A winding, near 40-minute speech from Premier Andrew Fahie did little to put critics at bay after he set out to clear the air last evening about why his government needed to hire political ministerial advisers.
Instead, there were clear signs of growing confusion and frustration from real-time viewers as they voiced concerns on a late-night Facebook livestream where the Premier, from the inception, quickly shifted blame to the feet of political parties that came before him.
Fahie previously explained that the new advisers were needed to bring more efficiency to the role of government ministers. But the payments attached for the advisers’ services did not sit well with many residents; prompting Fahie’s late-night missive.
But even as residents listened to the Premier’s justification for these political advisors, several questioned the role of Permanent Secretaries and asked why these public officers could not fill the apparent void instead.
It was their fault
From the onset of his speech, the Premier began pointing out that certain things “happened in the past that cause us to be where we are now”.
And according to the Premier, it was Marlon Penn and other members of the parliamentary Opposition who served in previous administrations, that were in large part responsible for the deficiencies in government. Fahie said this is what led his current government to now hire advisors to help resolve these issues.
“All these areas of concern were ignored by the Opposition members who, in most parts, were members of the past government for many years. Now they are telling the public officers that they love them and they care for them. This is indeed a paradox,” the Premier said in a consistent refrain.
And while referring to Opposition criticism he’s received for deciding to hire political advisers, Premier Fahie said his speech was not meant to be “tit-for-tat”.
Remuneration not so high as opposition said
Turning to the advisers’ compensation, Fahie said if government ministers and junior ministers engage the maximum allowed number of advisers (nine), the combined total amount to be paid will be between $600,768 and no more than $866,448. He argued that this is in stark contrast to the more than $1 million price tag that Opposition members claimed would be paid out to advisers.
According to Premier Fahie, there was nothing else to add to this figure because the advisers are not entitled to vacation leave, sick leave, overtime, gratuity, phone allowance, travelling allowance, vehicle allowance, meal allowance or any other benefits.
The Premier further assured residents that there was nothing arbitrary about what his advisers will be paid to do and reminded persons that he had put checks and balances in place to monitor their output.
He also mentioned that the new posts were bolstered by recommendations from the Deputy Governor’s Office. He said the posts are further reinforced by correspondence from the Governor about the job title and terms and conditions for their role.
The Premier added that there would be no duplication of efforts in the roles of advisers and public officers.
It remains unclear whether any of the newly approved advisers have been hired thus far or whether any assisted in writing the Premier’s speech.
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