Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday blasted the government for increasing travel benefits for Cabinet ministers and their spouses, vowing to repeal a new policy that affords ministers’ spouses a per diem and more government-funded travel.
“…If I’m going on government business and I want my wife to come with me, that should be on my dime and not the dime of the Bahamian people,” Davis told The Nassau Guardian.
“So, that’s the first point. And then, it adds insult to injury for the government just not to pay for their ticket but to also give them a per diem whilst away.”
On Monday, Perspective revealed that a new travel policy for ministers — that was implemented by Cabinet last year — increases the number of annual trips for the ministers’ spouses and affords them a $100 daily per diem.
The $100 per diem for spouses is equivalent to the per diem paid to technical officers in the public service.
Yesterday, when asked if he would repeal this policy if elected, Davis said, “Certainly, we will not be giving a per diem to the wives of Cabinet ministers traveling. We will not be doing that, not at all.”
He added, “There was a policy that was put in place by the FNM (Free National Movement) government some time ago that in any given year the government will pay for one trip for the spouse to travel on any official trip of the minister.
“So, that what was in place [and] that’s not unreasonable. But, to be giving them a per diem and then giving them more traveling…what is this all about?”
The policy also increases ministers’ per diem by 25 percent for domestic travel and 67 percent for international travel.
The ministerial per diem for domestic travel was increased from $80 to $100 per day and from $150 to $250 for international travel.
Davis also took issue with these increases.
“I would say that they are intoxicated with the fact that they can travel on the Bahamian dime and they stay in a drunken stupor,” Davis said.
He questioned why the government would increase travel benefits in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which pulverized Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September and caused roughly $3.4 billion worth of damage.
“I did mention their concern about the fiscal state but yet still they are using expenditure to enhance their own lifestyle and then particularly this is being done after Hurricane Dorian,” Davis said.
“One would’ve thought that you would’ve seen some announcement that travel will be suspended and or reduced.”
In a national address on July 26, 2017, just over two months after coming to office, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis stated: “The former administration was addicted to luxury travel, often spending extraordinary sums of money on delegations traveling the world at great expense. We will reduce the amount of money spent on foreign travel by government officials.”
Though the current administration lambasted the Christie administration for travel excesses, it has gone further to formalize, by way of policy, marked increases in travel benefits for ministers.
For this reason, Davis described the government’s increase in travel benefits as a “hypocrisy”.
“…Time and time again, you see what they would’ve said before the campaign and they’re not just doing the complete opposite, they’re doing more than what they were complaining about,” he said.
“Our travel was a travel with purpose.”