Checking the Government’s Charge Cards
by Dermod Travis,
In a $46.3 billion budget, $49.8 million is chump change, but the B.C. government’s 84,346 credit card charges in 2015-16 do offer some insights into how the B.C. government spends on the run.
While the number of charges is down from 102,418 in 2014-15, the dollar value is up from $45.1 million. Why the jump? Forest fires.
Among last year’s big users of plastic were Children and Family Development ($5.29 million), Justice ($7.18 million) and Forests, Land, and Natural Resource Operations ($12 million).
More than 700 transactions were for less than $5.00 and 1,367 charges were for more than $5,000.
The largest? A $97,296 charge at Woodlands Inn by Forests.
Single biggest expense? Air travel at $13.96 million.
The more popular domestic choices were Harbour Air ($1.85 million), Helijet ($2.35 million) and Air Canada ($5.99 million).
Foreign carriers included: Korean Air ($15,645), Cathay Pacific ($21,442) and Air China ($33,200).
The ministry passing through customs the most overseas was Education ($76,885), not International Trade ($36,635).
Among the more popular hotel choices were Holiday Inn ($122,958), Fairmont ($159,811) and the Sandman ($228,354).
Tolls for the Port Mann ($83,301) and Golden Ears ($3,212) bridges found their way onto the government’s plastic.
Eighteen ministries chipped in to make the #BCTech summit a success ($34,988) and 13 ministries for the 2015 LNG Conference ($63,392).
Fast food faves included: A&W ($8,161), McDonald’s ($18,362), Boston Pizza ($64,454) and Tim Hortons ($70,604).
Fine dining was the prescription at the Health ministry with a $1,632 charge at Zambri’s and two charges totalling $3,760 at Hawksworth in Vancouver’s Rosewood Hotel Georgia.
Count on Children and Family Development to go five star when three stars would do.
The ministry billed $1,107 at the Super 8 Hotel in Victoria – suspect not for staff – and $6,218 at Victoria’s Parkside Hotel & Spa – likely not for clients.
Other choices included the Georgian Court Hotel ($289), Oak Bay Beach Hotel ($435), Granville Island Hotel ($1,614) and the Four Seasons Hotel ($450).
It’s must be tough to keep track of Finance minister Mike de Jong.
Last year he had the second highest travel expenses in cabinet at $78,090, which may explain the $1,192 charge at Tracking the World, a GPS tracking software for “business, law enforcement, covert and personal use.”
Betting on the ponies may have been an option to help balance the budget if the $342 charge at Fraser Downs Racetrack is any indication.
Transportation and Infrastructure spent $1,280 at Hashtracking.com.
Something to do with Twitter hashtags, otherwise it would have been a Justice ministry charge.
Justice did charge $18,764 at Voyageur Soap & Candle and $516 at Scooby’s Dog Waste Removal.
Fittingly, the only charge in government at HypeForType.com ($106) was at Small Business and Red Tape Reduction.
At $1.1 million, International Trade was way down the leader board for total charges, but oh so more exotic.
Exotissimo Travel ($1,167) fits that bill. The agency has since changed its name to EXO Travel.
The ministry accounted for $93,610 of the government’s $109,190 tab at the Four Seasons Hotel and all of its charges at the Shangri-la Hotel in Shenzhen China’s ($18,960).
Spending an average of $645 per day on airfares, the premier’s office is rarely grounded.
Floats and whirlybirds accounted for the bulk of the $235,447 tab, with Seair at $5,353, Helijet ($44,245) and Harbour Air ($66,043).
The office also charged $1,205 at Shred-It. That’s a lot of Post-it notes.
Across all ministries, total charges at Shred-It rang it at $143,505 and that’s on top of its $136,822 in billings.
Eight ministries and the Public Service Agency charged $33,836 at Psychometrics Canada, which provides “psychometric tests and personality assessments for developing the best people for every job.”
Given the recent actions of some of the government’s political staff, one wonders what instructions are being provided to Psychometrics.
The government has two psychometricians on staff.
There were six charges at Smokescreen Graphics ($1,602) and – surprisingly enough – not one of them by the Government Communications and Public Engagement Office.
And oddly, it was two different ministries that respectively billed $927 at Naked Lunch and $1,716 at Keep Your Shirt On.
Dermod Travis is the executive director at IntegrityBC.
Were the Naked Ladies playing at Naked Lunch?
Presumably it is a restaurant named after the film or the book. There are likely others around outside Colorado.
Otherwise, I am not sure what the data is supposed to tell us.
Government rates at hotels such as the Fairmont chain are often comparable to rates at other hotels, for instance.
those charges are pretty respectable to be honest.
Mike Je Dong has done more than any previous minister to make the spending claims open and transparent. As stated above there is nothing out of the ordinary no matter how the author tries to spin it.
To be fair one would also have to look on how the party in opposition keeps track on how they spend money from the public purse. An obvoius place to start would be how education critic Rob Fleming could not see that $120,000.00 was stolen from his constituency office over 5 1/2 years. AN office staff member has been charged with theft,fraud and forgery…forgery?….did she ever work for Dix:P
Being the education critic Fleming might be able to get a deal on an entry level accounting course.
“The ministry passing through customs the most overseas was Education ($76,885), not International Trade ($36,635).”
Wow… so the Ministry of Education traveled overseas more than International Trade, sounds about right for a government that consistently misplaces its priorities!
They could’ve been going over to China to see if they can drum up some business for publicly funded schools here. Seems there’s pretty good money to be made educating high school kids from there over here if their parents have enough dough to afford it. Supposed to help keep our property taxes down.
Then later, the kids sponsor their parents, they buy a house in the greater Vancouver area at a grossly inflated price, (good for the seller, though, supposedly anyways!), which sets the assessment level for all the other properties around it, and taxes go up.
People here who are then millionaires ‘on paper’ (if they sold), but still don’t have enough income ‘in money’ to pay those taxes, have little other choice but to sell out and move. And then, when they move elsewhere, the prices of properties rise there, too. And the taxes on them, and on and on it goes.
Wasn’t it Lenin who said the way to crush the middle class was through the twin grindstones of ‘inflation’ and ‘taxation’? And there are some who believe, still, that the BC Liberals have a different policy than their NDP counterparts. It’s only the difference between socialism in low gear or in high.
They actually certify 45 schools offshore for BC students, a quick google search will show you why they travel. You can also read the reports on each the schools.
I love how the motel bills were lopsided towards the sandman so that the government employees can cash in on free stays with their lucky thirteen card
Most hotels have some sort of benefit for loyal customers.
The Fairmont provides annual coupons for their restaurants as well as suite upgrades, 3rd nigh free, etc. depending on the frequency of stays.
Provincial Government rates are almost half of posted rates.
The hotels booked are mostly related to the level of the position of the employee.
We meet there 2 to 3 times per year as a central location. One of us rents gold floor room for $250 and we have the use of a meeting room that holds 12 or so people overlooking the north shore mountains and the international terminal wing for nothing. Best deal in town.
That is why I say, without details to accompany the charges the information Travis provided, no one can reach any sensible informed conclusions.
As the author states himself: “In a $46.3 billion budget, $49.8 million is chump change”.
The chump change, to put it roughly is 0.11% of the total budget, or $1.00 for every $931 of the total budget.
When will the author hunt for more lucrative targets? Perhaps he does not know where to look.
The BC auditor general’s office likely has a better idea.
The premier herself racked up nearly half a million dollars ($475,000) on her taxpayer funded credit card, at least the rest of the public service is not spending money like drunken sailors on fancy restaurants and hotels.
That is one half of one percent. She is wining and dining some fairly high profile national and international guests.
I can just hear her say to the Chinese Minster of Trade and his assistant and interpreter: “Hey, I know this little hole in the wall Chinese restaurant. They have a great buffet for only $11.95 on Tuesdays. You’ll love it. It is guaranteed to remind you of Beijing! It’s my treat.”
“Public Service Agency charged $33,836 at Psychometrics Canada, which provides ‘psychometric tests and personality assessments for developing the best people for every job.'”
I love that one …… They should do that in the USA presidential election to screen the nominees. Trump would never pass!!!
The latest is that he is preparing for a loss by suggesting the election is going to be rigged. He knows he is perfect, so how can he lose he says to himself. He is setting the scenario for a defeat which will blame everyone else.
Hillary would definitely get her psychotic results fixed. Scary women.
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