OBA & Ministry On $13K P/M Consultant Contract

May 29, 2023

[Updated] “On the face of it, there is no legitimate justification for the Attorney General’s husband receiving $13,000 of tax payer money each month for undisclosed consulting services,” OBA MP Scott Pearman said, while the Ministry noted that “all the requisite rules and procedures were followed” and there ”was a request by the Advisory Section of Chambers to engage him as a consultant to assist them in maintaining continuity in advisory functions and efficiencies,”

Mr. Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, said, “OBA Parliamentary questions have exposed the Burt Administration using tax payer money to make considerable payments to PLP friends and family.

“On the face of it, there is no legitimate justification for the Attorney General’s husband receiving $13,000 of tax payer money each month for undisclosed consulting services.

“Bermuda’s top law officer must be beyond reproach. Minister Kathy Lynn Simmons needs to explain to the public how she considered it appropriate for her husband to be placed on the Burt Administration’s payroll?

“What consulting services are being provided to enable Mr. Simmons to receive tax payer funds? How was it determined that only her husband could obtain this undisclosed role? Who took the decision to pay $13,000 a month to the Attorney General’s husband? What role did the Attorney General have in this whole affair?

“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.

“There better be a rock-solid reason why this family member was preferred over every other Bermudian – assuming the role even existed and was available to others, rather than specially created for her husband.

“And why was this appointment kept hidden and not publicly disclosed? The AG is in a pretty deep hole here. She has some serious explaining to do if she is to ever regain the public’s trust. For now, Bermudians need answers,” Mr Pearman concluded.

In response, a spokesperson said, “The Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform spokesperson notes that there are provisions that allow for the appointment of individuals/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 shared in answer to Parliamentary Questions on May 19, 2023. These provisions are set out under Financial Instructions 10.5.

“Mr. Simmons concluded employment on March 31, 2023. There was a request by the Advisory Section of Chambers to engage him as a consultant to assist them in maintaining continuity in advisory functions and efficiencies, whilst they conclude recruitment. There are four vacant posts in the Section. This was approved by the Head of the Public Service in accordance with Financial Instructions.”

Update 5.38pm: A PLP spokesperson said, “The Progressive Labour Party [PLP] must address the unfounded and irresponsible allegations made by Mr. Pearman from the OBA, regarding the decision to hire and retain consultants by the Public Service to support the delivery of government services. The Progressive Labour Party [PLP] cannot let such damaging conjecture go unanswered.

“The assertion that the retaining of Mr. Simmons, who recently retired from the public service, is a maneuver to “divert public funds to private use” is not only baseless and reckless, but it betrays a gross misunderstanding of how the government operates and is a deliberate smear attempt.

“It is common practice for Public Officers who end their term of employment to be asked to provide services for a fixed period while the recruitment concludes for their replacement. 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 OBA 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. Today’s headline in the daily newspaper could have easily read, “Public Officers Caught Following the Rules”, – but it wasn’t, as the combined opposition is at work yet again to somehow cast aspersions when rules to ensure public funds are spent properly as followed.

“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.”

Update: Mr Pearman said, “It is the role of the Opposition to hold the Government to account. When the Attorney-General’s husband is handed a government consulting contract worth almost $14,000 per month, the Opposition has a duty to ask why this happened. Just as important, what involvement might the Attorney-General have in this affair?

“And it is a good thing we asked. If the OBA had not asked questions in Parliament, would the Burt Administration have ever revealed the numerous undisclosed payments being paid to various consultants?

“The Attorney-General’s husband, Myron Simmons, is already a figure embroiled in controversy. Mr. Simmons used to hold the role of Senior Crown Counsel at the Attorney-General’s Chambers. There followed a slew of court claims against him, one or two claims made also against the Attorney-General herself.

“It is true that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Yet the Supreme Court then handed down a Judgment involving Myron Simmons on 29 March 2022. Mr. Justice Mussenden expressed concern about the “suspicious conduct by [Mr. Simmons] in respect of his handling of client funds”. The Judge felt compelled to refer the matter to the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions among others.

“Given the Supreme Court referral to the Police, it was perhaps no surprise that Mr. Simmons did not remain as Senior Crown Counsel. The surprise was – after his role as Senior Crown Counsel ended – Myron Simmons received a new consulting contract worth almost $14,000 per month.

“The Attorney-General is an elected MP and a public official. The public is entitled to know what, if any, involvement the Attorney-General may have had with the consultancy contract secured for her husband. If the AG had no involvement whatsoever in the process, it is easy for her to say so.

“Curiously, neither the Attorney-General herself, nor the Government of Bermuda, has actually responded to the concerns raised by the Opposition in the House of Assembly on 19 May.

“Instead, a response was deployed from an unnamed “party spokesman” from inside the Progressive Labour Party.

“People might ask why information relating to decisions supposedly taken by Civil Servants of the Bermuda Government at the Ministry of Legal Affairs have been shared with an unnamed communications person inside the PLP?

“Although our Government will not give straight answers to the Public, the political-wing of the PLP still seems to have the inside track.”

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Comments (2)

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  1. Verdad says:

    What is the salary of the fulltime vacant post? Surely not over 150k a year! This is so sad!

  2. Observer says:

    The smell of nepotism has reached the very outer limits of the island of Bermuda. There will be no coming back from this Bermuda, every inhabitant must surely realise that we are now halfway down the slippery slope.