Finance Minister Bob Richards. *File photo by Kageaki Smith
Finance Minister Bob Richards. *File photo by Kageaki Smith
4PM UPDATE: Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of Civil Service, Mr. Donald Scott offered his initial reaction to the Final Report of the SAGE Commission that was tabled in the House of Assembly on 15 November 2013.

Mr. Scott said, “My purpose in this initial statement is to make some high-level comments on the overall quality of the Report and some of its findings and recommendations. More detailed comments will be shared and discussed internally to assist Government in determining its position with respect to which recommendations will be agreed upon for implementation.

“The SAGE Commission was given a daunting task to complete in a very short period of time – six months. The process followed by the Commission was very similar to the Spending And Government Efficiency Commission of the State of New York that reported its findings and recommendations to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in February 2013 following nearly two years of work.

“The goals of both Commissions were similar: seeking to reorganize government through consolidation and streamlining; reducing costs and improving service; and building a culture of performance and accountability.

“Bermuda’s SAGE Report makes a number of sound and useful recommendations, some of which build upon reforms and initiatives already underway in Bermuda’s Public Service. Other recommendations are fresh and bold and if adopted can help to address the fiscal challenges facing Bermuda.

However, the overall quality of the Report is diminished in some areas by errors of fact and the reliance on anecdotal stories in a number of important areas.

“One of the more useful sections of the Report is the chapter on Measurement & Metrics where one of the recommendations is to create an over-arching strategic plan based on the governing party’s election platform, the Throne Speech and the National Budget Statement.

“This planning process exists and was used effectively in the immediate aftermath of the 2012 General Election to crystalise the priorities of the new government and to amend ministry business plans accordingly. This was done quickly and enabled a smooth transition in a change between administrations and supported the continuity of government.

“Facilitating smooth changes within administrations and smooth changes between administrations is one of the most important functions carried out by the Civil Service Executive and will carry a heavy weighting in an appraisal cycle that includes a General Election.

“Can the planning process be improved? Yes, it can be improved and many of the recommendations are helpful including the recommendation to publish ministry business plans on a regular cycle.

“However, it is to be noted that contrary to the Report’s finding that not all Ministries prepare business plans, the fact is that every ministry produces a business plan and it is updated annually. Permanent Secretaries are charged with delivering the ministry business plan within budget and managing identified risks to achieve specified programme outcomes and services.

“The chapter on Performance is also useful and it is appropriate that SAGE highlights areas of strong performance in the Civil and Public Service. However, this is one area where errors of fact and erroneous presumptions need to be corrected.

“There is a presumption that the Civil Service Executive does not meet weekly. That presumption is false: the Civil Service Executive meets weekly to share Cabinet decisions and associated business. Major operational decisions at the executive level are recorded.

“The SAGE Report refers to an assessment of Permanent Secretaries and other senior officials that was arranged by the National School of Government in 2011. It is correct that the Report was not shared with the Commission as it fell outside of its remit. It did not have statutory authority for such access as stated in the Final Report. This legal position was confirmed by the Attorney-General.

“I commend the SAGE Commission for recognising the significant differences in the role of a Permanent Secretary and the role of a division head of a private sector business head. The former is expected to promote and deliver on the multiple goals of a political agenda while the latter is driven by a single goal: the profit motive.

“The differences in the roles flow to appropriate metrics and measurements and much else besides.

“The SAGE Commission Report offers some constructive comment and proposes a path for Bermuda to move forward.

“I wish to conclude by stating that the Civil Service Executive is committed to high performance and accountability in the public sector as it continues to execute the political agenda of the government of the day. It is no less than the tax payer deserves.”

 


Ministry of Finance Headquarters 

 

Ministerial Statement

To the House of Assembly

By

The Hon. Everard T. Richards, JP, MP

Minister of Finance 

 

SAGE Commission Final Report

Date: 15th November, 2013

 

_____________________________________________________________

 

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with section 14(7) of the SAGE Commission Act 2013, I am pleased to table the SAGE Final Report.

Honourable Members are aware that the “Spending and Government Efficiency Commission” (the “SAGE Commission”) was established via Clause 3 of the SAGE Commission Act 2013. As you may recall, the Commission’s primary objective was to advise Government on the most efficient and cost-effective government organizational structure in order to improve delivery of services, introduce cost saving measures and greater transparency and accountability. The Commission was charged with conducting this work and delivering their recommendations to the Minister of Finance within a six-month period.

Mr. Speaker, Members are aware that the SAGE has completed their final report which was submitted to the Acting Minister of Finance on October 31st, 2013.

Mr. Speaker, the SAGE Final Report follows an interim one which was submitted to me on July 23. Both documents are the product of thousands of hours of review, analysis and discussion. Much of this time was on a volunteer basis for which I am grateful. The process has been both collaborative and productive, and a broad, diverse cross-section of the community has been involved in this important initiative.

I would like to formally congratulate and thank the Chairman, Mr. Brian Duperreault, and the rest of the SAGE Commission; indeed all committee chairs, committee members and contributors, for the excellent quality of this report, a report which stands as testament to what our invisible resource, i.e. intellectual capital, can accomplish when it is generally accepted that something has to be done. Also the Commission is to be commended on the open and transparent manner in which it went about its business. The keen interest that the public has taken in this process speaks to the level of concern among Bermudians about how their Government is run.

Mr. Speaker, the Government will now conduct a full review of the SAGE Final Report with the intent of implementing those recommendations which will make Government more efficient and cost-effective with the ultimate aim to reduce overall Government expenditure. It should also be noted that I plan to make a “Take Note Motion” on the SAGE Report to allow for a full debate of the SAGE Report in this Honourable House.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.