“An example of this was travel conducted by the Premier of Bermuda and the Minister of Finance to address the European Union listing earlier this year.
“In other areas, overseas travel was necessary to promote Bermuda as a premier leisure and business destination.
“Additionally, ministers travelled to support Bermuda’s
athletes representing Bermuda on the global stage.”
According to details published on the Government’s website, ministers spent $139,912.76 on 35 trips from August 2018 to July 19, 2019, when the present PLP administration marked its second anniversary in power.
In the previous 12-month period, the total cost was $144,712.88 for 45 overseas visits.
On the same site, the former OBA government published expenses totalling $113,864.29 relating to 25 overseas trips during its final year in power.
The spokeswoman said: “To date, the overall travel spending is less than last year, and travel is, and will continue to be necessary to ensure that Bermuda maintains our reputation and grows our economy.”
Among the highest costs for a single trip during the second year of this government was $12,476.63 when David Burt, the Premier and then Minister of Finance, took part in a series of engagements in Europe in September 2018.
The online travel calendar shows the six-day tour included the OECD Blockchain Policy Forum in Paris.
In Vienna, Mr Burt took part in a Eurofi conference that covered regulatory developments impacting the global financial sector, the future of the European Union after Brexit, cryptocurrencies and economic substance matters.
He gave remarks at the 2018 Abir Conference in Brussels and met a number of top officials.
The Premier also took a trip to New York and Boston for an “HSBC Road Show” that had zero expense for the Cabinet Office.
He and Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, travelled for meetings that related to “the successful refinancing of Bermuda Government’s debt which reduced Bermuda’s interest expense”, according to the travel calendar.
The information online shows that airfare, accommodation and incidentals during the visits in November were paid by HSBC.
Entries for Mr Dickinson include a trip that cost $11,649.08 for meetings related to economic substance and Bermuda’s “blacklisting”.
The website says: “The minister and a delegation of Ministry of Finance officials, accompanied the Premier to Britain, Brussels and Germany, for a series of meetings with overseas officials regarding the removal of Bermuda from the list of noncooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes.”
A trip taken by Lovitta Foggo, the Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sport, to the Carifta Games in the Cayman Islands in April cost $5,310.06.
She also attended the International Labour Conference in Switzerland, where more than 6,000 delegates gathered in June to discuss challenges ahead in the employment sphere. Expenses for that trip totalled $6,730.41.
Ms Foggo reintroduced the ministers’ travel expenses page in October 2017 in a commitment to “full transparency”.
Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, attended the Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Miami in April, with the trip costing $1,838 overall.
His visit to New York in February came with a $995.37 price tag, to cover air travel and accommodation while he took part in the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s “marketing blitz”.
The calendar explains: “More than 150 New York City-based meeting planners, travel agents, tastemakers, media types and influencers attended a Bermuda-inspired evening reception to encourage year-round travel to the island.”
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