OBA: “Government Back-Room Deal Cut In Secret”

May 21, 2012

The Government’s promise to pay PHC million of dollars to use their facilities once they are completed was “clearly a government back-room deal cut in secret,” Shadow Education Minister Dr Grant Gibbons said.

Dr Gibbons went on to question whether it was fair deal for taxpayers, or was it a “sweetheart deal for BIU and PHC President Chris Furbert?”

He also questioned whether there have been other “secret financial deals that commit taxpayers’ money” that the Government has not disclosed

Last week it was reported that the Education Ministry agreed to pay PHC as much as $10 million, spread over a 20-years, for schools in the area to use the club’s multi-dimensional complex, which has not yet been built. The deal was signed in 2008, and not publicly disclosed by Government.

Government then released a statement saying that they have not committed to provide any funds to PHC until the facility is completed and public school students have access to it.

Responding to Government’s statement, Dr Gibbons said: “In the Ministry of Education’s shockingly brief statement confirming the 20-year, $10 million lease signed with Pembroke Hamilton Club in 2008, they say government “is not committed to provide any funds to the PHC until such time that their facility is completed and public school students have access to it.” They also say, “Regretfully the stories have caused concern in the community.”

“The Ministry doesn’t get it and neither does Dame Jennifer. The reason there is real concern in the community about the PHC deal is that the PLP government, once again, violated basic rules of transparency and good governance.

“If a government commits taxpayer funds, then it has an obligation to disclose it, whether the spending occurs now, in the future or perhaps never,” continued Dr Gibbons.

“This was clearly a government back-room deal cut in secret. It’s the PLP government’s “Uighur” approach to governance – a secret deal with real consequences, unknown to all but a few. And then, at some point, taxpayers have to pick up the pieces and pay the piper.

“So why didn’t the PLP government tell anyone about the deal with PHC when it was signed in 2008? Unfortunately, secrecy leads to speculation and obvious questions. Was the then-Education Minister trying to avoid scrutiny and possible criticism? Was it a fair and reasonable deal for taxpayers?

“Was it a sweetheart deal for BIU and PHC President Chris Furbert? Will the deal still make financial sense to a future government that could be bound by the terms of the contract?

“More importantly, how many other secret financial deals that commit taxpayers’ money has the PLP government not disclosed? If the PLP government won’t disclose a $10 million commitment, what else don’t we know about?

“The public deserves a full explanation now. The Ministry of Education’s statement, presumably released with Dame Jennifer’s approval, is inadequate.

“We call on Minister Smith to bring the lease to the House of Assembly and provide a detailed rationale for it, something that should have been done four years ago,” concluded Dr Gibbons.

The Education Ministry has not yet responded to our request last night for comment, however we will update as able.

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  1. Pelican says:

    These kind of "revelations" regarding undisclosed government commitments to spend more money are particularly alarming because we are left guessing at how many other deals there might be. It's difficult to explain these negotiations away as "above board" when they've not been open to public scrutiny. So here is a Government promising to deliver PATI, yet keeping this kind of contract under wraps for years! Promises to "reset the dial" and practice more open government seem to be ringing hollow again.

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  2. pebblebeach says:

    This Government is simply out of order...they need to be removed...

    This is what the Cog refers to as transparency within her government...really...

    Hey Chris, why don't you forgive the PHC loan due the BIU....not sure what the funds were used for but people, do as I did and next time you drive by PHC, look for some physical sign of a $1.2m investment in their infrastructure; please let us know what you see...

    wow...

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    • Verbal Kint says:

      That would be over 2 million if you include the money from the ESSO lease.

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    • SpecialGIrl4You says:

      Stop your silly season behaviors...how can this be a undercover/back door deal...when the use of the facility will be used by schools...Can not hide them using the facility if it is ever completed?,,,,,Grant knows all about Back-door deals....after all that was the trade mark of the UBP/OBA.

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      • SpecialGirl4You says:

        not to mention the fact that it was definitely 100% a back-room deal that was orchestrated completely by the UBP/OBA even though that's physically impossible because they aren't in power. If there's anyone here who can't wrap their mind around the simple fact that the UBP/OBA's methods literally transcend time, reality and our preconceived notions of physical space, then I pity you for having your head in the sand and not being able to see that the PLP has never made one simple mistake during their governance...get a clue, you UBP/OBA trolls.

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        • Come correct says:

          Your absolutely right! They haven't made one single mistake...they've made a whole f@cking bunch of them one right after another! Let me guess, the premier has her cards close to he chest and she's waiting for the right time to play them. Newsflash! She's playin 52 card pick-up. I've asked you what drugs your on, I've asked you how much they pay you to write this stuff, but now I'm just assuming that you live above a meth lab and its really not your fault.

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  3. Shaking the Head says:

    Since the Government, on behalf of taxpayers, was "kind enough" to forgive the BIU the $7-10 million due under the Berkley Bond, then the BIU should forgive PHC the $1.2 million loan. If not, it will just mean the taxpayer will be bailing out the BIU yet again.
    By the way, where are the 2010-11 BIU Financials? Not a word from anyone, especially Government, even though the BIU is again in breach of the law.

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  4. Victor says:

    So lets think this through now... If Government i.e the PLP Government gave the BIU another say roughly four million of the taxpayers' money, the Union could likely buy KFC as I'm sure at this point the KFC board has had enough. The profits from the Union's good management of this iconic brand could then be used to forgive exiting debts such as PHC's, fund other community clubs, and even pay for auditors. Win,win all around, except of course if you are chicken or one of those OBA voters who dare to ask questions that are not straight out of Paula In Wonderland.

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  5. longtail says:

    Another day and yet another example of the "We had to deceive you" approach to Government transparency!!!

    As Mark Twain - a Bermuda visitor of past years (who seems to have foreseen the PLP style of governance) once said "It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled." It seems this is what the PLP is counting on - there can be no other explanation for their continued lip service to transparency and good governance!

    The 'social agenda' (read "scores to settle") of the PLP leadership reminds one also of Maggie Thatcher's comment - "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."

    The money well has indeed run dry - more than a billion dollars in debt, not counting almost another billion required for the pension fund! How much longer must they continue to deceive us?

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  6. Common Sense says:

    There appears to be no doubt whatever that our Government has entered into a contract with PHC to pay them $10 million over a 20 year period for the rental of their yet-to-be-constructed facility “once it has been completed”.

    There is also no doubt that this contract has never been discussed in Parliament, nor have we the public ever been informed of its existence until now. And even now we have no information about the conditions entered into by either party.

    For this reason I believe that in the interest of openness and transparency the following questions need to be answered:-

    1. Was the Auditor General informed of this contract back in 2008?

    2. If not, was the Auditor General informed of the contract at any time prior to the recent publicity given to this matter?
    3. Is there any onus (either legal or ethical) on our Government to inform the Auditor General of a $10 million legally binding contract committing tax payers money to a project to be completed at some point in the future?
    4. Can we the public now be made aware of all the conditions of this multi-million contract?

    With regard to question 2, it has been suggested by Laverne Furbert in an earlier blog on this subject that, “Every financial transaction is subject to audit by the Auditor General. However, in this case (the $10 millian contract) there was no financial transaction.” This seems to suggest that this presumably legally binding multi-million contract is not subject to review by the Auditor General because it is not a “financial transaction”!

    This raises two additional questions:-

    1. Is it the position of our Government that there is no requirement to inform the Auditor General about this contract because no money has yet changed hands? and
    2. Can the Auditor General be expected to ask questions about a legally binding $10 million contract if he (in 2008) or she (in 2012) were never made aware of its existence - if that is the case?

    Rather than hearing replies from either Government or the Opposition I would urge the Auditor General, who is completely independent, to publicly address the above issues and let us know what, if anything, she knew about this matter.

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    • LaVerne Furbert says:

      If the Auditor General didn't know about the contract, she should know now. She has every right to examine the contract, and if she wants, make it the subject of a Special Report. Maybe she can call in the former Auditor General to assist her with her investigation as he was the AG at the time.

      Common Sense, I see no reason why you can't address the matter to the Auditor General yourself, rather than posting on Bernews.

      Have the courage of your convictions, write a letter to the AG and sign your name.

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      • FaVerne says:

        If the Auditor General didn't know about the corrosive gelatin eels, she should grow a rusty porcelain Wing Commander from the side of her head and know now. She has every right to examine the puddle of corn syrup, and if she wants, make it the subject of a Stumbling Beef Boat Investigation. Maybe she can call in the former Auditor General to assist her with her Gravy Pursuit as he was the QX at the time.

        Ramen Tense, I see 3 reasons why you can't undress the ladder to the Auditor General yourself, rather than roasting on curfews.

        Have the courage of your evictions, knit a sweater for the AG and go insane.

        Everything I say makes as much sense as this...I may as well be in a padded cell, but hey, THAT'S MY MAMA!

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        • LaVerne Furbert says:

          FaVerne, are you Common Sense? You people are just go from the ridiculous to the sublime with your aliases.

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      • Come correct says:

        Why? Because now his questions are posted to the internet for all to see. Like Joe Rogan says you can't stop the internet. Also some of us like myself like to read other peoples opinions to learn more on a subject, different views are good, there isn't just one way to look at everything you know.

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      • Common Sense says:

        @Laverne. I tend to think that by now the Auditor General is fully aware of the issues involved with this matter, and that she will do her duty and look into it despite the fact that Hmmmmm has potentially libeled the AG by referring to her as an "OBA pin-up girl".

        She may also be fully aware of what happened to a former Auditor General who was targeted and arrested, and had his home and offices thoroughly searched for carrying out his duties. Of course, no charges were ever laid and no apologies were forthcoming. Hopefully, the same fate will not befall our present Auditor General but the hate campaign has already started.

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  7. Gib-Swag says:

    Grant Gibbons is str8 up swaggin with a gangsta lean like you aint NEVA seen!!!! Check Cha-boy callin out cronyism like a BUDMON.

    RESPECK & BLESS UP

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  8. Hmmmmm says:

    And we're off. Even after 14 years it is still difficult to accpet that even this Government has the constitutional right to make decisions in Cabinet and at the ministerial level. This is our system of Government folks. There is no requirement whatsoever for this kind of arrangement to be made public. Good politics might direct that it should be, but I repeat, nothing illegal has occurred here. NOTHING. Can just one of you media types ask Dr. Gibbons under what rule he says this should have tabled in the House or otherwise put in the public domain?The Government makes agreements and enters into contracts all the time and no-one says a word about them. Is it the PLP/BIU/PHC nexus that makes this one a little different? So, for example, just a little while ago the Government entered into a contract for the supply of paper with a company....and a big contract at that. Nothing said. Nothing heard. Could it be that that's because the contract is with AF Smith and so they are presumed to be "ok" to do business with? I would remind you Dr. Gibbons, that it was THIS Government that commenced publishing contracts awarded by Cabinet monthly. And before my government gets into its usual defensive mode, there is nothing to defend here. Stop letting these people tell you how to govern. Essentially what Grant Gibbons is saying "hey, who do you think you are governing like everyone else under the Westminster systemt? Don't you know those rules are not for you to use?! How dare you...". Get on the front foot PLP !!

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    • Just the Facts says:

      Nice try. The "rule" you're looking for is called the Budget. The government pulls one together every year, remember? Contracts that obligate the government to spend taxpayers' money are reported, and one for $10 million should be itemized. That allows for public scrutiny, something that "your" government doesn't seem to care much for. (Hmmm, if we only had the Freedom of Information Act in place, after how many years of talk, talk and more talk???) Your example about the paper contract is meaningless, because that does get reported under various department allocations for supplies, etc.

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    • longtail says:

      Certainly Government has every right to make decisions 'in Cabinet and at the ministerial level, as you point out. What is missing here is that little something called 'due process': there is a very clear procedure to be followed when Government considers awarding contracts, especially ones as big as this. This deal was cut under the table - out of site of the public, hidden from 'your' Government's annual budget statements and concealed even from the Auditor General - for this you would urge the PLP on??? To do what - more of the same???

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      • Hmmmmm says:

        To both of you: The "back-room" = The Cabinet Room. "in secret" = what all meetings of Cabinet are. "deal" = is a word used by some to describe what others might call business, management, governing or something else legitimate. So, having assisted you with the language, can you now see why there's nothing in the facts of this. I was chatting with someone today and the first question they had was "what did PHC do with that $10m ??!". See what mischief can be sown by deliberately loose statements lacking in objectivity?

        Now, I am no accountant, so i genuinely woukld like to know how you record an agreement to pay contingent on a development in a budget. Honest question; especially since the Government's budgets are annual and forecast over a period of years...where do you record this contingency that this furore seems to have created?

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  9. LMAWTFO says:

    I may be wrong, but i do not get what every other reader seems to be getting from this story and the one on the RG site. Seems as though its just Furbert pulling strings rather than the PLP. Both HSBC and PLP rejected BIUs plans for the complex, yet BIU are still trying to push for it to be built. And according to the RG the deal has not even gone through, though it may pending that the BIU get their act together. Which they won't until they get rid of Furbert.
    Strange that he hasn't been removed already, he must have the support of the majority of the Union to be still in charge of mismanaging their funds, soiling the the grounds on which BIU was built and the names of the founding fathers. SMH

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    • Hmmmmm says:

      Its not just you. I don't get it either. There is nothing in this story but all you have to do is mention "secrecy", a few key names and its off to the races. As the polls indicate today, the OBA's message and constant hammering on this stuff is not translating into support. It won't because people see this for what it is. Its cool though, let them keep attacking like this....I want the Auditor General to look into the lease for Masterworks for $1 and satisfy me that it is "value for money". When the OBA and their pin-up girl Heather start looking into stuff like that, then maybe their credibility will be increased. Until then this is the same old story and for it we will not fall.

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      • Hypocrites says:

        You (PLP) might not fall, but Bermuda just might without accountability for such decisions. Maybe that's what you want.

        Either way you know something's afoot when the AG is attacked by PLP supporters.

        Just accept that your Party has some flaws and has made some unscrupulous and under handed decisions during its tenure. Doesn’t mean the whole party is “unethical” but some obviously are.

        They are not perfect, but when you try and obfuscate the issue and attack the one person who is commissioned with protecting teh public purse then more than likely there is a fire where there is smoke.

        Me, personally, I would like to know when the Govt promises $10 million of taxpayers monies to a private enterprise. But then again maybe I am expecting too much from ELECTED representatives in our so called democracy.

        PS: Don’t you worry there is enough people like yourself that is more than willing to pretend like such actions are completely acceptable and thus the PLP will be in power after the next election. It is a shame that so many put their Party (on both sides that is) way before Bermuda. It will be our downfall sooner rather than later I feel

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        • LMAWTFO says:

          The 10 million has not been promised to anyone. The deal has yet to go through.

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          • GVT Mechanic says:

            Wrong - the money is promised, ergo committed spend. It doesn't matter whether it's this year or 2016, this should have been a Cabinet decision and debated in the budget.

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  10. Carla Rose Louise Wilkinson says:

    Correct me if I am wrong, but when a government(in this case the P.L.P), state that "We had to deceive you",( and that statement in itself should have been an indication that there were some things happening that weren't really on the level). Wouldn't that make one wonder as to how many times we as the people were "deceived" by this government? How many times that we don't know about? How can you actually trust this government after so many shady misdealings have been brought to light? Even after these things have been brought to the publics' attention, they are just so nonchalantly swept under the rug with a shrug of the shoulders..I don't get it... There always seems to be a "passing the buck" thing going on. How long must we as the people put up with it? "Trust" only goes so far. Take the horse blinders off and see it for what it is.. Good day to all..

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  11. Carla Rose Louise Wilkinson says:

    Is no one held accountable for anything? That's what really irks me.

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  12. LaVerne Furbert says:

    From Jamaica Observer

    Round one of hate-mail saga to Vaz

    Court says former minister can subpoena Google, Yahoo!

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    JAMAICAN-BORN Florida attorney, Professor David Rowe failed last week to get the courts to block Daryl Vaz from serving subpoenas on Google and Yahoo! in his bid to unmask the author of an e-mail in which he was libelled.

    The court on May 17, 2012 threw out Rowe's bid to stop Vaz from serving the subpoenas on the two giant search engines, effectively giving round one to the former government minister, in the continuing hate-mail saga.

    "Objections are over-ruled and the subpoenas may be served," Judge Richard D Eade ruled in favour of Vaz in the Circuit Court of the 17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County, Florida.

    Vaz, the former minister of information and telecommunications, filed a lawsuit on April 13, 2012 in which he accused Rowe of using a pseudonym to libel him and some of the biggest names in Jamaican politics and business.

    Using smart technology, experts traced the e-mail back to its origins and the subpoenas were served as part of efforts to have this evidence admitted into court.

    The e-mail under the name "Paul Azan", also libelled former Prime Minister P J Patterson; former Prime Minister Bruce Golding; former Finance Minister Audley Shaw; former Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Christopher Tufton; Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, chairman of the Sandals and ATL Group which includes the Jamaica Observer, and Stewart's son, Brian Jardim, proprietor of Margaritaville.

    Vaz, the first to react, filed his lawsuit against Rowe in the Circuit Court of the 17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County, Florida.
    Patterson said that he had referred the matter to his lawyers for their advice and Dr Tufton said he too was seeking legal advice.

    The others named in the offensive, e-mail which was distributed globally via the Internet, are expected to follow suit.

    In his court documents, Vaz accused Rowe of "hiding behind pseudonyms" to fabricate and publish a document purported to be an official 'US Law Enforcement Memo to Turks and Caicos Special Investigation and Prosecutions Team'.

    The document made "direct accusations of bribery, money laundering, corruption and close affiliations with a notorious convicted drug lord".
    Rowe is denying that he is the author of the document and has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. He also took the unsuccessful action against the subpoenas on Google and Yahoo!

    The case against Rowe is important for its potential to discourage individuals who use the Internet anonymously to malign and damage other people's reputation, even when they have no evidence against them that can stand the light of day.

    Lawyers examining the case argue that while free speech is a right to which everyone is entitled, it is "absolutely irresponsible and cowardly to use that right unjustly to assassinate the character of others who have worked hard to achieve the high esteem in which they are held".

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    • Victor says:

      Interesting, Thank You Mrs. Furbert.

      FYI, US libel laws are very different than those of most Commonwealth countries, including I presume Jamaica - essentially the US defers to the First Amendment, right of free speech, so for practical purposes libel does not exist in the US. Therefore, if Professor Rowe remains in the US, he is probably pretty much free and clear - except of course if a Jamaican Posse comes after him...

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  13. Common Sense says:

    @Hmmmmm. And we’re off. It may surprise Hmmmm but what I would like to see is a change in attitude – not necessarily a change in Government.

    Of course our Government has a constitutional right to make decisions in Cabinet and at the Ministerial level. But whichever Government is in power it has to be accountable to the people for its actions, and if it takes action such as concluding a $10 million legally binding contract with a sports club for future rental of a facility that has not even begun yet, then we the public are at least entitled to know about it.

    Our Government came to power promising openness and transparency, but after 14 years there is a growing feeling that this is never going to happen, even with the new legislation in place.

    Here is a case where Government entered into what has been, until last week, a secret multi-million dollar agreement with PHC. This should have been a perfect example of Government showing its transparency by publicly disclosing the details in order to AVOID any suggestion of impropriety. If the reasons were good enough the public would have been satisfied despite what the Opposition might say. Now the Government has two problems because they now have to try to justify both the agreement and the secrecy.

    Hmmmmm compares this multi-million dollar agreement with Government to buying a supply of paper. Laverne Furbert compares it with Government purchasing vehicles from Bermuda Motors, or vehicle insurance from an insurance company. Are they serious?!!

    I believe there are rules in place with regard to how much a Government Department can spend on budgeted items, and this can all be vetted by the Auditor General. And in any event, if Government is not satisfied with the vehicles, or the quality of the paper being purchased they can shop elsewhere for a better deal next time.

    It is truly sickening when someone like Hmmmm springs to the defence of the Government by attacking the Auditor General and accusing her of being an OBA “pin-up girl”. (Does this qualify under Laverne's definition of hate mail?) Hmmmmm mentions that it was THIS Government that commenced publishing contracts awarded by Cabinet monthly, but fails to mention whether or not it was done in this case, and if not why not.

    Perhaps Laverne Furbert said it best when she pointed out that the Auditor General’s role is to “add credibility to Government’s financial reporting and to promote improvement in the financial administration of all Government departments and controlled entities for which the Government is accountable to Parliament”. Full marks to Laverne.

    Now we need to know if the Auditor General had any knowledge of this multi-million dollar agreement, and if not why not. It must be very difficult to add credibility to Government’s financial reporting if the A.G. is treated like a mushroom and kept in the dark about a contract of this size.

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  14. Jim Bean says:

    laverne one day someone will actually sue you and the workers voice for the misleading and wrong statements made by you

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  15. Pastor Syl says:

    @ LaVerne: Be careful of that glass house you are living in. There are stones being thrown out of it by pseudonymed (sic) folk, such as Betty Trump, specialgirl4u, Maddog, and Hmmmmm. One must assume they are also included when you refer to anonymous bloggers as "absolutely irresponsible and cowardly."

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  16. Carla Rose Louise Wilkinson says:

    @ Laverne Furbert- You have no problem in letting people know who you are, that's for sure..lol, whether most of your points are valid or not, people always know that it's you. Though I often wish that some people would post under a pseudonym, so as not to embarrass themselves for some of the drivel that they spew forth.. Not speaking of anyone in particular..

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  17. Carla Rose Louise Wilkinson says:

    @Laverne Furbert: may I ask why you have posted this? Any particular reason? Are you trying to say that some of the words The Shadow Minister has said are untrue? Just need to know what your actual point is? That took quite a bit of reading, and obviously you have done some research, but where are going with this? Just curious..

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  18. GVT Mechanic says:

    My question is when will the club be built and who will fund the building since the bank said no? (Well, the bank said scale back).

    Will the next good news press conference be "Government to fund new sports/community centres"?

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  19. Oh really says:

    Time they were ALL removed from Gov and the Union brought into line!

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  20. SpecialGIrl4You says:

    Government has the constitutional right to make decisions in Cabinet and at the ministerial level. There is no back-door deals made, after all if the facility was completed the schools would benefit from the use of it....cannot hide that....it will be accessible to all....Grant knows about Back-door deals...that is how the OBA/UBP operated, now they are quick to suggest others are doing what they are known for doing...we are in silly season...and the OBA/UBP are pulling out all the cards in a mad dash to the finish line...even if it means playing the game dirty...

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    • Common Sense says:

      No-one is suggesting that Cabinet cannot make decisions at the ministerial levels, but when Cabinet makes a decision to spend $10 million I believe it's totally reasonable for we, the public, to be informed of the decision. You accuse the OBA/UBP of making "back-door deals", but surely we were promiosed openness and transparency in order to avoid any hint of back-door deals. Bot sure how the OBA has a history of "back-door deals" as they have never held power - yet.

      To suggest that the schools would benefit from the use of a new PHC facility has some merit, but for this Government to commit a future Government to the mandatory spending of $10 million at some point in the future without any debate, in complete secrecy, without divulging the conditions under which these payments must be made, smacks of a back-door deal of the very worst kind.

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  21. Concerned says:

    Serious cut backs in MOED on teachers, support teachers, school suppies and so on but can give PHC CLUB $10m once the building is erected, $8m gone missing (BIU/Berkeley Institute)... the dog tried very hard to bury it's rotting bone but the skink found it - all smells to me. Jennifer adn Company, are you doing this to buy votes in Warwick???? Chris responded on this situation - perhaps the new club is painted bright green.

    Come on Premier Cox, announce the election date. Fishy is as fishy does!

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  22. Pastor Syl says:

    I am so tired of people trying to justify bad behavior. One marker of maturity is taking responsibility for one's behavior, good and bad, something we have yet to see from this government.

    Those who are familiar with Step work will recognize the Step 10 admonition "when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." Still waiting for that to happen!

    IMHO, this government would benefit by adopting a Twelve Step recovery program because the insanity is reaching epic proportions. Insanity is defined as 'doing the same things over and over while expecting different results.' It seems to me, the PLP has been trying to out-UBP the UBP, as Specialgirl4you has already pointed out. My prayer is that the axiom holds true and they get the same results in the next election as the UBP did in 1998. Poetic justice.

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