Letters to the Editor

Hard to make case for BHB over secret salaries

  • Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez

Dear Sir,

The Bermuda Hospitals Board, one of Bermuda’s largest employers, is a publicly funded quango that will receive $146 million this year in taxpayer funds.

I looked up the definition of “Quango”, which Wikipedia defines as follows:

“Quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation”

It is typically an organisation to which a government has devolved power, but which is still partly controlled and/or financed by government bodies.

Quangos are filled with appointed members, which means, unlike governmental bodies, members of quangos do not need to seek re-election.

While members of quangos have not been legitimised by the electorate, they still have governmental power and influence, but do not have the same level of accountability as elected officials.

As a taxpayer, I have an ongoing interest in how my tax dollars are spent, and I was surprised when I read recently that the BHB has begun legal action to keep the six-figure salaries of its top executives a secret.

The BHB said “disclosure might cause prejudice against the officials in a “micro-community” such as Bermuda, and claimed it put the executives in a prejudicial position, as no other senior executives on the island were required to have their total compensation packages disclosed.

Our Information Commissioner, Gitanjali Gutierrez, has responded: “It is unclear how BHB salary executives would have more challenges with public accountability for their salary ranges than any other senior executive in the public sector, whose salary range or salary is published in a proactive manner for the public, or is otherwise disclosed in response to a Pati request.”

It is hard to argue with that and you may remember that the Bermuda Tourism Authority quango — after some resistance — released its top executive salaries in 2018, with bands of $10,000.

The members of the BHB are accountable to the public for the management of Bermuda’s only hospital facility, and that in itself is a monumental responsibility.

We know that the governance and management of the BHB by this executive team has a direct impact on how our taxpayer funds received by BHB are spent.

So how is it that:

1, We pay them

2, We don’t get to know how much

3, We will all pay their legal costs for their mission to keep their salaries hidden

This is hardly an example of transparency and good governance. Quite the opposite, in fact.

When a publicly funded body deliberately tries to hide its financial information, something is wrong in Denmark.