Senator, Premier On SAGE, Duperreault, Secrecy

July 11, 2013

Discussion over whether comments made by SAGE Commission Chairman Brian Duperreault violated a requirement for secrecy continue, with Opposition Senator Marc Daniels saying it was “reminiscent of the situation that we had with Jetgate.”

Speaking in yesterday’s [July 10] Senate session, Senator Daniels said that when a member of the press contacted the Premier’s Press Secretary to ask if Mr Duperreault’s comments breached Section 11, there “seemed some confusion as to what was wrong.”

“It would appear as if the advice that is being given is suspect,” said the Senator. ‘And just like in that situation, it is very odd that Section 11 was clearly contravened, that secrecy was not maintained, when it was a specific order of the legislation to maintain such secrecy.”

Senator Daniels was referencing comments made by Mr Duperreault during his recent speech at the Hamilton Rotary Club, where he spoke about the work of the SAGE Commission. Mr Duperreault’s speech covered a number of aspects, and his comments about the civil service drew criticism from the Bermuda Public Services Union [BPSU].

Section 11 of the SAGE Commission Act [PDF here] says:

The SAGE Commission and every person employed or appointed under sections 7(4) and 9 shall maintain secrecy in respect of all matters that come to their knowledge in the exercise of the functions of the Commission, and shall not communicate any such matter to any person except for the purpose of carrying out functions under this Act for the purpose of—

  • [a] the reports and recommendations to the Minister under section 8;
  • [b] the reports and recommendations to the Legislature under section 14(7); or
  • [c] court proceedings.

This section does not apply to information which at the time of the disclosure is or has already been made available to the public from official Government sources.

In response Premier Craig Cannonier said, “In relation to the informal email exchanges between the Press Secretary Charmaine Burgess and Talk Show Host Sherri Simmons, it is the Government’s view that the comments made by Mr. Brian Duperreault, Chairman of the SAGE Commission in his speech to Rotary on June 25, 2013, did not violate Section 11 of the SAGE Commission Act.

“The Government cannot waive any provision of the Act and perhaps the phrasing that was used was mistaken. What was trying to be communicated was that the Government does not believe that anything Mr. Duperreault said was a breach of confidentiality and as such Section 11 was of no relevance.

“In relation to the statement regarding Government Ministers receiving Mr. Duperreault’s speech prior to its delivery, only the Minister of Finance was sent a courtesy copy shortly before Mr. Duperreault spoke to Rotary. Mr. Duperreault was not seeking prior approval, nor was he required to do so.

“The Government remains very committed and supportive to the appointees of the SAGE Commission and looks forward the conclusion of their consultations and deliberations. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all members of the Commission for their countless hours of committed service to this initiative. We believe it will be a very valuable document for the people of Bermuda,” concluded the Premier.

Speaking this morning, Senator Daniels said: “First and foremost, the Government can not downplay questions from the Press or members of the Public, directed to the Premier’s Press Secretary, as merely being ‘informal’.

“The whole purpose of asking questions is to hold the government to account and to obtain official government positions on various matters. In this instance, questions were asked whether the Chairman of the SAGE Commission breached Section 11 of the Act by speaking publicly on matters being brought to his attention in the course of his role as Chairman of the Commission.

“Section 11 is very specific and requires as a matter of law, not policy, that its members ‘shall maintain secrecy in respect of all matters that come to their knowledge in the exercise of the functions of the Commission and shall not communicate any such matter to any person’, save in specific circumstances, such as tabling their report to the relevant Minister and Legislature or any court proceedings [none of which have been invoked as of yet]. This simple language makes it abundantly clear that ‘all matters’ or any information that it receives must remain confidential and therefore I can’t understand any justification to ignore, waive or simply brush aside such a requirement that is defined as a matter of law.

“In my humble opinion, the language is quite clear, such that even an individual without legal training can easily understand its wording and application. By speaking on matters publicly before any reports have been tabled to the Minister or the Legislature is clearly a breach of Section 11. The People of Bermuda are well within their rights to ask the Government whether it considered a breach to have arisen and if so, why or how, such a breach could be sanctioned. The responses from the Government’s Press Secretary show a demonstrable lack of understanding of the very simplistic wording contained in the Act which begs the question, who is advising the government?

“The simple reality is that in this economic climate we must do all that we can to ensure that Bermuda is considered internationally as a premier jurisdiction for conducting business where sound laws are put into effect and upheld. Similarly, the Government must do all is can to ensure that the people of Bermuda respect the laws which govern our society and it is impossible to expect the people to follow the laws when the Government shows a willful disregard for the very laws it asks others to follow,” said Senator Daniels.

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Comments (27)

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  1. Double Standards says:

    So then lock Mr. Dupperault up for speaking the truth then, PLP.

    Bermuda’s civil service equates approximately to 13.33% of the total population and consumes over 50% of the Government’s revenue. Couple that expense with our debt servicing requirements and then one can see why there is such a large deficit these days and why there is no money left. Compare this to the USA where the civil service equates to only 1% of total population of 320mn or so.

    It is a shame that the former administation used the civil service as a means to garner votes and thus made it completely unsustainable to the point of near bankruptcy. This is not their fault. Cutting their jobs as of now is not the answer. But something has to give eventually.

    Why doesn’t the PLP actually address the message as opposed to attacking the messenger? Even Mr. Burt, earlier in the year, acknowledged that the PLP grew the civil service without ensuring efficiency was being achieved.

    And lastly, why does the Party who stood by their former leader as he walked all over Bermuda’s CONSTITUTION want an apology when they stayed so quiet as this individual ran rough shod over numerous financial instructions, planning requirements and the lot?

    PS: I also believe that the civil service is a cumbersome bureacuracy. And I won’t apologise for speaking the truth.

  2. Charter says:

    The SAGE Commission exists to solicit public feedback on ways to reform Government. From the PLP’s protests it seems they would prefer that SAGE’s feedback be secretive. That’s plain nuts. SAGE must be transparent in its findings.

  3. Double Standards says:

    Does Marc Daniels really think that some guy stating the obvious is going to turn away potential investors?

    No, things like locking up the auditor general after revealing possible political corruption, constantly maligning the Ombudsman and AG for highlighting Government breaches, breaking Bermuda’s constitution, allowing for numerous scandals/controversies to go unchecked, institution of poorly thought out legislation aimed at our only economic pillar, raising of payroll taxes with no industry consultation, the persistent downing of tools over the smallest of matters, Government representatives attacking the skin color of their opponents or labeling some as house n****** and calling Filipina guest workers prostitutes etc. harm our reputation.

    It isn’t a well-respected businessman, that these potential investors will no doubt be familiar with, that will turn away business from ignoring us or leaving our shores.

    Marc ever since your “rise” in politics you are not the same intelligent person I had to come to know. Politics has gotten to you and that is a shame.

    Now, how about the PLP actually start working to better Bermuda as opposed to constantly picking on frivolous matters as a means to undermine the current administration. You better be careful because you guys are seriously beginning to emulate the Republicans that you claim to abhor so much (i.e. against gay rights, hate foreigners and immigration, and generally intolerant of anyone that doesn’t see the world in your view etc

  4. Victor says:

    Perhaps that eminent member of the SAGE Commission Dame Jennifer Smith could lend some clarity to this matter. In the meantime, it would appear Senator Daniels does not regard the practice of his former partner the AG as sound, (correctly, IMHO). Nonetheless, Daniels and the rest of you sore losers, stop messing the country around.

    • Balanced Facts says:

      On what basis was he going after the A.G? Sounded like more whinning sore losing allegations to me, he wasnt sending e mails to Sherri DJ PLP Propaganda radio girl!!!! A.G’s hard work, not afraid to stand up to nonsense and call it like it is may just help save us! Daniels should watch and learn from his former partner instead of following the directions of the PLP ! Sound Victor? Compared to PLP Lawyers? Please, you need to look at the whole picture! Thank God we have the current A.G we do….sure not much choice in the PLP for the position!

  5. d.o. says:

    i could care less about the secrecy and section 11. I WANT to know what the SAGE commission has to say as I have faith in the commission. I think Mr Daniels and a few others are a bit afraid of the TRUTH and FACT. Get a grip. Please Mr Duperreault and members SPEAK OUT and let us know what you are finding. Thank you for your investigations and request for submissions.

  6. Vote for Me says:

    Please let’s end the charade. A mistake has been made and Mr. Dupperault or the Premier should apologise.

    On a related note, it does appear that government is getting suspect legal advice since the comments by Dupperault seem to be a clear violaiton of the Act. Under the circumstances, even if it is not a violation of the Act, it was ill advised to criticise the Civil Service in general terms whilst the information is being gathered, with their assistance.

    Another point that seems lost to the public is that Messrs. Hardy, Drinkwater and Oliver were previously senior Civil Servants and had the capacity to make drastic changes but failed to do so. In esence, Dupperault has said that middle managers in the Civil Service often have good ideas that are squashed by the senior Civil Servants!!

    Finally, the response to the origianl question that were sent by the Press Secretary should have been vetted for accuracy. In this case we have a similarity to Pettingill’s comments about the Bible and their supposedly being personal comments and not in his capacity as a Cabinet Member and the most senior legal advisor to government.

    Come on Premier Cannonier, a simple apology would go a long way.

    • Joonya says:

      Grow up!

    • Balanced Facts says:

      Pay Attention! It is clear that there was no legal advice given before the statement was made, the Government did not know about it and have stated they had no issue after the fact! So what? And PLP legal brain (s)…what was “confidential” (as stated in the Act) that was disclosed? Daniels did not indicate what it was? And if there was nothing “confidential” in law then guess what? There could be no breach under the Act…!!! SOOOOO….Fahy is right, PLP storm in a tea cup…but they need something! Sad….

    • Zombie Apocalypse says:

      What exactly did he say that was secret? That the civil service is inefficient and staffed in part by incompetent people? That’s a ‘secret’ in your mind? Most of us have known it for years. He was just commenting on something that is well-known and already in the public domain.

  7. pjs says:

    The TRUTH hurts……..

  8. Navin R. Johnson says:

    So Sherri Simmons the wife of Jamahl Simmons sends an email and now we have another JETGATE … As Double Standard says the Civil Service of Bermuda is 13% of our population and to put that in perspective the United States would have to have over 41,000,000 in the Civil Service and they have less than 3,000,000.

    The reality is that we are bogged down with a overloaded inefficient Government that grew out of control under the PLP…..the same lot who are now grasping at any straw to draw attention from their ineptness as a Government…..

    Compare any Government around the world and you will see that Bermuda is being dragged down by its Government staff who are underworked and overpaid

    • Fed Up says:

      I am not a government worker but don’t put them all into hat catagory, there are some very hard working Government workers.

      • Family Man says:

        And one of these days I hope to meet both of them.

  9. watching says:

    More suspect advice and interpretation of the ‘law’ from the OBA side of things. Sigh. This is definitely change i can believe in. So disappointing.

  10. Wiaruz says:

    It was always banana republic politics under the former administration. Create lots of non-jobs in government, thereby always guaranteeing votes from those beneficiaries of government largesse. Hope that the private sector continues to create enough wealth to pay for it. When you rob Peter to pay Paul you can always rely on Paul’s vote. Lots of Pauls credted by the PLP. Now we can’t afford.

    • Bermuda Cat says:

      @ Wiaruz,

      If your statement is true, what would you call the Politics that the UBP played for their time in power?

      • Wiaruz says:

        Not sure that it had a name but I know it didn’t end up with us a billion dollars plus in debt, with people/companies leaving and the economy going down the toilet fast with no light at the end of the tunnel. Politics should be like making sausage; as long as the outcome tastes good you don’t want to know/see how it’s made. The PLP politics resulted in a very bad tasting outcome.

  11. Wiaruz says:

    “created” by the PLP.

  12. Bermuda Cat says:

    @ Navin Johnson,

    My girlfriend is a civil servant, and I can tell you she works her A$$ off everyday, so people like you need to stop using such a broad brush. She makes a good salary, but I would bet my bottom dollar she works harder than you for every cent.

    Speak but you will, but I get a feeling she works harder than you, because she never has time to be on here commenting. But you do! lol

  13. Loquatz says:

    Typical case of PLP shooting the messenger instead of addressing the message.

  14. Family Man says:

    Section 11 basically says that he can’t disclose any information that is not already in the public domain. Were the plp the only ones unaware that Bermuda has a lumbering, inefficient, ineffective, bloated public service? I think anyone that goes from private industry to public service is shocked at the way things work – or don’t work as the case may be.

    What did he disclose that was not already in the public domain?

  15. cyrus says:

    The PLP has no problem with what SAGE had to say, it was said in the Sustainable Development Action Plan and Strategy in 2005. However if the info was to be tabled before the HOA before going to the public, then there is a problem, these little thIngs seem to happen very often with the OBA. Every month there is another mistep.

  16. Navin R. Johnson says:

    Bermuda Cat you have managed to find the needle in the haystack and I congratulate you…….of course not all Government workers are lazy but the fact of the matter is we do not need so many and we certainly do not need the former Government offering advice…..when you have twice as many Civil Servants than you need many are underworked and overpaid….

  17. tidbit says:

    It is unfortunate that the radio host doesn’t disclose their political advocacy but it is obvious. Maybe their job depends on it. It is so disgusting when they yield to certain callers who pretend to be all and know all, than that same talk show host will try to take to task anybody who dares to speak in favour of this current Government.

    It is obvious and sickening when you listen to them on the radio. They need to listen to the Tom Joyner or Mike Bishop show to learn how to have an effective radio talk show with purpose.

  18. Navin R. Johnson says:

    Like the Everest and LaVerne show