DG Responds to Travel Audit
The Deputy Governor endorses the Auditor General's recommendations arising from the recent audit on travel expenditures. The audit contains some eleven distinct recommendations aimed at increasing accountability and transparency, many of which have either already been implemented or are in the process of implementation.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said, "to help sustain real change in the institutional culture, there needs to be timely and regular monitoring of travel expenditures. On the one-year anniversary of the new Travel Policy, I have called upon Internal Audit to assess compliance now that we have recognised policies and procedures in place."
He went on to say, "I await these results to better assess the impact of the current travel policy. In the interim, Chief Officers and I, as facilitated by the Portfolio of the Civil Service, will next consider a policy to govern official hospitality expenditures."
Dating back to late 2012/13, the Deputy Governor charged the Portfolio of the Civil Service (PoCS) with developing a travel policy to address what he perceived as significant deficiencies in the Cayman Islands Government's internal controls relating to travel. In particular it was evident that, at that time, there was no uniformity in the approach individual agencies pursued to manage travel expenditures, and seemingly no consequence for failure to comply where such minimal standards existed.
In response, the PoCS commenced consultations with all ministries, portfolios and independent offices including the Audit Office and a year ago in July 2013 adopted a Cayman Islands Government Travel Policy. The new policy tackles identified loopholes and has numerous advantages including the following:
- Sets one policy framework which applies to all civil servants, regardless of their seniority or the particular agency for which they work;
- Applies to civil servants and elected persons. The Office of the Premier has adopted the Travel Policy for Cabinet Ministers, and the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly confirms the policy is applied to travel related to the Cayman Islands' participation in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association;
- Restricts the use of travel advances relying instead upon a published schedule of per diem limits which vary by jurisdiction;
- Requires managers consider whether travel is necessary or whether the business objective can be achieved as effectively through alternative means; and
- Simplifies reporting methodologies to provide more cost effective and consistent reporting.
"It is important to note that the Travel Audit released this week represents a historical snapshot, prior to the adoption of the new Travel Policy. I'm keen to determine whether, since the implementation of the policy, there have in fact been positive changes to both the financial management processes and institutional culture," said Mr. Manderson.
As has been reported, the Government has set the tone for strict financial management, and civil servants are responding to the call. In 2013/14 civil servants are helping to achieve a surplus forecasted to exceed $100 million in contrast to the significant deficits incurred in the years prior.
Improving government's financial performance and raising accountability is a continual process. "The Government will be vigilant in detecting any deficiencies and pursuing appropriate consequences for the same. The recent Travel Audit demonstrates the extent to which accountability systems failed us in years past, I'm optimistic that our focused efforts to correct this situation will yield improved results," Mr. Manderson said.
For further information contact: Suzette Ebanks