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Cabinet Office spending cut by almost $700,000

Government has released its budget brief outlining in detail where there was spending and saving in the Cabinet Office, the Department of Human Resources and the Office of Project Management and Procurement.

The total current expenditure for the Cabinet Office for 2015-16 is estimated at $6,296,000, which represents a decrease of $696,000 or ten per cent on the last fiscal period.

Some $4.6m is allocated to general services — almost $700,000 less than the previous year and is allocated to six cost centres within the Cabinet Office.

They include general administration or head office ($2.7m, down 10 per cent on the previous year), professional development and travel ($168k, down 16 per cent), protocol and hospitality ($450k, down 24 per cent) and Public Access to Information ($113k, down 23 per cent).

The second programme is Economic Policy and Foreign Affairs. This programme includes the London Office which has been allocated $1,032,000, down $5k, and the Washington DC Office ($648,000, up 1 per cent).

One extra staff member was taken on in the Washington Office following the formation of a director's post — the salary has not yet been determined.

Salaries are reduced by 12 per cent due to the $143,000 resulting from the discontinuation of the furlough day policy. A further $143k will be saved through the hire freeze and $180k through the transfer of an assistant Cabinet secretary to an existing post. Other salary savings included a reduction in overtime ($56k), a decrease of political staff ($228k), and the freezing of a post in the PATI unit ($144k).

As for savings through wages, the freezing of the housekeeper post at Clifton House amounted to a $68k saving among other smaller savings. Other savings came through a reduction of two political staff posts and three posts from the Central Policy Unit due to the discontinuation of an internship programme for Bermudian university undergraduates. Additional costs came through the hiring of a legal advisor in the PATI unit ($94k).

The budget brief included details on the Public Service Reform launched in the 2014-15 fiscal year as a model for the implementation of the Sage recommendations in reducing costs and making Government more cost effective.

In 2014, Government accepted and agreed to implement 16 recommendations. They included an amendment to the Ministerial Code of Conduct which is awaiting final review in the Attorney General's Chambers.

Government implemented recommendations to retain an independent body to negotiate with unions, the delivery of Government's first Public Service Handbook standardising human resources practices, and the consolidation of departments and programmes.

Bermuda has joined more than 90 countries worldwide in the implementation of some form of freedom of information legislation with Public Access to Information. The legislation provides a statutory right for the public to request information from public authorities.

While it was proposed that there would be a central PATI office charged with handling requests it has been determined that a “more efficient and meaningful” model would be to have queries handled by the organisation that holds the information rather than going through another organisation. A team will remain in place several months after the legislation is introduced on April 1 to assist them. Ms Gitanjali Gutierrez has been appointed as the country's first Information Commissioner. Reporting to the Governor, she will be in office for five years.

As for Human Resources, total expenditure was $3.8m, down 5 per cent on the previous year with major savings made through wage deductions of $71k. An increase of five per cent ($113k) was funding replaced as a result of furlough days ending. Funding for travel in this unit was down 46 per cent to $37k while $124k extra was spent on the hosting, support and licence costs for Government's first Human Resource Information Management System.

Office of Project Management and Procurement has $868k allocated — a decrease of 5 per cent on the previous year with major savings made in training and development ($11k) and repair and maintenance ($27k).

For more detail click on pdf link above under “Related Stories”.

Finance Minister Bob Richards. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 04, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated March 04, 2015 at 12:25 am)

Cabinet Office spending cut by almost $700,000

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