The government said it will hire up to nine advisors — no more than three for the Premier and one for each of the remaining ministers — to write speeches and conduct other political duties, among other things. The contract for each advisor will have a remuneration package of not more than $120,000.
In a statement dated Monday, July 26, Penn said he was “disgusted” by this Cabinet-sanctioned decision.
“This is not only wrong, this is outrageous! And we must not accept it! We must stand united against this unconscionable decision being levied upon us. As the voice for the people of this territory, Honourable Premier [Andrew Fahie] and members of Cabinet, we demand that you unequivocally and immediately rescind this callous and reckless decision,” the Penn said.
Explaining why he is against the decision, Penn, among other things, said the appointment of these political advisers seems to be a repetition of the VIP government’s recruitment “political hirees who were paid exorbitant fees with undefined Terms of Reference which have yet to be made known”.
“The mere appearance of this decision has led me and the wider public to believe, the establishment of a nine-member team of political consultants, paid for by taxpayers, is meant to run this administration’s campaign for the next general elections,” added Penn who further said the government’s decision is an affront to the competence of Permanent Secretaries and public officers.
“If it is the current administration’s view that public officers are unable to provide the services and advice needed, it is then their responsibility to ensure that they are trained and receive the necessary resources to carry out their duties,” he stated.
The Opposition Leader further argued that decisions like these is what led to a Commission of Inquiry being sanctioned in the first place.
“We already know that the Commission of Inquiry has already solidified that we have some fundamental systemic issues that hinder the proper management of our resources and execution of our operations and therefore restrict the development and advancement of our country. Is our executive body this tone deaf?” penn questioned.
He continued: “We should be drawing up and executing plans that will secure our livelihoods and the future of this territory … I am disgusted that we have a government that is so incomprehensibly clueless.”
Since government publicised its decision to hire political advisors for its ministers, there have been major public backlash. And in subsequent interview with JTV, the Premier sought to defuse the situation by dispelling claims that the combined renumeration for the advisors will cost one million dollars per year.