PLP: Opposition ‘irresponsible’ in attacking Simmons contract
The Progressive Labour Party has accused the Opposition of making “unfounded and irresponsible” allegations in relation to the Attorney-General’s husband being awarded a contract for services to her ministry.
A party spokesman was speaking in response to comments made by Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs and Home Affairs, who accused the Government of making “considerable payments to friends and family”.
Mr Pearman said there was “no legitimate justification” for Myron Simmons, the husband of the Attorney-General, Kathy Lynn Simmons, to be awarded a government contract worth almost $14,000 a month by the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform while his replacement was sought.
A party spokesman said that the assertion was “baseless and reckless” and a “deliberate smear attempt”.
He said it is common practice for public officers who have ended their term of employment to be asked to provide services for a fixed time while the recruitment process is completed.
The spokesman said: “If this is not the case, the Bermudian taxpayer is at a disadvantage as services provided by the Government or technical expertise can be lost. Should this common practice not be the case just because of whom someone is married to?
“It should be common understanding for One Bermuda Alliance MPs that all public funds are safeguarded through adherence to Financial Instructions and policies.
“As such, Financial Instructions dictate the processes that public officers must follow to engage someone in a consultancy role to ensure the proper use of public funds.
“These consultancy arrangements, approved by the Head of the Public Service, are handled by professional and non-partisan public officers.
“This process was followed in this case.”
The contract for Mr Simmons, who was accused by a judge of “suspicious conduct” for failing to pay stamp duty for clients while in private practice, was revealed by the Premier on May 19 in answers to a parliamentary question from the Opposition.
The party accused Mr Pearman and The Royal Gazette, which reported on the story this week, of being a “combined opposition” at work to “cast aspersions when rules to ensure public funds are spent properly as followed”.
It added: “Mr Pearman's accusations not only malign our diligent public servants but undermine the principles of good governance — that those who cannot defend themselves shouldn’t be attacked publicly.
“The PLP will not tolerate these misleading allegations that only try to undermine public trust in the work of the Public Service. We would hope that Mr Pearman, and by extension, the OBA, would focus on constructive criticism, holding the Government to account when rules are broken rather than resorting to cheap defamatory tactics when rules are followed because it is politically expedient to do so.”
Mr Simmons was listed as “counsel” with a contract worth $13,721.96 per month from April 1 to June 30.
The legal affairs spokeswoman said previously: “There are provisions that allow for the appointment of individuals or companies in specialised fields to provide temporary consultancy services.
“All the requisite rules and procedures were followed by the Public Service to approve the positions.”
Mr Pearman said Ms Simmons must explain to the public how she considered it appropriate for her husband to be hired into the role.
He questioned what consulting services are being provided to enable Mr Simmons to receive taxpayer funds, how it was determined that only he could obtain this undisclosed role and what role the Attorney-General played in the matter.
He added: “The public purse cannot and must not be used and abused by politicians for private profit.
“It is seldom — if ever — appropriate for a politician to engage their family member to ‘consult’ for the Government.
“It smacks of trying to find a way to divert public funds to private use.”