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Second MP admits Rio trip

Fuel to the fire: Patricia Gordon-Pamplin followed through on going to the Rio Olympics despite having switched her ministerial portfolio

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin has admitted attending the Olympic Games in Brazil last month, raising the Bermuda Government’s expenditure on the event to nearly $38,000.

The Paget West MP said that her $6,312.09 in expenses for the trip, which were not listed on the One Bermuda Alliance’s expenses website, would be formally logged.

The acknowledgement comes after Ms Gordon-Pamplin’s successor as sports minister, Sylvan Richards, sparked anger this week for spending $31,566 of taxpayers’ money also visiting Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin, now Minister of Home Affairs after an OBA reshuffle in May, said that she had booked both her flights and hotel while she was still in her previous post, and that both were non-refundable.

When contacted by The Royal Gazette regarding her Brazil trip, Ms Gordon-Pamplin released the following statement: “Following the reassignment of Cabinet portfolios, the Ministry [of Social Development and Sport] reimbursed me for my airfare and accommodation, which had been booked and paid for on a non-refundable basis when I was the minister responsible for sport.

“I will have the costs posted on my travel website. The [flight] was $2,585.11 business-class return from New York via Toronto, and the hotel was $3,726.98.”

Ms Gordon-Pamplin travelled to the Olympics alone, while Mr Richards and his permanent secretary, Wayne Carey, both flew business class to the international sporting event, with their tickets costing $10,145 apiece according to the OBA’s expenses website.

A Ministry of Social Development and Sport spokeswoman attributed the high cost of Mr Richards’s and Mr Carey’s flights to late booking, although she did not clarify why the tickets were not purchased further in advance.

“The Government cares deeply for and supports all of our athletes, as they are ambassadors for Bermuda,” the spokeswoman said. “At the same time, we are also mindful of travel costs and do whatever we can to keep these costs down.”

Michael Weeks, Shadow Minister of Health and Community Affairs, criticised Mr Richards for spending tens of thousands of dollars, which he argued could have been put to better use.

“Government has been talking for so long about budget cuts and how they’re short of money,” he said.

“Some vital programmes have seen cuts, and that $31,566 could have been used on any of them.”

Of Ms Gordon-Pamplin, Mr Weeks added: “Her government ran their platform on transparency and being upfront with the people.

“Do what you say you’re going to do. That’s all I’m asking.”

Next week, this newspaper will submit a Public Access to Information request to the Government, to discern a detailed breakdown of costs accrued during Ms Gordon-Pamplin’s trip.

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