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Cabinet office denies Santucci was hired

Cabinet Office yesterday appeared to overturn a Transport Ministry decision to appoint former Progressive Labour Party Chairman Anthony Santucci as a consultant.

On Thursday evening, Transport Minister Terry Lister had told Bernews Mr Santucci, fired as Grotto Bay food and beverage director in June, would be taken on for four months as an adviser over road safety legislation.

But Cabinet Secretary Donald Scott released a statement yesterday morning saying this is categorically untrue, adding that all consultants are now only appointed after being vetted by a review committee set up under Premier Paula Cox's administration.

The One Bermuda Alliance attacked Mr Lister's initial statement, saying it shows the PLP is struggling to shake off its culture of cronyism, and asking what expertise Mr Santucci would have brought to the table.

Meanwhile the United Bermuda Party said Mr Lister's move smelled of political cronyism and jobs for the boys.

Mr Scott stated: “I note that there have been reports in the media of a consultancy to the Ministry of Transport.

“One of my first acts as Cabinet Secretary was to establish an internal review committee to vet all applications to engage staff. The committee also reviews applications to hire consultants. No Ministry or Department is exempt from the process.

“The review committee vets all requests and reviews the business case with a view to ensuring that the Government obtains value for money and that there is a defensible case to warrant the recruitment of staff or the hiring and retention of a consultant.

“There is documentation associated with the process and without the necessary approvals; there is no authority for the Accountant General to make payment.

“It is categorically untrue that Mr Santucci has been engaged by the Ministry of Transport as there has not been a submission to the review committee.

“Further, with the passage of the Good Governance Act, there are now offences for non-compliance with Financial Instructions and other codes of practice in Government administration.”

Bernews had reported Mr Lister stating: “Mr Santucci is to be a consultant for a period of four months assisting with legislative changes in the area of road safety.

“As everyone in Bermuda knows, he has been chair of CADA for a number of years and surely everyone would understand that he has expertise that will be of real benefit to the Ministry.”

Asked if Mr Lister was incorrect in this statement, Mr Scott replied: “Bernews reported, 'Anthony Santucci has been employed by Government as a consultant for a period of four months.' That statement was false as Mr Santucci has not been engaged by Government.”

Acting Opposition Leader Trevor Moniz, speaking on behalf of OBA Leader John Barritt, said in a statement: “What on Earth is going on?

“We have a Transport Minister saying a former PLP chairman and hotelier has been hired as a consultant to his Ministry, and then a civil servant contradicting him, saying, in effect, 'not yet'.

“What strikes first is the deep contradiction between Mr Santucci's 'appointment', as described by Transport Minister Terry Lister, and the recent Parliamentary debate on good governance. Frankly, it beggars belief.

“Mr Terry Lister is a long-serving Minister, so we have no reason to doubt his original statement, no matter what a senior civil servant says in damage control.”

Mr Moniz said the Minister's statement “provides insight into Government practices that have long raised concern and anger across the community”.

He continued: “The hiring of Mr Santucci — can anyone deny he was in line to become a Transport consultant? — smacks of cronyism.

“We support the Government's recent move to adopt some of our long-standing calls for better governance, but the Santucci controversy indicates just how difficult it will be to change self-serving attitudes that have hurt Bermuda.

“The Santucci controversy also contradicts new themes for Ms Cox's Government, from 'resetting the dials' to 'doing more with less'.”

The Shadow Justice Minister noted the current state of the economy and asked: “Why is the Government seeking to hire a consultant for work that the Transport Control Department is surely equipped to do?

He questioned what expertise Mr Santucci would have brought and why the work could not have been done by people at TCD.

“The Premier must step forward and clear the air,” he said. “Bermuda does not need more reasons to doubt the integrity of the Government.”

UBP Transport spokesman Charlie Swan said in a statement: “Government policy pours cold water on Transport Ministry's poor example of 'It's Bermuda's turn'.

“We note with great interest Cabinet Secretary Donald Scott's press release which poured cold water on the release that Anthony Santucci had been hired as a consultant by the Ministry of Transport.

“Notwithstanding the outcome, the now premature announcement by the Transport Ministry to hire immediate past PLP chairman Anthony Santucci as a road safety consultant to advise on road safety legislation is a surprising move that clearly puts political patronage in the picture.

“We recognise Mr Santucci's efforts as a chairman of CADA and his public pronouncements on behalf of road safety and anti-drunk driving campaigns and empathise with his personal job loss in recent weeks, but we are duty bound to question this move as it has more to do with political patronage than providing good legislation.

“During this period of austerity and the need to do more with less, what is the justification for the Ministry of Transport hiring a consultant to prepare legislation for road safety?

“The Ministry already has a road safety officer on staff to handle such matters. It appears nonsense and makes a mockery of the difficult financial position Bermuda Government and our Country finds itself in today.

“What irony that the same Minister of Transport, Honourable Terry Lister, who last year blasted Premier Cox's fiscal indiscipline in the lead up to the PLP leadership election contest with his 'it's Bermuda's turn' campaign, heads up a Ministry acting fiscally irresponsible.

“This decision is in stark contrast to that theme and smells of political cronyism. Furthermore, we may wish to excuse Minister Lister and his Permanent Secretary for missing the passage of the Good Governance Act or the implementation of new Financial Instructions by the head of the Civil Service: they were after all attending the historic Space Shuttle launch. But so much for 'joined up' Government!

“The scary thing is that the old mindset that caused the need for revised Good Governance legislation in 2011 continues today. In contrast to the PLP clamour from back in the day when they challenged that jobs went to the Old Boys Association, it now appears that the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Speaking on the issue yesterday, Premier Cox reiterated that Mr Santucci has not been engaged, saying: “No matter how it is framed by a repackaged Opposition, what is undeniable is that there is a process and that the process works.

“In the matter of applications for consultancies, we have revamped the process so it is assessed objectively and on a needs basis.

“A compelling case has to be made. We made a studied effort to reduce the number of consultancies.

“The dial has been reset. The rules of engagement have been made transparent. Further, the division of responsibility between policy-setting and the implementation of policy is also clearer.

“Civil servants have charge of operating the machinery of government and it is appropriate that senior civil servants speak to the process and procedure. The Secretary to the Cabinet did that in very clear terms.

“In the matter of Mr. Santucci, the Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service set out the process that is in place for consent to engage staff in government ministries and departments.

“The same control process is in place for the hiring and retention of consultants.”

“Both actions require a compelling business case and searching scrutiny over whether the recommended resource has the required knowledge, skill and experience to deliver.

“Given the recent enhancements to the procurement process, there are added controls re disclosure to avoid conflict of interest. None are exempt from the process.”

Useful websites: www.plp.bm, www.oba.bm, www.onebda.com

Anthony Santucci

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Published August 06, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 06, 2011 at 7:41 am)

Cabinet office denies Santucci was hired

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