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Cost of Cabinet rises by 20%

Counting the cost: David Burt, the Premier, with his Cabinet at the swearing-in ceremony (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

A Cabinet shake-up will increase the ministerial salary bill by nearly 20 per cent.

The new total is $1,338,964, an increase of $221,851 on the $1,117,113 bill before last week’s Cabinet reshuffle.

It is also a significant spike compared with the last One Bermuda Alliance administration, which paid about $950,000 to its 12-strong Cabinet in addition to their MP or senator salaries.

David Burt, the Premier, said yesterday that efforts to “streamline” the Government had moved forward with a reduction in the number of ministries from 11 to ten.

But the new Cabinet now has 12 members.

Mr Burt said the changes would bring “greater efficiency and an alignment of responsibilities that reflects necessary priorities”.

He added: “Our aim, in the long term, is to continue to streamline the size of government.

“We can deliver services more efficiently and a reduction in the number of ministries is a step in that direction.”

The new Cabinet is made up of Mr Burt, ten ministers and Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, who is a senator and the Minister of Legal Affairs.

Two of its members were sworn in by John Rankin, the Governor, last week after the new group was unveiled.

These included Curtis Dickinson, who won a by-election in Warwick North East only five months ago and became finance minister, a role held by the Premier since the Progressive Labour Party swept to power last year.

The change means Mr Burt will still be paid $151,262 on top of his MP’s salary and Mr Dickinson will get an extra $121,010.

Mr Dickinson’s additional pay is greater than the $100,841 paid to most other ministers.

Zane DeSilva was also sworn in for his return to Cabinet as the Minister of Tourism and Transport.

The tourism portion of his portfolio came from the responsibilities held by Jamahl Simmons, who has moved to a new role as Minister without Portfolio.

Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, previously counted transport among his duties but now has the home affairs ministry, which has incorporated the Department of Energy.

His ministerial salary is $112,942 and the Attorney-General receives $147,022, in addition to her pay as a member of the Senate.

Michael Weeks, who was Minister for Social Development and Sport, returned to the back benches because his ministry was abolished.

The salaries for the dozen Cabinet members, including their salaries as members of the House of Assembly and Senate, amount to $1,985,584.

The Royal Gazette calculated the figures using information contained in the Government’s budget estimate book.

A government spokeswoman confirmed yesterday all ministers were full-time.

Mr Burt said the spending and government efficiency commission, set up in 2013 by the former OBA administration, had recommended only eight ministries.

He added: “That report recognised that even their recommendations of streamlining offered ‘long-term solutions to duplication, impractical and/or unnecessary programmes’ and not necessarily immediate financial savings.

“As for the increase in the number of ministers, Bermuda will be well served by a new Minister of Finance who has extensive experience in banking and who will continue the focus on debt reduction and the management of public finances.”

Mr Burt added: “In this era of such diverse communication platforms and the importance of effectively consulting and communicating with the public, the Minister without Portfolio will add a necessary Cabinet-level focus on this critical aspect of governance.”

Mr Burt explained last week that Wayne Furbert, the junior finance minister, would remain in the role “to assist in the transition of the new minister and through the upcoming budget cycle”.

But he added that Tinée Furbert, who was a junior minister with responsibility for the disabled, would be stood down because of constitutional limits on the number of ministers and junior ministers, although she would continue to work for the elderly.

The Cabinet is made up of the Premier and a maximum of 12 ministers from the House of Assembly, plus at least one minister appointed from the Senate, but no more than two, under the island’s Constitution.

The minimum number of Cabinet ministers is seven.

A Minister without Portfolio — Leah Scott — was included by the OBA when it entered power in 2012 but a year later, Craig Cannonier, then premier, cut his Cabinet from 13 ministers to ten to reduce costs.

Two members were later added by Michael Dunkley, who took the helm in 2014.

Last year, Nick Kempe, an Opposition senator, said the OBA’s 12-minister Cabinet had been made up of seven full-time ministers and five part-time ministers at a cost of $950,000 a year.

After the changes to Cabinet last Thursday, Mr Cannonier, now the Opposition leader, criticised the apparent rationalisation that the reshuffle reduced the number of ministries from 11 to ten.

He said: “The Premier said it was to cut back in the number of ministries, but he took out Michael Weeks and added Curtis Dickinson and Zane DeSilva, which means that he is actually paying more in ministerial salaries.”