ALLOCATION VS EXPENDITURE: PM says $4.1 mil. increase in travel budget may not be used

ALLOCATION VS EXPENDITURE: PM says $4.1 mil. increase in travel budget may not be used

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Notwithstanding a 36 percent or $4.1 million increase in the allocation for travel and subsistence in the upcoming budget, Prime Minister Brave Davis said yesterday it does not “mean it has to be used”.

“Well, we don’t know what travels we’ll have in the coming year,” Davis told the media on the sidelines of a conference at Baha Mar.

“And until we understand, it’s an allocation. It doesn’t that’ll be used. The fact that we allocated doesn’t mean it has to be used. It is there to cover unforeseen travels that may come up.”

Davis said: “There are certain travels that have to be made by ministers that’s related to their specific portfolios. There are certain travels that I have to make as it relates to me as leader of the country. There are leaders summits throughout the year that I have to attend.

Prime Minister Philip Davis

“And so, what that allocation is for is to ensure that it’s covered when we are able to travel.”

The government has allocated $14.85 million for travel and subsistence in the upcoming fiscal period, up 36 percent over the $10.9 million allocation for the current fiscal period.

With the exception of 2021/2022, the overall allocation for the upcoming fiscal period is down over allocations made for travel in the two prior fiscal periods.

In the fiscal period 2020/2021, the government expended $7.1 million on travel.

The government $8.66 million in 2017/2018; $8.88 million for 2018/2019; $18.93 million in 2019/2020; and $20.46 million in 2020/2021.

Upon coming to office in September 2021, the supplementary budget revised the travel allocation for the current fiscal period to $10.65 million.

The more than $20 million price tag for travel and subsistence in 2020/2021 was attributed to the new GFS accounting classification and the way in which line items are represented, as well as a “proper accounting of the line item” following underbudgeting under the former Christie administration.

According to the 2022/2023 budget, the government will allocate $15.3 million for travel in the fiscal year 2023/2024; and $16.4 million in the following period (2024/2025).

The largest increase for travel and subsistence in the upcoming budget was reflected in the Ministry of Tourism, Investment and Aviation.

Domestic travel in the ministry for 2022/2023 will increase to $331,100, up from the $88,200 in the current fiscal period.

Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper

International travel for the ministry is expected to increase from just over $151,000 to $677,000 — an increase of $526,000.

The substantive minister, Chester Cooper, the deputy prime minister recently traveled to Guyana for the CARICOM Agri-Investment Forum this month.

The minister also traveled with a delegation to Qatar and Saudi Arabia over the weekend.

Cooper is expected to engage in mutual interest and cooperation around aviation, investments, and financial services while positioning The Bahamas as the regional leader in sustainable tourism.

International travel for the Department of Immigration will increase in the upcoming period from $1.2 million to $1.8 million.

The figure represents the repatriation of illegal migrants, according to the budget.

The allocation for domestic travel in the Office of the Prime Minister will increase from nearly $218,000 to almost $227,000, while international travel will increase from $174,000 to $399,000.

The OPM spent around $125,000 on domestic travel and subsistence in the 2020/2021 fiscal period, and just $2,420 on international travel — a reflection of the ongoing restrictions during the peak of the pandemic.

In the 2019/2020 fiscal period, the OPM spent over $517,000 on international travel and some $152,000 on domestic travel.

The Department of Local Government will receive a $135,000 increase for domestic travel — from around $212,000 to $347,000.

Similarly, the allocation for domestic and international travel in the Ministry of Finance will increase by over $61,000 and around $89,000 respectively.

The Department of Inland Revenue will receive $170,000 for domestic travel in the upcoming budget, more than triple the $55,800 it received in the current fiscal period.

The allocation for domestic travel for the Royal Bahamas Police Force will increase by nearly $280,000 — from $795,000 to $1.07 million in the upcoming period.

Under the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture, domestic travel is forecasted for 2022/2023 from just under $100,000 to $231,000.

The international travel allocation for the Department of Labour will increase from $12,750 to $100,000.

According to the budget, domestic and international travel will increase substantially — around $377,500 — in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

International travel in the ministry has been forecasted at $310,500, up from the $15,000 in this fiscal period.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.