Complaining about travel and consultants was a favourite move in the OBA playbook to criticize the then-PLP Government. 

Today the roles are reversed and if you stripped away the names and the dates, you wouldn’t be able to tell the players without a scorecard.

“Disappointed and indeed stunned at the figures released by the Government in respect of travel costs. At the risk of stating the obvious, it is absolutely bizarre that at a time when Bermudians are tightening their belts, Government travel costs continue to be nonsensical.”

No, that’s not the PLP ripping apart the OBA with regard to the more than $5m spent in travel costs last year, that was Michael Fahy complaining about the PLP spending spree on trips in 2010.

“Do you think… do you know ... do you not think that the Government is sitting down and working on ways to grow the economy? They are doing that. It is going to take some time. [That is] why the Premier is travelling all over the place to make sure things are in place, building foundations — and relationships.” 

And that wasn’t a statement rallying the OBA troops behind embattled Premier Craig Cannonier spending $180,000 on trips.

Instead, that was the PLP’s Wayne Furbert defending former Premier Paula Cox in a statement in the House of Assembly on July 1, 2011.

The OBA spent just over $5m in travel in 2013-14 — that was $1.6m more than the PLP spent in 2012-13. 

And the PLP has heavily criticized the OBA on the travel spending.

PLP MP Zane De Silva told the Bermuda Sun the OBA is “doing too much” travelling. I’m not against Minister travelling. What I am against is they gave us hell, week in, week out, year-after-year about travel. What is worse is the amount of travel and the amount of money spent on it.”

He singled out the Premier and Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell.

Dr Brown

He said because the Premier does not hold a portfolio, the costs are unacceptable. Premier Ewart Brown held two ministries. Dr Brown racked up $265,000 in travel for the first nine months of 2009-10.

Mr De Silva said when you compare Dr Brown to Mr Cannonier, Dr Brown spent an average of $88,000 for each of his roles compared to Mr Cannonier who spent more than $180,000 for his one role.

Mr De Silva said each Minister should be given a set budget for travel for the year and they have to prioritize which of the many conferences and meetings they can attend as the most important to be at.

“When I was Health Minister I think I went on two Government trips. I could have gone on a trip every three or four weeks. I received invitations out of the ying-yang.”

He said he refused to go and asked those who invited him to send him the info from the conference or allow one of the civil servants, like John Cain, to attend in his place.

He added: “As a new minister, with the way the economy was in shape, I felt it best for me to get on with the work.”

Government travel

2007-08       $6,395,705

2008-09       $6,439,319

2009-10       $5,033,659

2010-11         $5,016,775

2011-12        $3,618,687

2012-13         $3,418,547

2013-14         $5,067,000

2014-15         $4,079,000 

Mr De Silva said the Premier’s trip to the Cayman Islands this week to sit on a panel discussion on ethics, was just the sort of trip that could have been skipped.

“When you have people of the country who have been asked to take pay cuts, to take furlough days and to cut back on this and cut back on that, we should be more selective.”

Premier Cannonier has defended the amount spent on travel as necessary to give Bermuda the kick-start it needs to get the economy moving again.

He said last week: “As I’ve stated many times before, it is imperative for Bermuda’s economic survival that this government brings in foreign direct investment. Travel is a necessary component of our strategy. If you study the facts in the budget book, you’ll note that this government has actually spent less on travel than the former PLP government — not more.  The former administration spent $193,254.58 on travel over an approximate six month period, compared to $171,460.92 spent by the OBA government over a 14 month period.”

He told Bernews last week: “We have cut back tremendously and the numbers speak for themselves. I think the public is getting a little tired of all this smoke and dagger type of stuff. Put up or keep quiet because the numbers speak for themselves.

“Let’s not throw out things and speculate and damage the reputation of this Government seeking to cut back on the costs for this country.” 

Just the quotes

UBP Opposition Leader Grant Gibbons in his Reply to the 2003 Budget: “Government travel budgets have more than doubled since 1998. Ministers gave themselves per diem travel allowances for which they are not held accountable.”

Wayne Furbert, then UBP Leader, said in 2006: “When PLP leaders came to power in 1998, the total travel budget for the government was $2 million. Today, it is over $12 million — that’s $1 million a month — a massive and indefensible increase that has virtually nothing to do (with) actually helping people here at home. The Government has got the message now on consultants, you know, and travel that needs to be done. We have got to see whether we can pare it back even more to get us through these tough times.”

In 2010 Michael Fahy said: “The Alliance is disappointed and indeed stunned at the figures released by the Government in respect of travel costs. At the risk of stating the obvious, it is absolutely bizarre that at a time when Bermudians are tightening their belts, Government travel costs continue to be nonsensical. There should be a strategic plan in terms of travel expenses and we have to query whether the best value for money was received for the taxpayer.”

John Barritt, HOA November 12, 2010: “I would have preferred to have seen more in the way of commitment along those lines — whether it is travel, whether it is in GP cars — you know, where people feel that there is going to be a real attempt by Government to not only feel their pain, but share their pain in small ways. They are not big ways, but they are demonstrable ways; things that people can relate to.”

Derrick Burgess, HOA, Nov 12, 2010: “I do not know of any Minister that travels just to say I am going to travel tomorrow, or whatever. The only time this Minister travels, and any Minister that I know travels, is because they have to travel. 

“When you have got to travel, you know, they do not set your schedules on the other side based on our political agenda or our parliamentary schedule, so we have to travel.”

John Barritt, HOA on Feb. 25, 2011, in speaking about the PLP’s travel expenses: “Even though it may be symbolic, it is important, Mr. Speaker. And I will bet you that all those dollars, as they say, start to add up in the right direction. And it could mean a job for somebody. It could mean a slight increase in pensions for seniors who are hurting. I mean, these are the things . . . these are real people. A Government — and we — is measured by the people who are less fortunate and [by] what we are actually doing for them.”

Zane De Silva, HOA, Feb. 25, 2011: “One minute they are saying we should not travel, the next minute they are saying they do not travel enough.”

Zane De Silva, July 15, 2011: “They bashed the trip of our former Premier to China. In fact, they called it a ‘jolly’. I do not know who in the world would call dashing from Bermuda to China in two days a jolly, I have travelled those kinds of distances, and to do it in two days is not a jolly. That was a trip to try and build up our relationships with that country.”

Wayne Furbert, HOA, July 15, 2011: “We also understand about foreign capital. Why do you think the Honourable Member, the Premier, is off signing TIEAs and to meeting and off to conference, trying to attract foreign capital or businesses in Bermuda? We have a plan. Our Minister of Tourism, who is travelling and bringing tourists to Bermuda right now.”