Finance plans to publish civil service numbers

  • Facts are important: Patricia Gordon Pamplin. (File photo by Akil Simmons)

    Facts are important: Patricia Gordon Pamplin. (File photo by Akil Simmons)

The Minister of Finance is planning to introduce Civil Service payroll numbers to Budget Books so as to provide greater clarity on the size of the public sector.

Curtis Dickinson admitted that an understanding of the figures used in recent years needed “a lot more commentary” than might be expected.

He responded to remarks from Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the shadow finance minister, who said in her Reply to the Budget 2020-21 that criticism over the size of the Civil Service was based on numbers for actual full-time equivalents in the Government’s Budget Books.

Mr Dickinson told the House of Assembly in the early hours of last Saturday that he studied the numbers around page A12 in the previous six or seven Budget Books and “even created some pretty-looking charts”.

He explained: “It’s difficult. What appears to be simple requires a lot more commentary than you would necessarily believe needs to be the case.

“So in my own efforts to make Government more accessible and more transparent, I realised that I had the ability to change what appears in these books, and so I’m going to change it.

“I’m going to leave the stuff that’s there already, I’m just going to add to it because I’m concerned that any changes that I make will be misinterpreted as me trying to cover up the numbers.”

Mr Dickinson said: “What we are going to add to them is the payroll numbers because what will be observed over the course of the last four years that I have the data, is that the payroll numbers have barely changed.”

He explained that the average figure for each of the fiscal years from 2016-17 to 2019-20 was 4,610, 4,529, 4,592 and 4,577 respectively.

Mr Dickinson said: “The reason why the payroll numbers are important is because it reflects the number of people who actually collect paycheques and you have to be employed in the normal circumstances to collect the paycheque.”

Ms Gordon-Pamplin, of the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance, said in her Budget Reply that the Government had denied any “expansion of the Civil Service”, after the Progressive Labour Party swept to power in July 2017.

She said: “They allege that comments to the contrary are nothing but frivolous falsehood.

“The numbers that are the subject of this criticism have been taken from the Government’s own Budget Books reflecting actual full-time equivalents.”

Her Budget reply said that according to the documents, the figures for the years 2014-15 to 2018-19 were 5,181, 4,899, 4,707, 4,764 and 4,806 respectively.

It added that the revised estimate for 2019-20, which ends on March 31, was 4,942 and the estimated figure for 2020-21 was 5,076.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin said: “As the finance minister has indicated, facts are important and the numbers speak for themselves. The recent legislation allowing for the appointment of political advisers and consultants has been utilised extensively, and these numbers, although a cost to the public purse both in terms of remuneration and benefits, are not included in the FTE numbers.”

However, David Burt, the Premier, told the House: “As was stated in the Budget Statement, in December 2016 there were 4,470 people on the government payroll.”

Mr Burt added: “The most accurate figure which deals with the amount of persons that are working for the Government are the amounts of people that are paid, that is the most accurate figure and that figure, in three years, declined by 24.

“So between 2016 and 2019, at the end of the year, that figure was 24 less.”

The Premier added: “There are a grand total of six advisers, the same that were in place when the Bill was put into place, so this whole issue of ‘extensively’ is a complete nonsense.

“But here’s the thing, you know that 4,470 number and that 4,446 number? It includes them, too, because I asked the department.”

Mr Burt explained that he was told a miscellaneous category included workers not attached to collective bargaining agreements, such as summer students, seasonal employees and “political appointments” among others.

Jamahl Simmons, the Minister without Portfolio, said earlier that “the analysis that best reflects” staff levels was the number of people paid to work for the Government.

He added: “The number that they cite for 2020-21, 5,076, represents all established posts funded and partially funded. It is the total number that a ministry would like to hire, with no guarantee they will be hired.

“It’s a difference between what we do and what we would like to do.”

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Published Mar 2, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Mar 2, 2020 at 8:01 am)

Finance plans to publish civil service numbers

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