PMO introduces new cost cutting measures

(SIG/GCU Release): The Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC) management is introducing new measures to cut costs on certain services and utilities which went out of control in the last two years.

These new guidelines constitute OPMC’s response to the public outcry in November 2018 following the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) deliberations on OPMC’s budget bids for 2019.

The PAC was very concerned with the excessive and indefensible costs of catering for Cabinet and Caucus meetings in 2018, vehicle hiring and mobile phone usage which indicates a weakness to comply with the Financial Management Act.

Conscious of the need to drive a reform agenda that will reduce government expenditure, the Hon. Prime Minister and Hon. Chairman of Caucus agreed to substantially reduce the cost of catering for Cabinet and Caucus meetings – including the introduction of healthier meals comprising sandwiches and fruits to alternate light cooked meals.

These new arrangements supersede the existing or previous catering arrangements with effect from May 2019.

In relation to official functions to be hosted by government ministries, a whole-of government approach or policy is being discussed among the various ministries, which once developed will guide these events.

In terms of vehicle hiring, a set of new guidelines has been put in place which constitutes OPMC’s response to excessive and uncontrolled expenditure on hiring of vehicles during the period up to and including 2018.

An assessment of the vehicle hiring practice at OPMC in 2018 showed that there was no control mechanism in the decision-making process to hire vehicles. All vehicle contracts had been

agreed to before they were presented to the Secretary to the Prime Minister (SPM) as the Accounting officer for signing.

As of February 2019, OPMC carried over a total unpaid debt for vehicle hire covering the period 2017 and 2018 of more than $2.2 million. OPMC’s total allocation for vehicle hire in the approved 2019 budget is only $1,273,626 million.

“If OPMC pays out the total amount owing to vehicle hires in 2018, we do not have any funds left to meet 2019 vehicle hire requirements. OPMC does not even have adequate funds to meet the full outstanding vehicle debt carried over from 2018,” said Secretary to the Prime Minister, Dr. Jimmie Rodgers.

As the Accounting Officer for OPMC, Dr. Rodgers had to make the decision that OPMC will not enter into any new vehicles hire in 2019, without justifications to and approval by the Accounting Officer.

“We will make provisions for all new appointees in the Prime Minister’s Political Office that would normally qualify for a vehicle in their contracts to receive a reasonable transport allowance in lieu of a vehicle,” Dr. Rodgers said.

Under these new measures, all former appointees that had vehicles included in their former contracts, will not be provided vehicles in the new contracts should they continue and they too will be provided with transport allowances.

All vehicles currently held by continuing appointees are to be handed over to the Secretary to Prime Minister to be part of the OPMC vehicle pool to be available for the whole OPMC.

An assessment of transport needs for each section or unit in each of the three divisions of OPMC will be undertaken and vehicles from the OPMC pool will be assigned to each division as necessary to support the work of each division.

Similar cost cutting measures are also applied to mobile phone allocation and usage. The cost cutting measures became effective from 20 May 2019.