Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
AFTER facing backlash over the government's decision to increase travel benefits for Cabinet ministers and their spouses, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said tax dollars will not be spent irresponsibly.
Speaking at Parliament, Dr Minnis said the government remained committed to transparency and would report to Bahamians how it chose to spend public funds.
He said: “…I know what it’s like to be short of change and short of funds. We have made a commitment to elevate the poor and under privileged.
“We have made a commitment to protect the account and the finances of the people. We will never ever make a decision that is not transparent and is not in the best interest of the people.
“We will never be irresponsible and spend the people’s money wild and that is why we account to this Parliament and to the people of every dime that we spend.”
“I would never waste and abuse my own personal funds and this government certainly would not do it with the people’s money,” he continued.
Last week, Dr Minnis was criticised for the tone he took in the face of questions over the travel benefits increase.
Dr Minnis made the comments at a press conference at Sir Lynden International Airport following his trip to Barbados to attend a CARICOM meeting.
"...I was placed in an embarrassing situation as prime minister of the country when I travelled to Brussels only to discover that they did not accept cash,” Dr Minnis said at the time. “They did not accept swipe card. You needed a chip. I had to borrow a card from someone else to pay a bill.
"And we had an ambassador in the same situation and could not pay bills and I was almost pressured, (and) I was to a point, where the ambassador was in a compromised position. I was about to call Jamaica for assistance to pay our bills and you worried about $100?"
Before making these comments Dr Minnis told reporters that records would show that officials' spouses have not been taking advantage of the benefits.
"…You check the records and you would find that I don't think one Cabinet minister's spouse has taken advantage of that," he told reporters last week.
"And you would find, in most instances, that Cabinet ministers travel by themselves and not only that but what you don't know is on many occasions Cabinet ministers, including myself, travel with insufficient funds and use my own credit card to pay government's bills.
"That happens regularly so we always have to travel with our own cash and our own credit card."
The new travel policy, which was implemented by Cabinet last year, allows for ministers' spouses to go on additional trips, including a $100 daily per diem. The policy also increases ministerial per diem from $80 to $100 per day for domestic travel and $150 to $250 for international travel.