A tale of two ministers
When announcing the recent Cabinet changes, David Burt lauded having consolidated ministries from 11 to ten. The Premier made no mention that with his second shuffle in 16 months, the size of Cabinet has actually grown.
With the growth of Cabinet, there are now two ministers, one titled a “Minister without Portfolio” and another a “Minister in the Cabinet Office”, both make $150,000 per year and have little or no specific responsibility that could not be taken by another minister.
The Premier has provided little justification for a Minister Without Portfolio and a Minister within the Cabinet Office to support a premier who now does not have the finance portfolio.
However, Mr Burt, as Acting Opposition leader, stated in May 2016 that “Bermudians want leadership that is accountable and transparent, follows the rules and puts the interests of Bermudians first”.
My, how things have changed when the shoe is in the other foot.
Both of these ministers have been moved from important ministries and one can assume it is not because they were doing a good job.
If the Premier wishes to practise what he preaches, a lot more accountability and transparency are owed to the Bermudians whom he alleges to put first. Why were two ministers moved from a substantive ministry to costly window dressing?
Why did the Premier believe it appropriate to create these two ministerial positions?
What will they do to provide a return on the taxpayer expense at a time when many Bermudians are struggling to find employment at a livable wage?
Is it because ministers take a lot of time off or that there is a lot of sick leave under the Progressive Labour Party that needs to be covered?
Many concerned Bermudians have asked these and other questions.
One asked if it was because the Premier wants to reward their loyalty at taxpayer expense. Another asked if it could be because the workload is so strenuous and other ministers cannot cope, so they need help.
And another remarked that the former Minister of Tourism and Economic Development could not be removed from Cabinet, as a certain talk show, the one constantly supporting the PLP, would then turn to being a vocal critic of the Premier.
I wonder how the back bench feels. Many have supported the Premier while being paid one third of the salary paid to a minister and also serving on parliamentary committees without compensation. The Premier has often in the past used the two words “transparency” and “accountability”, but in reality he has failed to practise what he has preached.
I can provide numerous examples such as the taxpayer-backed $1.2 million payout to a former premier with little public explanation or answering relevant questions asked from many concerned people.
Sadly, the trend now appears standard practice.
Whatever reasons the Premier may have for these two ministerial appointments, until he practises the transparency and accountability he often talked about while in Opposition, these two ministers appear to have received an early Christmas present paid for by beleaguered taxpayers.
• Michael Dunkley is the former Premier of Bermuda, an Opposition back bencher and the MP for Smith's North (Constituency 10)