Duperreault: ‘Broad-based consultation’ will help Bermuda succeed
The head of a new task force set up to cut waste and overspending from the public purse believes Bermuda’s current debt is “untenable” and is crippling Government’s ability to run the country.
But Spending And Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission Chairman Brian Duperreault argued that, with broad-based consultation and feedback, the commission will be able to rein in Government spending and create “a more modern, efficient and accountable government” — and therefore help bring the deficit down.
Mr Duperreault spoke to
The Royal Gazette after SAGE formally came into being with the signing of the SAGE Commission Act 2013.
Applauding the initiative, which was a pledge in the OBA’s election platform, Mr Duperreault said: “It’s the right thing to do, given the state of the country’s finances. We have an unsustainable debt and something needs to be done, not only to reduce the debt but also to find ways to restore Bermuda’s financial health. It’s imperative that we come to grips with the unsustainable debt that is crippling our ability to run this Country.
“Finance Minister Bob Richards says the overall deficit this year is expected to be $331 million. This is an untenable situation for Bermuda to be in.
“At the same time, we have to make sure that the social needs of the community are met. Taking a close look at how our government delivers service to the community, and whether that delivery is done as efficiently and as effectively as possible, is a good place to start.
Mr Duperreault said the commission — which has been given six months to dig out inefficiencies — will now move quickly to finalise its structure and initiate discussions with Government ministries, members of the Civil Service, the unions and the general public.
The former ACE CEO brings a wealth of experience to his new challenge, but believes that his five-man team will also provide a fresh perspective in examining how Government spends taxpayer dollars.
Referring to his time at Marsh and McLennan, Mr Duperreault said: “I learned the company was fundamentally fine. But expenses were too high and morale was low. Once we started addressing those two issues, the company started to turn around.”
Mr Duperreault also recalled his experiences at ACE after the company had acquired CIGNA’s Property Casualty division and went from being an organisation with 400 employees in three countries to one with 11,000 employees in more than 50 countries.
“There were areas of the organisation that were productive and there were areas that weren’t,” he said.
“Some hard decisions had to be made about the best way to develop and grow the company. But once you’ve identified what needs to be done, you make those decisions for the greater good.”
Mr Duperreault is confident that the Island will emerge from its economic slump, but said a new openness and honesty was needed.
“These challenges represent great opportunities. I believe we can restore Bermuda’s competitiveness and take care of the needs of our community if we engage in open and honest dialogue with each other,” he said.
“When our shores are battered by a hurricane, we don’t think twice about looking out for each other. That’s exactly the situation facing us now. We’re being battered by a financial hurricane. Now is the time to come together so that we emerge from this battering prepared for a future that benefits Bermuda for generations to come.
“We used to hold a place of pre-eminence in international business and tourism. I’m confident we will again if we get on top of the financial and social challenges that have put a drag on our growth.”
SAGE members are donating their expertise free-of-charge and the commission is hoping that support services will also be “donated” in order to keep costs down.
“But we know there are some things, like clerical and administrative support, that we’re going to have to pay for,” Mr Duperreault said. “Government has set aside some funding for the commission’s work but we’re also going to approach local and international companies and ask them to contribute. I think we’ll get a good response. Everyone wants to see Bermuda get back on her feet.”
The commission will be operating very much in the sunshine of public scrutiny. A website and postal address will invite suggestions and feedback from the public, open meetings will be held, and individuals and groups will be able to speak to members of the commission in closed-door hearings.
“We feel broad-based consultation is key to the commission’s success — we’re not worried about being swamped with ideas,” Mr Duperreault said.
“Our goal is that by the end of the month, we will launch our website and our schedule for the next six months with a view to making our final recommendations to Finance Minister Richards by October. “
Government has stated that those recommendations will be made available to the public.
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