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BHB: We will reveal executive salaries

Subject of speculation: the amount paid to the team that runs the island’s only hospital (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Bermuda Hospitals Board has pledged to release full details on the salaries and benefits enjoyed by its executive officers this month.

The publicly funded quango rejected a public access to information request for the records from The Royal Gazette this year because it said it had to release them anyway within three months, under separate legislation.

The three-month period cited by the board in its refusal letter ended on April 26, but the information still was not made public. This newspaper has appealed the refusal to disclose to the independent Information Commissioner, as is the right of requesters under the Pati Act 2010.

Asked to comment this week, a BHB spokeswoman said: “To ask BHB to respond through the media at this time circumvents the process set out in the Pati Act.

“This is the subject of an active inquiry by the information commissioner and this inquiry is not complete. BHB wishes to respect the process that is legislated and will therefore not comment at this time, other than to state it will be making salary data public later this month as planned.”

The amount paid to the executive team that runs the island’s only hospital has long been the subject of speculation, including in the House of Assembly, but the board has resisted revealing the information, arguing in the past that it was confidential.

The One Bermuda Alliance pledged while in Opposition that it would be made public and Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, when health minister in December 2013, told MPs the information would be included in future BHB annual reports — but no reports have been issued since.

The late Louise Jackson claimed in Parliament in 2011, when she was shadow health minister, that David Hill, then the BHB’s chief executive officer, earned $800,000 a year and then chief of staff Donald Thomas earned $700,000.

Mrs Jackson insisted the salaries, bonuses and other perks should be made public, but Zane DeSilva, health minister at the time, said quangos were under no obligation to make such information available.

The Bermuda Hospitals Board Act 1970, in section 20(2)(b), requires the BHB to deliver an annual report to the health minister, which includes the “scales of salaries and wages paid to officers and servants of the board”.

It was this section of the Act that the BHB’s information officer cited in her refusal to release the information to The Royal Gazette under Pati.

She wrote: “Please be advised that pursuant to section 16(1)(d) of the Public Access to Information Act ... the Bermuda Hospitals Board is refusing to grant your request on administrative grounds, namely that the salary information that is required by law, pursuant to section 20(2)(b) of the Bermuda Hospitals Board Act 1970, will be made public within the next three months.”

The BHB has not released an annual report since September 2012. Its website features reports for the years 2004 to 2011, but none give details of the individual salaries and bonuses funded by taxpayers.

The board spokeswoman said: “We are working on the 2011-12 annual report right now and this should be published shortly. As soon as we have audited financial statements for 2013, 2014 and 2015, they will go into production. They will all include salary data for the relevant years.”

She added: “We have checked BHB annual reports back to 1976 and salary data has never been included. This indicates that the historical interpretation of the Act had been not to print the ranges publicly. The same practice was followed by other Bermuda quangos, until recently.”

This newspaper asked the BHB to share salary information on its chief of staff’s salary in July 2012, but a spokeswoman told us: “BHB salaries are not public information.”

To view our Pati request, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”