Technical glitch blamed for delays in updating ministerial travel calendar
Lengthy delays in revealing costs racked up on overseas trips by the Premier and Cabinet ministers have been blamed on a “glitch”.
Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Deputy Premier, claimed that “technical difficulties” meant his trips to the Turks and Caicos Islands and Miami in April, which cost more than $10,000, had not been detailed until now.
The cost of a visit to Lisbon by Mr Roban in June, and overseas journeys by David Burt to Prague, Brussels and London in September, have still not been disclosed despite the Government pledging that such information would be “continuously updated” on the ministerial Travel Calendar.
Addressing the issue at a press conference yesterday, Mr Roban said: “My understanding is that the lack of information that you may find … it was due to some technical challenges which I believe have been fixed.
“If you check, you should find more up-to-date information going forward — but it had to do with a technical glitch, not because there is a lack of interest in disclosing.
“I know I file every piece of receipt and everything to do with my trips as soon as I return, and they get processed by those who process them.
“But I do believe that the recent delay has to do with some technological issues that were with the actual site … which we had to consult with the technological persons in government to fix.”
Asked if he was concerned that the “glitch” on the government website had gone unnoticed for more than seven months, Mr Roban said: “I cannot speak to that. Any questions about the Premier’s travel should be put to the Cabinet Office.”
Questioned if the Deputy Premier’s visit to the Turks and Caicos Islands was good value for money for the taxpayer, Mr Roban said: “It is, because I went there to represent Bermuda.
“I was invited by the TCI Government to speak to them about Bermuda and about the leadership that we are providing to the Overseas Territories around all ocean matters.
“It was about us working together … to advance the issues of ocean communities, including the protection of our biodiversity.
“I am proud to have participated on behalf of my country, and I will continue to do so as long as I’m allowed.”
Mr Roban attended a climate change summit in the Turks and Caicos Islands that took place on April 21-22.
The Minister also went to the annual Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum 2022 in Miami, Florida which ran from April 26-28.
His Travel Calendar entry for the visits in the Overseas Territory and Florida from April 20-29 shows expenses of $10,215.38.
This broke down as $8,775.51 for accommodation, $976.90 for air travel and $462.97 for meals.
The Government’s website states: “The summit's theme was ‘One Earth: Investing in our Planet’.
“The summit saw the signing of the Turks and Caicos Islands climate charter, which outlined their commitment to the environment as well as working together towards safeguarding the islands from the increasing impact of climate change.”
Regarding the Miami visit, the Government stated: “Minister Roban was a winner of the CREF 2022 Caribbean Energy Leader MVP award 2021-2022.
“The CREF awards committee supported the recognition of all leaders who have advanced the renewable energy and energy efficiency in the Caribbean.”
The Premier has yet to reveal how much his expenses came to when he travelled to London in September for the state funeral of the Queen.
The same month, Mr Burt also visited Prague and Brussels for meetings with EU officials and business leaders, but financial details have not been posted on the Travel Calendar section of the Government’s website.
When the Travel Calendar was revamped in October 2017, the Government promised that it would give a rapid insight into how public money was being spent by ministers.
Lovitta Foggo, then the Cabinet Office minister, said at the relaunch: "I am pleased to reintroduce the ministers’ travel expenses page on the government website. The new page contains current and historic information and will be continuously updated as ministers travel overseas.
"I am committed to full transparency, and this page will detail the location and reason for a minister's international travel together with how much they spent while travelling."
The One Bermuda Alliance has expressed alarm at the lack of transparency regarding the costs of overseas visits.