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.