Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday that the significant increase in the allocation for travel and subsistence in the 2019/2020 budget is mostly due to a reporting error in the line item which mistakenly added an additional $3.5 million to the figure.
The government had allocated nearly $19 million for travel and subsistence in the 2019/2020 budget.
In 2018/2019, it budgeted $8.9 million.
The year before that, it received $9.1 million.
As he opened the budget debate, Turnquest said, “I want to use this time to resolve some queries members of the public have expressed regarding the increase in the allocation for travel and subsistence.
“I would start by noting that the increase in this line item from $8.9 million in 2018/19 to $18.9 million in 2019/20 is due mostly to a reporting error, in that the salaries for Urban Renewal which were actually supposed to be captured under Head 44, were mistakenly added to the air transport line item under travel and subsistence.
“This accounts for some $3.5 million of the $5.4 million increase in air transport for domestic travel.
“Apart from that, the overall increase in travel and subsistence is not due to an immense increase in any one item but instead reflects incremental increases across all ministries and in some cases right budgeting.”
Giving examples of this right budgeting, Turnquest noted that the Royal Bahamas Police Force had budgeted $350,000 for air transportation for domestic travel but had spent $393,180 in the nine months to March.
“This clearly shows that what they had budgeted was not sufficient to meet their needs, and as a result of employing right budgeting for 2019/2020, their allocation for air transportation has increased to $509,200,” he said.
Turnquest also pointed to a similar situation with the Royal Bahamas Defense Force.
He noted that the defense force budgeted $112,000 for domestic air transportation and by March had spent a total of $170,000.
“Thus, in this budget we have allocated $190,000 for this line item,” Turnquest said.
“This is right and proper budgeting, making realistic estimates based on the actual needs of any one department.”
The finance minister insisted that some of the budget’s huge increases from year to year may not indicate that more money is being spent, but is simply the amalgamation of a number of initiatives, projects, programs and departments under one line item.
“Some ministries may have reflected a large increase in travel allocations due to the fact that under the new chart of accounts some line items would have been grouped together,” Turnquest said. “That may have been recorded separately in previous budgets.
“For example, in the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture all of the travel for the National Arts Festival, National Youth Month, the National Cultural Festival and a number of other cultural festivals were consolidated under air transportation for domestic travel under this ministry.
“Thus, the increase in their travel and subsistence figures would look substantial, but in actuality does not reflect a real increase in the allocation.
“In fact, this was the case for a number of line items in this budget, apart from travel allocations.”
The Ministry of Finance has announced that it is undergoing a change from a cash-based accounting system to an accrual-based accounting system.
Correction: The original headline for this story incorrectly stated that the mistake was due to a printing error.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications