Policy advice

| 13/01/2017 | 25 Comments

Cayman News ServiceMM writes: My knees get weak and I shudder whenever one of our elected representatives come forward and say, “I will be hiring a consultant to…”. My issue with this is that political candidates come forward so boastfully during their campaign attempting to indicate that they, at that very point in time, are the answer to these same issues that they propose to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get consultations on.

They promise us they know what they are doing and that as soon as we check their name at the polls our entire life and country will be turned around. Why then do we have to spend tens of millions of dollars annually on ministerial policy advice?

You approached your neighbours, your family and friends and stood on a podium in front of your people declaring yourself the saviour of our country and assuring us that you understood our problems, our government, our country and our people inside out. You indicated that you had been observing all the changes and mistakes of previous leaders, you assured us that you understood policy, business, economics and politics as a whole — you convinced your constituents that you were capable of moving this country forward.

Then please tell me why we are spending CI$29,196,777 every year for other people to tell you how to run YOUR country?

On that budget, the government could hire 243 policy advisers on CI$120,000 salaries per annum and each of them would only have to work 0.85 hours per day to equate to the average total number of hours ‘policy advice’ that was provided to our senior officials.

When thoroughly scrutinizing our country’s budget, I could not help but to compile a quick report (yes, took perhaps 4 hours) of every item on the 1,020-page 2016/2017 Government Budget that pertained in some way, shape or form to policy advice compiled on behalf of, and provided to our elected ministers.

Some of the items, of course, included advice to other senior government officials and a tad bit of advice to the governor as well, but at CI$6,226,595 per budget year, the premier’s Ministry of Home Affairs, Health & Culture commands the highest cost of policy advice; however, this ministry also has the largest portfolio of departments and authorities to oversee.

The Minister of Education’s policy advice budget comes in at CI$4,805,329. And the ministry with the lowest ‘policy advice’ budget was Community Affairs and Youth.

For an elected body that put on some well-presented campaign events, convincing speeches and adrenaline-pumping promises, all of this required advice is questionable.

I should imagine running a country is no easy task, but when 2.5% of the government budget is consumed by advice on how to run a country with a population of about 70,000 people, it should raise a few eyebrows.

It should come as no surprise that the ministry with the least devoted budget to policy advice is the Ministry of Community Affairs that oversees departments such as the Department of Children and Family Services, and the Youth Services Unit.

See MM’s Policy Advice budget breakdown in the CNS Library

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Category: Elections, Government Finance, Politics, Viewpoint

Comments (25)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It is not the consultants that are the problem. It is the politicians arrogant and spineless enough to ignore recommendations that are the problems. Will the proposal lose votes, even if obviously the best idea? Then bin it. Same story time and time again.

  2. Anonymous says:

    A man who says that is like a man who expects to reach the horizon, he finds it at last no nearer than it was at the beginning of his journey.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Holy Toledo someone just died as a result of this!

    His name is Truth!

    MM should reasonably know better but it seems he or she is intend on treating us all like fools. Unfortunately probably better than 80% of the conclusions in this piece of nonsense by MM are just completely FALSE!

    MMs claim is that the aggregate budget items for costs relating to policy advice is for third party consultants. WRONG. IGNORANCE.

    Of course there are some costs for external consultants but the majority of policy advice is given by Ministry staff. In some cases Statutory Authorities which have regulatory roles also give central Government policy advice and they are paid for that as well.

    Folks please don’t buy into some of the foolishness that is published without thinking about it and asking the right people for an objective or independent perspective. I don’t care how many fancy infographics they use, nonsense is still nonsense.

    • MM says:

      I am still trying to figure out where in my commentary I specified who the policy advice is provided by? I cannot determine that because all the details I have provided are drawn DIRECTLY from the published Government budget – the budget itself did not specify WHO exactly provides the advice but it does give details of the number of hours spent and what it was spent on and how much is budgeted to cover it.

      Before you try floating your false accusations, I would suggest you print the accompanying report (which has all the page references from the budget) so that you can reconcile and validate my claims yourself.

      The entire point of this article went way above your head my dear.

    • MM says:

      And if ‘truth’ died as a result of this article that would mean that its death is directly related to the items detailed in the 2016/2017 budget because every figure I have elaborated on is pulled directly from it.

      What a shame – gov trolls out by the numbers on this one.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Politicians at times refuse to utilize local expertise or ignore advise provided by civil servants and that’s fact. The sad truth is many of our people believe that foreigners have the answer to everything which is hogwash. Its time for people to empower ourselves and run the country for the good of the people and not a select few.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Spending without accountability and remorse is one thing, but carrying no obligation to offset the spending with cost savings initiative (ie. taking the advice) it the real jab.

    Our police complain that there is not enough money to hire the officers they need, yet you weigh this against revenue generating laws that are never enforced and you see the wasted opportunity. eg. Persons caught with tint that lets in less than 35 per cent light can be fined $500 and imprisoned for six months, according to the Traffic Law (2003) §8, clause 115. There are pages of fines in the Traffic Law that are never collected.

  6. Anonymous says:

    MM, you’re missing three crucial things:

    1) The need for objective advice – hard to get from someone inside an organisation.
    2) The fact that any expert or consultant, once they choose to and work for one client, loses access to the variety and intensity of work that made them an expert in the first place. They go soft. There’s a reason the term ‘in-house counsel’ attracts such sneers in the legal profession, for example. Such a person coasts through their entire career on their vague memories of what they did or what someone else did when they were actually working hard, and quickly cannot do work they were previously able to do. The brain prunes what it does not need and strengthens what it does and it makes that decision based on your choices about what to use it for.
    3) Culture and environment. The common denominator here is so low, everyone, no matter how talented, is diminished in stature and ability, sooner or later.

    Take these factors together, and 30 million out of close to a billion, spent on generating ideas about where the country should go, getting help with its toughest problems (which, believe it or not people will one day see solved), and things of the kind is a bargain. It’s a fraction of that spent on the core civil service, who as you say, seem to need a lot of outside help. We did bring the whole world to our shores, you know. Might need a hand from people with experience beyond them from time to time. Not unreasonable – but neither are the points you have made.

    • MM says:

      Yes, all of that would be well and dandy if the amount spent vs the size of this country was could be justified when stacked against the number of core issues (now biting us all in the backside) that have been left out or dealt with cheaply. Especially when we consider that these individuals insisted they knew what to do and how to do it.

      Let me remind you about the CI$1 billion dollars of the public purse that no one can account for – no one can pin point what period the funds were received or disbursed, no one knows from what Ministry – well, those who know aren’t saying anything.

      With such occurrences taking place during a period of time when leadership in this country has never changed, only ping-ponged from one person to the other; I would say the country can hold all sitting members accountable.

      And for this reason alone, I find your attempt at a defense/excuse for spending “30 million out of close to a billion” cannot be justified for the purposes described.

      You have stressed that one must ensure the advisers remain diverse and not “caged” within any particular organisation – that is still possible, there are many independent advisers that can be hired that would cost an average of $120,000 per year and I doubt we would require 243 of them each year to effect the same results..

      • Anonymous says:

        Then your answer MM is this: they get advice on an as-needed basis and the allocation in the budget covers much more than obtaining advice. It covers the whole of government as a start – according to your narrative – and includes everything from asking a company what to do about the dump to presenting the latest NAU ‘take a ticket please’ system to Cabinet. It’s the $30M out of $1BN used to make it all work. Again, what’s your objection? Please suggest 243 geniuses with doctorates in public service management who we can employ for less than we can ask local accounting and legal firms who deal with the same issues every day, for help with them.

        • MM says:

          Not very good at deciphering statistics and numbers are you?

          My whole point of discussing the 243 adviser example was that 243 advisers would not be necessary according to the workload funds were allocated for as detailed within the budget itself.

          72,431 hrs of advice per budget year / 243 advisers = 299 hrs work for each per 18 mth period

          299 hrs work / by 18 months = 17 hrs of work per month or 0.85 hrs of work per day for 20 working days per month.

          It’s not rocket science – its simple math!

          So, do you still think it would be necessary to fund 243 advisers or a $30 billion policy advice budget under such circumstances?

  7. Interested Observer says:

    I do not agree that ‘policy advisors’ are needed at all. We elect the members of a government on the basis of their published policies: the very existence of ‘policy advisors’ implies that the elected members didn’t really have a policy at all and now need advice on the formulation of one. So why do we elect them at all?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Great work MM, about time someone called this BS out.

    • Anonymous says:

      Only one problem with the article it is dead wrong. 75% of the policy advice funds are paid to Civil Servants. Bam!

      • MM says:

        Did the article specify somewhere or speculate somewhere within it ‘who’ the funds are paid to???

        I think you missed the whole thing.

    • Anonymous says:

      Of course community affairs ministry will have the smallest budget for policy advice. They are they smallest ministry with 2 or 3 policy officers.

      This article is a joke. Why didn’t you call up the Civil Service before you wrote this article. The majority of funds for policy advice is paid to Civil Servants.

      Other than the EY report at the PWC report on the cruise birthing facility name the other big policy advice consultants. Oh yes maybe the expert policy advice on the landfill. Which has been at the highest level and the country finally has a waste management solution.

      What is so bizzare is that I read on this site about the fox guarding the hen house etc …then when CIG goes out and obtains some expert policy advice on major major projects we say they are spending too much money. What a joke.

  9. Anonymous says:

    nothing wrong with getting professional advice from expert expats….

  10. Anonymous says:

    MM gets my vote.

  11. lo-cal says:

    SMDH – But how else are we supposed to steal the money? This is how its been done for eternity! We don’t get paid enough to figure new ways to swindle the country, said every MLA we have ever had.

  12. Anonymous says:

    MM I hear you and agree that is quite a high price to pay! Your argument seems to infer that Politicians should be All Knowing Experts on all issues affecting the Government and therefore this is a waste of money.
    Well until we the people demand that our politicians are literate, qualified professional people with relevant experience then it’s best that we pay for required expertise; don’t you think? Or, are you suggesting that the so call experts hired are not really experts but political cronies? Or are you suggesting that after we pay so much for consulting services we are not implementing their advice and therefore wasting government funds?

    Or are you inferring that it’s time for us to hire technocrats in the Civil Service that have the qualifications to provide such services?

    You spent so much time pouring through the Government budget which is commendable or foolish, not sure, to leave your readers wondering if it was just to capture a headline or to really inform us discerningly of the issues we face.

    Come Again!

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe you should hire a consultant to help you figure it out. One point is that when a hard political decision needs to be made experts are often hired and the issue is shelved or obfuscated until the pressure is off. At great expense. Then the expert recommendations are ignored. This is a regular occurence and people notice.

    • MM says:

      That is the problem with constituents – it seems everyone needs to be spoon-fed information in order to make informed decisions and no one takes the initiative to conclude things or investigate things themselves.

      I pour through many Government and country related things for my own intellectual benefit, if I find something that may be useful to others, I try to get it out there.

      I did state that for the same amount of money the Government could hire 243 advisers full-time; and they would only have to work less than 1 hour per day to equate to the approximate amount of hours policy advice is provided according to the CI Budget: so I thought it would have been very obvious that the amount allocated for policy advice is absolutely outrageous.

      We obviously would not require 243 advisers, nor would it make sense to pay a full-time salary for less than one hours work per day.

      It is undoubtedly necessary for any and all Governments to have policy advisers – but judging by the number of hours needed to combat this line item; it would make sense to hire 40 full-time advisers and that would cost the country less than CI$5 million versus CI$29 million.

      Looks like we have found CI$24 million to build the new court house 🙂

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