Despite being labelled as a ‘consultant’ on paper, Pastor Claude Skelton Cline was always deemed to be a ‘Ministerial Political Advisor’ in the eyes of the Premier.
This is what Premier Andrew Fahie told the Commission of Inquiry (COI) when he was called to give evidence recently.
“There is a role that Mr Skelton Cline played which was always clear to me from the time he came in … The role was similar to what is now the Ministerial Political Advisor. At that time, I wouldn’t have had the name [but] that idea is what was the sole intention,” The Premier stated.
Premier Fahie further explained that Skelton Cline’s role was primarily one of advising on policy based on the government’s agenda and what he said advisors in a Policy Unit would usually do.
However, the contention with treating Skelton Cline as a political advisor is that his contracts never reflected that. Instead, he was contracted as a “consultant” whose responsibilities differs from that of an advisor.
For example, government consultants are required to produce deliverables and regular reports while an advisor would not have such requirements since their duties are more intangible.
So why did the Premier’s Office contract Skelton Cline as a consultant if that’s not what it actually wanted?
Well, Premier Fahie indicated to the COI that the only things the public service appeared to have in place were ‘consultancy contracts’.
“So, the BVI system did not formally recognise the role of ministerial advisors, but the system does recognise this role and the need by ministers. So, because the system recognises that public officers are not allowed to make political calculations and policy development, this came to be clear that this would have to be where this contract would go,” Premier Fahie reasoned.
Disparity because of a lack of contract template
Premier Fahie further said that any likely disparity between Skelton Cline’s contract and the duties he was actually performing was largely due to the ‘lack of a suitable contract template’ that could be used as a basis to properly explain Skelton Cline’s role in government.
Premier Fahie told the commission that, in the absence of a suitable template for the contract, his staff set out to “try to craft it as best they could”.
In the process, he said technical staff told him they needed to include ‘deliverables’ in the contract. The Premier said this was despite the knowledge and understanding in his mind that there was no need for any to be included.
“For their (the technical staff’s) edification, they wanted to structure it along those lines, so I guess that’s why they made this proposal to include that. But in my mind it was always clear that he would be a Ministerial Advisor,” Premier Fahie said.
We figured it out for the third contract
He told the Commission that it was not until after Skelton Cline’s third engagement with the government, that a contract was created to reflect no deliverables for ministerial advisors.
According to revelations made before the COI recently, Skelton Cline’s contract carried the stipulation that he present at least three initiatives to government that would yield at least $5 million.
Financial Secretary Jeremiah Frett said Skelton Cline managed to exceed this requirement. Frett said he holds this belief despite the fact that Skelton Cline did not actually execute any initiatives. Only the executive branch of government has the power to implement initiatives that Skelton Cline proposed.
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