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Civil servant in hot water over SAGE entry

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A civil servant's submission to the SAGE Commission which won him more than $12,000 has landed him in hot water with some of his colleagues and sparked controversy about the process surrounding the competition.

Magnus Henagulph's submission was praised by SAGE Commission chairman Brian Duperreault as “a comprehensive, itemised outline, that included savings suggestions and cross-Ministry cost reductions”.

However, shortly after the cheques were handed out at a press conference called to announce the five winners, SAGE had removed all of their submissions from the website. An edited version is now back on the SAGE Commission website.

SAGE explained in a blog posting on The Royal Gazette website that concern from one of the winners, and senior civil servants, that some of the submissions contained “factual errors and possible breaches of confidential information” had led them to take the submissions down.

The Public Affairs Officer is understood to have asked SAGE to remove his submission so he could do some editing, and a decision was then made to take them all down.

The SAGE Commission said yesterday that they had relied on those making submissions to check their own papers for errors, or possible breaches of confidentiality.

“The members of the SAGE Commission and Committee Chairs considered the submissions in the Awards Programme for the best ideas for creating a more modern, accountable and cost efficient government for Bermuda,” the Commission said in a statement.

“With several hundred submissions, they relied on the submitters to fact-check their submissions. They judged each submission for ideas relating to cost reduction and improvements in efficiencies.

“The Commission wanted both members of the public and private sector participate and in fact during meetings with Permanent Secretaries, the Commissioners were urged to include Government employees in the Awards Programme.

“Each award winner signed a release form that gave the Commission permission to publish his or her submission.”

Mr Henagulph's submission was voted best overall from the 24 shortlisted. Four other submissions were declared winners.

The civil servant pulled no punches in his 20-page submission, saying staff should be cut in his own department and claiming that sick days were being abused, Ministers and senior civil servants were using taxpayers' money for non-business-related expenses, that senior civil servants attended international conferences with little benefit to Bermuda; and questioning why Government spent thousands of dollars celebrating irrelevant days, such as Intellectual Property Day, that few people cared about.

He also recommended the size of cabinet to be cut to ten — losing the Minister Without Portfolio title and that of Minister for Tourism, his internal client, and further suggested that the Sustainable Development Department should be closed altogether as: “Salaries and rent cost more than half a million dollars a year and [there is] nothing to show for it.”

Those and other claims drew the ire of some of his colleagues.

Kevin Grant, president of the Bermuda Public Services Union said the competition amounted to a “business essay assignment”.

“Regardless of the fact that he is privy to a lot of information that others are not -It was really like a business essay assignment centred around spending and efficiency where the contestants were given the latitude to say anything they wanted to,” Mr Grant said in an e-mail.

“The essays certainly should not turn into recommendations. The overall winner has revealed to everyone how he personally feels about the situation. However he is the one who will have to be prepared for the consequences of his comments. He is still a civil servant (to my knowledge). Will the relationship with his colleagues be the same? Would he be willing to be the casualty of combined departments or privatisation?”

Insiders say that Mr Henagulph would answer affirmatively to that last question. He sincerely sees his own department — which provides communication services to Ministries and Government departments, including media relations — as overstaffed given the amount of work they are asked to do.

Other cuts made in Mr Henagulph's edited submission include a passage where he said that one Government lease was “questionable”, because the building was owned by a former PLP MP.

Also gone is the statement implying that Ministers and senior civil servants charge business lunches locally on Government issued credit cards.

The policy of the Accountant General is not to pay out on local charges on credit cards, although Ministers and civil servants can seek refunds on expenses paid for locally.

By press time last night all five submissions — including Mr Henagulph's final cut — had been placed back on the website.

“We regret that this sequence of events has created some confusion and taken away from the attention that should be given to all five winning submissions,” the Commission noted.

“They represent a broad cross-section of our community and we appreciate their participation, as well as that of hundreds of others, in helping to create a more efficient Government for Bermuda.”

SAGE Commission chairman Brian Duperreault
Magnus Henagulph
Burt: Henagulph was wrong on my firm, but 'spot on' about the rest

Shadow Finance Minister David Burt has denied claims that his company is a drain on public resources and insists that his staff provide value for money.

Mr Burt spoke out on the social media website Facebook after his business — GMD Consulting Ltd — appeared on a hit-list of culprits charged with wasting taxpayer funds compiled by civil servant Magnus Henagulph.

In his winning 20-page report to the SAGE Commission outlining how Government could save funds, Mr Henagulph allegedly pointed out that GMD had four Government contracts.

But Mr Burt dismissed that claim, arguing that his company held only one Government contract — with the Transport Control Department.

“So I wake up this morning to find out that GMD Consulting Limited (a company of which I am majority shareholder) is under attack from a civil servant,” Mr Burt wrote on his home page.

“Mr. Magnus Henagulph in his winning SAGE Commission submission claims that GMD Consulting holds 4 contracts with the Transport Control Department. It will be said here first, that he is WRONG, GMD Consulting holds ONE contract with TCD and there are ... OTHER companies that hold the other 3 he mentions (one of which the current minister of finance until recently was the majority shareholder and has been on contract at TCD since before GMD Consulting was founded).

“But sure, pick on the local IT firm which has been around since 2005, only hired Bermudians (2 directly out of school), supported and trained 3 Bermudians to get their project management certifications, and delivered many IT projects on time and under budget. Pick on the firm that was the project manager for the award winning eTCD website that still gets compliments on the time it saves people.

“This won't end at Facebook. Feel free to attack David Burt, but not my staff who have done great work for the people of Bermuda at far less expense that the big IT firms on this Island.”

Mr Burt also took offence at the fact that his company was identified in the publicly available document, commenting: “Interesting also that while he [Mr Henagulph] mentions many private companies in his submission, mine is the only company mentioned by name.”

But the Shadow Minister commended Mr Henagulph on other points raised in his report, saying that much of it was “spot on”.

“He should be commended overall,” Mr Burt wrote.

“In some parts, as has been referenced by others already, he went way overboard. I don't think he ever thought his submission would be published, and had he thought so, he likely would not have been so frank, which would have been a disservice to the country and the exercise. People should be free to speak without fear of retribution as we all can add to the betterment of our Bermuda.

“We as a country are still suffering from the hangover of the economic crisis and I believe that everyone can add to the solution.”

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Published September 07, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 06, 2013 at 11:44 pm)

Civil servant in hot water over SAGE entry

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