Richards: Top civil servants to be accountable for their budgets
Senior members of the Civil Service will be accountable for the 2014 budget’s constraints, said Minister of Finance Bob Richards, speaking to a large audience at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual post-budget breakfast yesterday.
In his speech to Chamber members, Mr Richards had pointed to a two-track strategy to move the country forward: encourage growth and control and cut Government expenses. “We have to do both at the same time,” he said.
Economist Peter Everson, a former CEO of an international investment manager, who was sitting on the panel with the Finance Minister, had stated Government and the private sectors were “chalk and cheese”.
He pointed to poor policy decisions and ineffective implementation within Government. The result is: “A woeful outcome.”
“It’s quite simple — the private sector stands on its own two feet,” he said.
Mr Richards told the audience: “There is nothing intrinsically superior between decision makers in the public and private sectors,” and said his own experience was 40 years of working in the private sector.
“It has to do with carrot and stick — in the private sector there are rewards for good performance — and the stick, if you don’t perform, there are consequences. The carrot and stick really doesn’t exist in Government.”
He said: “The whole effect of it relates to accountability, particularly for senior people.”
Mr Richards returned to the subject of senior civil service accountability at the end of the morning’s event.
He said: “The whole question of accountability in Government appears to be something new.” He told the audience he has concluded that the culture in Government — with senior people in particular — is that they don’t feel accountable for the budget numbers.
“In other countries, accounting officers will suffer some sort of consequences. It has never happened in Bermuda, so this is a change of culture we are trying to institute where senior managers have to be held accountable for these numbers.
“I’ve tried to focus Government on the budget and budget restrictions, [but] we have not been able to change the corporate culture in Government overnight.
“We are working hard so that each individual Ministry respects those budgetary restrictions. I recognise it is problem, but we are working through the Civil Service — and the Ministry of Finance is being pig-headed,” he said.
“The status quo is not an option — we have to change. We don’t expect things to get better on their own — we have to make it change.
“The Government cannot do it alone, we have to do it together. We have to work together to make the Bermuda economy grow to make jobs.
“We have to have oars pulling in the same direction,” he said.
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