Johnson: Travel budget increase due to difference in presentation of numbers
The government has allocated nearly $19 million for travel and subsistence in the 2019/2020 budget.
In 2018/2019, it was budgeted $8.8 million.
The year before that, it received a budget of $9.1 million.
Asked about the increase yesterday, Acting Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson said, “The way that it’s set up is because we’ve now gone into a cost centered programing budget, all of the related travel that would’ve been in the unit budget line item before is now rolled up in the travel item.
“For example, in the Ministry of Finance, when you see something like a Financial Intelligence Unit. In the old system, all expenses related to that unit would’ve been in that unit’s line item, utilities, travel, supplies and all that.
“But now that we’ve moved to a different budgeting system, all of the stuff related to travel inside that unit head, which you would have not seen before, gets rolled up. There is no significant movage. It’s just that the information is presented differently.”
In recent months, the government has come under fire for not disclosing the costs of travels for the prime minister and other members of government.
In January 2018, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis committed to disclose ministers’ travel costs.
However, that never happened.
In September, Pineridege MP Frederick McAlpine lambasted the government over what he deemed excessive traveling.
“People are wondering why it seems to be [an] austerity budget for the citizens, but the government seems to be traveling with such large entourages, sleeping, eating and many other things at the people’s expense,” McAlpine said.
“People want to know why so many people have to travel in these astronomical numbers, and they’re now asking for an expense account for these trips to be laid on the table in this place. It’s called fiscal responsibility.”
In October, after taking a delegation of 17 Bahamians to New York for a session of the United Nations General Assembly, Minnis defended the size, asserting that all who attended were essential to the government’s representation.
“It’s essential for you to have individuals who would represent you at the foreign affairs meeting, at the health meeting, at the investment meeting; one man cannot do it,” he said.
“They say we are wasting their money but they want me to go off and represent you as if we are some banana republic but we are no banana republic and we will do it right.”
The Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Anthony Newbold had said the report on ministers’ travel will come at the end of 2018, but that report was never released.
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