Senator Reid searches for answers on Gov't consultants who practice overt politics
Minister of Education, Youth and Information Ruel Reid has said that he will provide answers to Opposition Senator K.D. Knight on whether political advisers and/or consultants to Government ministers should be subject to stipulation in the civil service Staff Orders regarding "overt" political actions.
Knight was quizzing Reid in the Senate yesterday on a list containing scores of consultants and advisers that the minister presented to the Upper House in response to questions asked in September last year by Opposition Senator Lambert Brown.
Knight queried whether any of the persons listed were "governed by the Staff Orders", noting that if the answer was in the affirmative, would such persons be "precluded from involving [themselves] in overt political activities?"
"I would like to research that matter and get back to the senator," Reid remarked.
However, Knight took aim at Reid's ministry, seeking to ascertain whether any consultant/adviser on the list attached to the education ministry had engaged in overt political activities. In his response, Reid said, "I cannot speculate."
Knight charged that a consultant on the list had written opinion pieces in a newspaper that were condemnatory of the Opposition. Refusing to relent, Knight asked, "Should such an individual be involved in what is clearly overt political activity?"
Responding, the information minister said: "That's a question that I will have further discussion on so we can get a clear policy position on that."
Apparently dissatisfied with Reid's response, Knight continued: "I take that to mean that there is no clear policy position known to you, and you, as the minister, ought to be fully aware of any policy position that exists. So I wait with some anxiety ... your being able to answer the question following your research."
Provision 4.2.6 of the Public Sector Staff Orders of 2004 speaks to the question of public servants and their involvement in partisan political activities as it relates to elections. It states, "Officers are expressly forbidden to engage in any type of partisan political activity in any elections at any level."