The Commission of Inquiry is raising serious concerns of how badly our money was wasted and whether actions undertaken by former Ministers were less than admirable. It demonstrates how shockingly broken our policies and controls are and how we have given far too much control to politicians. If anything, it demonstrates a very clear need for good governance reform of which both parties have promised but neither have fully delivered on.
Rather than refuting the testimony and evidence provided with facts and reason former Minister of Works and Engineering Derrick Burgess’ is attacking the legitimacy of the Commission of Inquiry. Doing so suggests he has no ability or evidence to refute the claims made.
Mr. Burgess’ stated intent to award more contracts to smaller Bermudian companies is admirable. It is understandable that he would have wanted to push this agenda as it is the very premise by which the PLP was elected. The trouble is that the evidence and testimony provided suggest that may not have been the only motive. Controls put in place to ensure fair bidding were ignored. Advice and recommendations provided by civil servants were ignored. Projects were not put out to tender. There were questionable possible conflicts of interest. Projects went so far over budget that it begs belief.
Given two comparable bids it is understandable to select a predominantly black owned Bermudian firm over a white or foreign one. That was what the PLP was elected to do. Disrupting process and procedures while omitting details, adjusting requirements and watching projects go 20x over budget is not what the PLP was elected to do.
While Mr. Burgess may have started out with honourable intentions, the evidence and testimony provided sadly puts those intentions into question.
Mr Matvey confirmed in evidence that Vincent Hollinsid, a half-brother of Dr Brown, owned a 20 per cent equity share in Landmark Lisgar and picked up a $6,000-a-month salary. Winters George Burgess, whom Derrick Burgess has described as a close friend and relative, owned a 22 per cent equity stake and was paid $11,000 a month.
The question of how a $46,000 contract could possibly become a $902,000 bill begs belief.
The Auditor found that the original contract sum for the Central Laboratory Building project was about $46,000. She wrote: “In 2010, the contract did not receive prior Cabinet approval. Additionally, W&E noted that the services were not tendered but were negotiated with the knowledge of the PS. Additional services of $856,000 resulted in a final contract amount of $902,000.”
Mr. Burgess seems to evade many of the questions while claiming he is unaware of what actually occurred as he does not recall it. His only rebuttal to the testimonies and evidence is to resort to attacking the legitimacy of the Commission of Inquiry on the basis of racism. While the Commission of Inquiry may be comprised of 3 of 4 individuals who are white, that doesn’t change the testimony provided by civil servants and the evidence provided by the audits.
There are certainly those who will heed his calls of racism if that is what they want to hear. There are others who will be very concerned by this evidence and will question whether we’ve given our politicians far too much power. There were many allegations made against the UBP and their predecessors which were never investigated with a Commission of Inquiry. Though some may disagree, most did not vote for the PLP in order for them to practice more of the same. Finally, the OBA, while elected on many promises of establishing good governance are short on delivering on those promises. As a result, it should be of no surprise that the people have limited confidence in either party. We the people have lost faith that politicians really deserve their “Honourable” title.