BTA to release more information on top earners

  • Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez

    Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez

The Bermuda Tourism Authority has been ordered to release more information about the salaries of its top-earning executives.

The quango has until February 22 to disclose staff salary bands in increments of no more than $10,000, as well as the names of employees who receive discretionary financial benefits — and the amounts involved.

The disclosure order was made by Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez and is the first of its kind since the Public Access to Information Act came into force in 2015.

Karla Lacey, BTA’s chief operations officer, said yesterday: “The BTA is a leader among its peers in the area of transparency, releasing compensation information before it was legislatively mandated and we are happy to comply with this request.”

Ms Gutierrez’s decision was made after TV’s ZBM News submitted a Pati request for salary and bonus information to the publicly funded quango in July 2015, which was denied.

Bill Hanbury, the authority’s chief executive at the time, earlier revealed — before Pati was in force — that he earned $295,000 a year, plus a $75,000 annual housing allowance.

He also disclosed that the BTA’s senior executive team of Pat Phillip-Fairn, Ms Lacey, Victoria Isley and Roland Andy Burrows received annual salaries of between $175,000 and $275,000.

Ms Gutierrez said in her decision that the BTA did not have to provide the exact salaries of individuals, as this would be an “unjustified intrusion into the personal information of employees”.

She added the salary bands disclosed earlier were “too wide” and needed to be narrower to allow the public to “get a true picture of the effectiveness of its public spending”.

Ms Gutierrez ruled that the tourism authority had to reveal the names of employees who receive “discretionary financial benefits” and the amounts of the benefits.

She also ordered the release of “actual maximum incentive percentages for chiefs in bands of a maximum of 5 per cent and actual performance incentive payments for chiefs in bands of a maximum of $10,000”.

The tourism authority highlighted several exemptions in the Pati Act to avoid detailed disclosure, but the legislation says records should be released if it is in the public interest to do so.

The commissioner said in considering the public interest test, she weighed “the substantial privacy interest of individuals who are BTA employees” against the “strong interests in accountability and transparency for public expenditures and the need for better understanding of BTA’s compensation process”.

The Pati Act requires the title and salary range of every public official, those employed directly by the Government of Bermuda, to be published in January each year.

Employees of quangos do not fall inside the legal definition of public official and the BTA is one of the few quangos to have made salary information public on its employees.

Ms Gutierrez’s decision suggests other quangos will now be unable to withhold salary information about their employees.

She praised the “extensive public disclosures BTA has already made to facilitate accountability and transparency in its public expenditure”.

The commissioner said: “BTA’s openness is commendable and goes far to satisfy these public interests.”

Ms Lacey said: “The Bermuda Tourism Authority acknowledges the Information Commissioner’s ruling.

“We are satisfied on the basis that it upheld our position that the 2015 Pati request would have resulted in an ‘unjustified intrusion into the personal information of employees at BTA’.

“And since the information being sought by the submitter had already been made public, the request required no further action on the part of the BTA.

“However, the Information Commissioner has asked the BTA to refine the previously released information and present it in a different way.

“This task is under way and when completed the information will be placed on our website.”

Ms Lacey said the BTA appreciated the feedback from Ms Gutierrez about its openness and its “ongoing co-operation, understanding and engagement” during one of the first reviews conducted by the Information Commissioner’s office.

The Bermuda Hospitals Board has revealed the $444,230 salary of its chief executive officer, but has given only a salary band of $142,300 to $470,000 a year for its other executives.

The hospitals board denied a Pati request from The Royal Gazette for more detailed records and that case is also under review by Ms Gutierrez.

For the Information Commissioner’s full decision and the BTA’s Pati decision, click on the PDF links under “Related Media”

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Published Feb 2, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 2, 2018 at 8:01 am)

BTA to release more information on top earners

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