Politics

PLP figures named as consultants

  • David Burt, the Premier (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A list of consultants and advisers to the Bermuda Government must be explained, the Opposition leader said.

Craig Cannonier said the six-strong list revealed by David Burt yesterday “is going to cause more questions”.

He was speaking after the Premier said Sherri Simmons, the radio talk show host and wife of Jamahl Simmons, the Minister without Portfolio, has been a consultant to Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Minister of Legal Affairs, since October last year.

Cheryl-Ann Mapp, who was appointed chairwoman of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission in 2017, also worked as a consultant for Walter Roban, then transport and regulatory affairs minister, for a large part of last year.

Ms Mapp worked for the minister from January 22 to July 20 and again from August 20 to September 14 with an extension to October 31.

Mr Cannonier said: “What it looks like is that this is a friends and family thing.

“In order to dispel that, you need to give the qualifications as to why someone would be in Legal Affairs that’s in advertising.

“You need to dispel the myths of friends and family by qualifying these people as to why they are in this position.”

The Premier also listed Davida Morris, a former Progressive Labour Party senator, as an adviser to Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, since January.

Alexa Lightbourne, the PLP’s public relations officer, was appointed an adviser to the Minister of Transport and Regulatory Affairs, and the Minister of Home Affairs, last May.

Corey Butterfield was made an adviser to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, and the Minister Without Portfolio, in September 2017.

Mr Butterfield earlier worked as a special adviser and policy analyst for the Minister of Tourism under the former One Bermuda Alliance government.

Trina Bean, who is also linked to the PLP, was made a consultant to David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, since September last year.

Mr Burt revealed the list after parliamentary questions from Michael Dunkley, an OBA backbencher.

The Premier told MPs that the consultants were on the PS36 pay grade, which is $116,317 a year.

He said: “There is no one higher than PS 36 for ministerial consultants that are advising ministers in a personal capacity.”

He added: “For others that are in the possession of specific expert advice, those ones are graded differently.”

Information supplied later by a government spokeswoman showed that Ms Bean and Ms Morris were paid $63.57 an hour, and Ms Lightbourne earned $58.68 an hour.

She said all three were in full-time posts and required to work 35 hours a week but that health insurance, payroll tax and social insurance expenses were met by the individuals.

The spokeswoman added: “In every case the hours worked far exceeds this minimum 35 hours’ requirement.”

She said Mr Butterfield’s hourly rate was $58.68 and Ms Simmons was paid $57.48 an hour, with each of them being in part-time posts and remunerated for work completed upon request.

Ms Mapp’s appointment was not political, the spokeswoman explained, but “based on her legal and regulatory compliance expertise”.

Mr Cannonier said the original list provided by the Premier lacked detail. He said: “We don’t have a breakdown of the actual expertise they are bringing to the table. That should be in there.”

Mr Cannonier also highlighted that the answers to Mr Dunkley’s questions were due to be given in the House of Assembly last Friday.

He said: “What it appears is they were deferred in order for the Premier to give a statement.”

Mr Cannonier said that he found it “interesting” that Mr Burt had discussed the advisers and consultants, some of whom were hired almost two years ago, only after he was questioned in Parliament.

Mr Dunkley added that he was “very sceptical” about whether the people hired were qualified for the posts.

However, he said: “Before giving a final answer it would be appropriate to see a job description and contract.”

Mr Burt told MPs in his ministerial statement that the “increased demands of modern governance and public administration have taxed the traditional ministry headquarters within Bermuda’s public service”.

He said: “In Bermuda, permanent secretaries combine their principal role of lead policy advisor to the ministers with office management, accounting and budgetary responsibility, speech writing, the drafting of Cabinet memoranda and briefs, managing union relationships, Pati oversight and many day-to-day task associated with ministers’ needs.”

Mr Burt added that the Sage Commission on government efficiency had recommended that ministerial private offices should be created to help ease the workload of permanent secretaries.

He said: “After almost two years in government, I think I can speak for all ministers in saying that permanent secretaries are increasingly busy and challenged to meet the demands of the post without the support required.

“Therefore, I have indicated my full support of the Sage Commission’s recommendation on private ministerial offices and have encouraged ministers who field a significant number of requests from the public to start the process of building this capacity within ministries by hiring an adviser as permitted by the ministerial code of conduct.”

He added that he had told the policy and strategy section of the Cabinet Office to conduct a review and give advice on the creation of a standardised scale for compensation for consultants.

Mr Burt said: “The pursuit of political goals has made the term ‘consultant’ a bad word in many cases.

“Providing a legislative underpinning and a more transparent system of grading and compensation for consultant work, both political and expert, will go a long way towards changing that perception and more importantly promoting greater efficiency.”