Absent with leave: string of ministers away from desks since start of December
Acting ministerial appointments were approved for 11 intervals that spanned seven weeks from the end of November, information from Government House has shown.
The temporary cover was authorised by Rena Lalgie, the Governor, for eight members of the 13-strong Cabinet over the period, with three — including David Burt, the Premier — scheduled to be absent twice.
It is understood that at least some of the approved absences were related to ministerial business.
Six of the acting appointment approvals were over Christmas and New Year.
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said today that “in most cases” ministers were in regular contact with their ministerial headquarters during leave.
Acting appointments can be made to cover absence from the island, holidays or illness.
The Royal Gazette asked the Government this week about which ministers needed cover since December 1 last year, as well as who took the roles temporarily and if they got additional pay.
A government spokeswoman said: “The appointment of acting ministers is made by the Governor pursuant to Section 60 of the Constitution on the advice of the Premier.
“Acting ministers receive no additional remuneration of any kind and substantive ministers, like any employee or public officer, are entitled to leave and do not forfeit any remuneration.”
She did not give details about which ministers were absent, who acted for them, or when.
Those questions, among others, were also put to Government House.
A Government House spokeswoman said that the Governor approved acting appointments on the Premier’s advice.
The information showed that authorisations were made for seven ministers and the Premier over several dates between November 29, 2021, and January 16.
Approval was given to cover Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, from November 29 to December 4, when he led a Bermuda delegation in New York to promote the island as a centre of excellence for climate-risk finance.
Another acting appointment approval for the finance minister ran from December 21 to January 3.
Cover was authorised for Renée Ming, the Minister of National Security, for December 2 to 6 last year and December 20 until January 5.
Acting appointments were approved for Mr Burt from December 3 to 5 and between December 20 and January 8.
Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, was Acting Premier when coronavirus restrictions were announced on December 21.
A Government House spokeswoman said: “In response to your queries, the Governor approved acting appointments on the advice of the Premier for the following Cabinet ministers:
“Minister of Finance — November 29 to December 4, 2021, and December 21, 2021, to January 3, 2022.
“Minister of National Security — December 2 to 6, 2021, and December 20, 2021, to January 5, 2022.
“Premier — December 3 to 5, 2021, and December 20, 2021, to January 8, 2022.
“Minister of Home Affairs — December 18, 2021, to January 10, 2022.
“Minister of Labour — December 20, 2021, to January 10, 2022.
“Minister of Health — December 22, 2021, to January 2, 2022.
“Minister of Education — December 30, 2021, to January 16, 2022.
“Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport — January 7 to 14, 2022.
“In all instances the acting appointments were approved for the dates requested or until the return of the minister.“
She added later that the people who were appointed were:
Acting Premier — Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, and Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education.
Acting Minister of Finance — Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour, and Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office.
Acting Minister of National Security — Tinée Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, and Lawrence Scott, the Minister of Transport.
Acting Minister of Home Affairs — Mr Rabain, Mr Scott and Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health.
Acting Minister of Labour — Mr Scott.
Acting Minister of Health — Mr Furbert.
Acting Minister of Education — Ms Furbert.
Acting Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport — Mr Scott.
Approvals were made for people to act for Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, and Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour, for intervals spanning December 18, 2021 to January 10 and December 20, 2021 to January 10 respectively.
An acting appointment was authorised for Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, from December 22, 2021 to January 2.
Government press releases on December 29 and 30 said that Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, was the acting health minister.
He reportedly attended the airport and helped to coordinate emergency coronavirus tests to help outbound travellers on New Year’s Day.
Mr Furbert has also been the acting Minister of Public Works – covering for Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch – since at least the start of last September.
The Premier said last November that the public would be informed if there was an update on the arrangement.
An acting appointment was authorised to provide cover for Mr Rabain from December 30, 2021 to January 16.
Tinée Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, was the acting education minister named in Government updates this week on the return to the classroom in Government schools.
An approval was also made for someone to act in place of Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, from January 7 to 14.
The Government House spokeswoman highlighted that all of the acting appointments were approved “for the dates requested or until the return of the minister“.
The Constitution said that when the Premier is “absent from Bermuda or is unable by reason of illness” to carry out his duties, the Governor can authorise a minister to act in the role.
Acting appointments are usually made on the Premier’s advice, but can be at the Governor’s discretion if the Premier is away or ill.
The Constitution said that if a minister is unable to do his or her job because of illness, absence from Bermuda or “absence from … duties on leave”, the Governor can appoint a member of the same legislative House to be a temporary minister or assign responsibility to another minister, including the Premier.
A Government House spokeswoman added: “The Governor is not privy to the reasons behind the absences.”
The Government was asked how many of the 11 approvals were for vacation, ministerial business overseas or as a result of illness.
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “As we have seen over the last two years, working remotely is possible during the pandemic, and ministers, although on leave, remain contactable.
“In most cases they liaise with their ministerial HQ regularly during these leave periods.
“In keeping with the typical process, any ministerial business travel will be recorded on the Government’s online travel site for review.
“To reiterate, ministers are entitled to personal leave and if it’s medical leave it is a private, personal matter.”