Spending increase and overseas staffing at heart of debate
A 24 percent increase in spending for the Cabinet Office was highlighted in the debate on the Budget in the Senate yesterday.
But the ruling party insisted that the wrong budget year was being addressed.
Opposition Senate Leader Michael Dunkley repeated his party’s concerns expressed in the House of Assembly debate that actual spending were at significant variances from estimates.
Senator Dunkley noted that the spending estimate for 2010/2011 had been about $6.5 million but Government had ended up spending $8.4 million.
He asked for an explanation for the variance, saying every line item on the budget estimate had been off.
Sen Dunkley also questioned why monies allocated for the Public Access to Information legislation had not been spent last year but an extra 64 percent had been budgeted for next fiscal year.
And, turning to the London and Washington D.C. offices, he said that the original budget had foreseen four people in the London office but that had been revised to zero.
Three people had been expected to staff the Washington office but only one person ended up in position at the end of the year.
For next fiscal year, four people are expected to work in London and two in Washington.
“The question has to be who was doing the work if there was a budget allocation for seven staff and only one person was there,” he said.
Sen Dunkley also noted that the budget allocation for the London office is twice that of the Washington office.
“There’s been very little explanation of what work takes place in the London office,” he said.
The One Bermuda Alliance Senator also questioned budget estimates for Professional Services which were $1.46 million for 2010/11 but had ended up being $1.84 million. And the estimate of $744,000 for the current year has now been revised upwards to $1.66 million but estimated at $480,000 for next year.
“If this Government is sincere in doing more with less we have to show that our budgeting process allows us to go in that direction,” he said.
Sen Dunkley praised the programming on the Government television station, CITV, but also called for better performance measures, saying that it would be useful to know, for example, how many people were actually tuning in to the station.
The ruling party’s Kim Wilson who led the debate explained that the Washington D.C. office had been managed by a consultant.
She said that Sen Dunkley’s questions relating to the 2010/2011 spending should have been asked last year.
“That would have been a good question to ask last year when we were debating the budget can say, with respect to the revised budget and what has been anticipate we would not know what the actual is until after March 31st.”
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