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Two PLP MPs paid for government work on top of official salaries

On the payroll: backbencher Ianthia Simmons-Wade earned $60,000 on top of her MP salary (File photograph)

Two Progressive Labour Party MPs have been paid thousands of dollars in addition to their regular salaries for work carried out for the Government.

Backbencher Ianthia Simmons-Wade, the widow of former PLP leader Frederick Wade, earned $60,000 for her work with “the office of the public guardian” between April 2022 and March this year.

That salary came on top of Ms Simmons-Wade’s income as an MP of $56,023 per year.

Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, was paid more than $1,000 per month between April and December last year for chairing the Cost of Living Commission. As Deputy Speaker, Mr Burgess is paid $69,308 annually.

Lawyer Myron Simmons, the husband of Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, is also on the Government’s payroll, earning $13,721.96 a month as a legal consultant.

The opposition One Bermuda Alliance called on David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, to justify paying “friends and family” salaries on top of regular MP wages.

But last night Mr Burt – who released the information in the House of Assembly on Friday in response to questions from the OBA – hit back, accusing the Opposition of “clutching at straws to stir controversy”.

On Friday, Mr Burt, who is the finance minister, revealed that the Government had appointed 70 consultants since January 2022.

Big earners include a “strategic adviser for Southampton Princess”, the Fairmont Southampton hotel, who, according to Mr Burt, was paid $1,875 per hour between January and April this year. A total figure paid was not given.

A Washington Office representative was on a salary of $95,000 a year, a teacher training officer was paid $4,823.96 for a single week of work last October, and a “Middle East adviser” is earning $20,000 a month on a one-year contract.

The list also showed that a policy analyst picked up $9,534 a month between February and April last year, while a company which, according to Mr Burt, was employed with the education reform unit, was paid $250,000 for four months of work.

One consultant is being paid $9,534.06 a month for “special projects” in the Ministry of National Security, and another is being paid $125,000 a year for “education reform communications”.

Yesterday, the OBA said that the revelation showed that the Civil Service was “broken” and claimed that many of the names on the list were “friends and family” of the Premier.

Susan Jackson, who had submitted the questions, said: “The Premier and Minister of Finance revealed just how broken our Civil Service has become, a list of consultants/contracts, paid for by the taxpayers, included Burt Administration friends, family and Members of Parliament.

“How on earth is the Premier condoning high-paying contracts for MPs and their spouses, worth thousands of dollars a month on top of their MP salaries?

“MP Ianthia Simmons-Wade collecting $5,000 a month from the Office of the Public Guardian; MP Derrick Burgess earning $1,062 per month from the Cost of Living Commission, and the list doesn’t stop there.

At a glance

David Burt rattled through a list of 70 consultants hired by the Government since the start of last year after approval from the Head of the Public Service. He revealed their fees and the lengths of their contracts. Some of the contracts have expired but others are ongoing. Some contracts of note include;

• Three individuals who made up a public sector negotiation team who were each paid $5,000 per month between February and December last year. Two of the contracts are still running

• Two consultants who were paid a total of $400,000 for their work with an education reform unit between April 2022 and July 2022

• Three policy analysts who were paid between $8,750 and $9,534 per month between February 2022 and October 2022

• A legal policy adviser being paid $8,580 per month on a six-month contract between December 2022 and June 2023

• An “environmental vulnerability” consultant who was paid $50,000 between March 2022 and March 2023

• A constitutional reform consultant who was paid $50,000 for four months’ work between July and October 2022

• A project manager who is charging $175 an hour on a long-term contract that will run until January 2025

• An “education reform communications” consultant who will be paid $125,000 on a contract running from January 31 2023 through to the end of the year

• A “strategic adviser Southampton Princess” who was paid $1,875 per hour in the first four months of this year

• A consultant in “strategic communications” who was paid $175 per hour between January and March this year

• An accountancy firm that is being paid $2,480 per day for the first six months of this year for its work on universal healthcare

• An assistant justice who earned $1,000 per day when overseeing a judicial review

“The answer provided in Parliament is a financial instruction, which allows individual government departments to request approval from the Head of Public Service without any proof of hiring practices like advertising, interviews, or competitive selections from a pool of job applicants.

“Consultancy services both for ad hoc and, in some cases, long-term contracts, are an inconvenient truth to meet every government’s needs, but the Premier read out an extraordinarily long list in terms of both the number of consultants and salaries for a population of 60,000 people.

“Case in point, the recently exposed $29,000-per-month salary for consultant Christopher Warner of Cyberdine, a non-Bermudian consultant hired without evidence of competitive hiring for Bermudians or local companies.

“It’s been revealed to me that many consultants are hired in this manner because no professional wants to accept the Civil Service employment salaries and this is one way the PLP government is circumventing civil service hiring.

“The Civil Service posts remain empty and the consultant fills the vacancy at a higher pay.

“It seems this is also how friends, family and MPs are also quietly receiving perks behind the backs of the hard-working citizens.

“The Progressive Labour Party has been consultant happy since 1998. It’s bad practice and needs to stop.”

Last night, Mr Burt defended the contracts awarded to Mr Burgess and Ms Simmons-Wade.

He pointed out that Mr Burgess served as chairman of Cost of Living Commission for which he was paid “the equivalent to that of a junior minister – $946.62 per month”.

But he did not provide details of the work carried out by Ms Simmons-Wade or what the duties of the office of the public guardian were.

Mr Burt said: "Sadly the Opposition is grasping at straws to stir controversy.

"I am grateful for MP Burgess's work, which led to an agreement with grocers to provide a ten per cent reduction on a basket of staple goods last year during a time a record global inflation providing relief to Bermudian families.

"Both MP Burgess's and MP Simmons-Wade work were fixed-term work to advance items critical to the Government's agenda. That work has concluded.

"The public should be reminded that MPs take home pay is only $3,280 a month.

"There were over 70 different contracts that were shared in the House, and the fact the Opposition only could highlight two MPs – who were remunerated for additional work to advance important matters such as reducing prices at the grocery store and ensuring that our seniors are protected – this sadly shows how desperate they are to try to stir controversy.

"I'm personally disappointed as I took time to discuss with MP Jackson at the lunch break the mechanics of these contracts and how and why they are used to support critical matters for the Government."

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Published May 22, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated May 22, 2023 at 8:01 am)

Two PLP MPs paid for government work on top of official salaries

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