Hiring a consultant became necessary for the OPM when it failed to attract “the right calibre” local for the twice-advertised position of Senior Policy Planner. The annual salary for that position was $45,000 to $55,000.
“When the job was advertised, the response was not great,” explained Wright-Koteka in emailed responses to questions from CI News.
“The top applicant was an Australian with local applicants not having the relevant qualifications or experience.”
Wright-Koteka says finding suitable local applicants in this area is “rather restricted and the salary is not attractive to those who could fulfil the role.”
She confirmed the OPM was reluctant to give the job to a foreigner.
Hiring former National Superannuation chief executive Anne Herman on $2000 a week for a total of 60 days is justified because she’s qualified and has a proven track record, says Wright-Koteka. Herman holds a MBA from the University of the South Pacific and Bachelor degree in Economics and Commercial law from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.
“Our preference would have been to get a permanent officer but we have not been able to attract the right person into the role.,” says Wright-Koteka.
“There are certain policies and planning frameworks that need to be completed before the end of this financial year and Anne can assist us in this regard.”
Because OPM couldn’t fill the advertised policy planner job, Herman was awarded the consultancy valued at $24,000 to “progress and complete some key tasks” in the OPM central policy and planning office, says Wright-Koteka.
She adds, because the consultancy service is valued at below $30,000 it didn’t need to be publicly tendered.
“Instead we used the government-registered consultant panel information to make our decision.”
Wright-Koteka says international consultants average around $2000 a day and local consultants’ rates usually range from $350 to $1200 a day. Herman’s rate is regarded as “competitive” by the OPM.
The office has engaged three local consultants and an international team which has two Cook Islanders. International consultancies are paid from external funding.
The chief of staff disclosed that the OPM “manages a number of contracts involving both local and international consultants” all serving “different purposes, timeframes and require different technical skills”.
“Some of these consultants are paid a lot more than Ms Herman.”
According to Wright-Koteka it’s normal for consultants to get paid higher than salaried staff. “You are essentially paying for a specific skill or job to be completed in a certain timeframe. Consultants don’t have the same job security as permanent staff. When a consultancy is done, they will need to find new work.”
Herman will work in the OPM central planning and policy office providing support and “back stopping” for the division.
Wright-Koteka says the office has two fulltime staff who are finding it difficult fulfil all their responsibilities with the increased demand to provide policy and planning support across government. Herman has also been tasked with providing training. Wright-Koteka isn’t impressed that criticism has been levelled at the rate the OPM is paying Herman, saying it is “disappointing that once again, if it’s our own people, we tend to complain.
“…Maybe it is jealousy or miscomprehension by some people. This is sad and perhaps this is one of the reasons why our own qualified people would rather move overseas, where they can be better appreciated.”