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Premier hammered over ‘PR disasters and cronyism’

Premier Craig Cannonier was accused of failing to provide value for money during yesterday's debate on the Cabinet Office budget.

In an often heated six-hour debate, Opposition leader Marc Bean also claimed that the Premier's office had lost the confidence of the voters and potential investors by failing to demonstrate transparency and accountability.

Mr Bean pointed out that Government had spent just $80,000 to set up Public Access To Information (PATI) regulations, while staffing levels tasked with examining and drafting the legislation have been reduced from three to one this year.

And he noted that there were no performance measures in this year's budget for PATI.

Mr Bean said that, when in Opposition, the OBA had pushed for PATI laws to be introduced, but that those calls had “fallen off the radar” since the party became Government.

“What is the intention of this Government with regard to PATI?” Mr Bean asked.

“The previous campaign that ran on for years — was that all a farce? Was it meat to deceive the populace of this country? Was it an electoral ploy, because PATI is a key component in delivering good governance, transparency and accountability. Yet a 76 percent reduction in spending this previous year to me is evidence of a One Bermuda Alliance indictment that their record speaks to. In other words it's said but it's not really serious. There's no real desire to bring Public Access to Information once the One Bermuda Alliance assumed governance. To be honest I can understand why.”

Mr Bean then rattled off a list of controversial Government decisions including the abandoning of a gaming referendum, which he claimed had been made without transparency and had reduced Government to “a circus”.

Mr Bean also took a swipe at members of the Premier's “overpaid” personal staff — his Chief of Staff, press secretary and his political advisor.

“Here are three people who have a combined $350,000. This is taxpayers' money that's going to a political advisor. Mr Premier are you looking to get rid of one of your overpaid consultants, because quite frankly — and this is no slight on anyone in particular but the public will agree — the PR coming out of the Cabinet Office has been a disaster — you've actually made our job easy, very easy.”

Mr Bean welcomed a Government decision to expand operations out of the Washington office, but noted that the OBA had previously criticised the need for the facility when in Opposition.

And he also questioned why newly appointed Washington director Cheryl Packwood was on a reported salary of around $211,000 and how the office was expected to represent Bermuda in other regions such as South America and Asia, when staffing levels had not increased.

“How is it that Ms Packwood is getting paid $211,000 to sit in Washington DC and she has half the workload of London,” said Mr Bean. “How could you justify giving Ms Packwood a salary that exceeds yourself Mr Premier?

“If this was the PLP do you know what the cry would be? ‘Friends and family — cronyism'.”

One-woman band: Cheryl Packwood (second from right) is reportedly being paid $211,000 to represent Bermuda's interests in Washington DC. She is pictured here in New York alongside (from left to right) Bermuda Government Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Derrick Binns, Premier of Bermuda, the Hon. L. Craig Cannonier, JP, MP, USA and Deputy Consul General New York Ms Fiona Macleod, and Martin Cook, Director, Trade & Investment USA & Deputy Consul-General

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Published March 04, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated March 03, 2014 at 10:22 pm)

Premier hammered over ‘PR disasters and cronyism’

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