[Updated] The PAC report revealed an inner circle of people exploiting a situation to serve their interests before the public interest, Opposition Leader Craig Cannonier said.
“The BLDC situation reveals poor judgment and careless behaviour at the highest level of government. If our political leaders do not enforce the rules, if they do not set the highest standards of conduct, then Bermuda has a serious challenge,” said Mr Cannonier.
“People need to know that the people at the top are doing the right thing. That wasn’t the case at the BLDC. We can’t have one set of rules for insiders and another set of rules for everyone else.”
A Special Report from the Auditor General previously revealed that former BLDC Chairman [Ed Saunders] and Deputy Chairman [Pastor Leroy Bean] received $160,000 in consultancy fees, which the Auditor General called a “fundamental conflict of interest.” The PAC report noted this, and said they support the Auditor General’s recommendation that the $160,000 be refunded.
The PAC investigation also revealed that BLDC’s Deputy Chairman asked the CEO to remove the original painting contractor, and give the contract to a painting company operated by the son of the BLDC’s Chairman, with the contract valued at thousands of dollars more than the original contract.
The PAC report said that anecdotes like these caused the PAC to question whether the BLDC Chairman and BLDC Deputy Chairman were acting “honestly and in good faith.”
Mr Cannonier also said we have to question the message the Premier sent “by supporting the candidacy of one of the former BLDC official at the centre of the reported ‘misuses of public money’ – a man she ordered fired from his position as BLDC Deputy Chairman.”
Earlier this month the PLP confirmed that Pastor Leroy Bean will stand for them in Constituency #4 St George’s South. When asked at the rollout about the Auditor’s comments on the BLDC payments, Premier Cox said, “I think what’s important to note in terms of the Government and even with the Auditor General..that time and time what comes up are these innuendos and hints of corruption. That seems to be always the subtext sometimes of certain lines of questioning.”
“Why are people suggesting it? Is it because they have a black government? I think the issues with regard to the Auditor General are clear. They’ve been documented, they’ve been set out. My views are also clear, as to the fact that there has been nothing that was done that indicated that there was anything that was corrupt.”
Mr Cannonier’s full statement is below:
The Public Accounts Committee’s report on the Bermuda Land Development Company reveals government behaviour that should concern all Bermudians.
The report, which was signed by members of the One Bermuda Alliance and the Progressive Labour, reveals an inner circle of people exploiting a situation to serve their interests before the public interest.
And it shows a senior Minister operating without regard for rules and regulations and openly defying the Premier. All of this is completely unacceptable.
This morning the Premier responded, saying she had passed good governance legislation since the incidents at the BLDC came to light. It sounded good but here’s the thing:
This situation did not require new legislation to stop it from happening. All the rules and regulations to make sure people do not misuse public funds were already in place. But in this instance, people completely disregarded those rules and regulations.
This gets us back to our basic concern about the government’s good governance programme: You can have all the rules you want but if you’re not going to follow them, if you’re not going to enforce them, then there is no accountability and Bermuda is never going to have a government people can trust.
The BLDC situation reveals poor judgment and careless behaviour at the highest level of government. If our political leaders do not enforce the rules, if they do not set the highest standards of conduct, then Bermuda has a serious challenge. People need to know that the people at the top are doing the right thing.
That wasn’t the case at the BLDC. We can’t have one set of rules for insiders and another set of rules for everyone else. That’s not how we’re going to build a better Bermuda.
We must be about fairness. We must follow the rules. We must set the best standards of contact. Do that, and we will get to that better tomorrow.
On a final point, we have to question the message the Premier sent to the people of Bermuda by supporting the candidacy of one of the former BLDC official at the centre of the reported ‘misuses of public money’ – a man she ordered fired from his position as BLDC Deputy Chairman.
Surely, the Premier had a choice in the matter – a choice to send a signal about what is acceptable and what is not.
Update 7.56am: In response, the PLP said: ““There Mr. Cannonier goes again. More attacks and negativity. No ideas. No solutions. No vision.
“The truth is, the PLP responded swiftly by introducing landmark good government reforms that strengthened whistleblowers, increased penalties on corruption and made the tendering process more open and clear.
“The OBA hasn’t offered any ideas. Paula Cox and the PLP are standing strong for Bermudians by surely and steadily working to crack down on corruption and make government a little bit better.”