Video: PLP On Use Of Public Funds For Lawsuit

September 4, 2015

“Mr Burt’s comments were in relation to the legal action launched against BPSU President and People’s Campaign member Jason Hayward, which was initiated by Finance Minister Bob Richards after Mr Hayward made certain statements about the Minister on a TV appearance in relation to the emails over the airport contract with the Canadian Commercial Corporation.

Mr Burt said that the Auditor General previously examined the PLP’s government’s use of funds to pay for legal action taken after forged cheques attempted to implicate a sitting Premier and Minister in a corruption scandal, saying that the Auditor General said public funds being used to initiate a private legal action is “inappropriate and a direct violation of Financial Instructions.”

Mr Burt said that while it was recommended that “Government examine amending Financial Instructions to allow for the Cabinet to support a civil action taken on behalf of a Minister against anyone who defames and damages the reputation or credibility of the Minister when he or she is carrying out his or her duties”, the Financial Instructions have not been modified since the recommendation was made and “therefore the Government is acting in contravention of Financial Instructions.”

“I would expect the same zeal from the Office of the Auditor General in dealing with this matter of the hurt feelings of Minister Richards as that office gave to the matter of forged cheques being placed in official government files,” added Mr Burt.

Also speaking at the press conference was Opposition Leader Marc Bean who said the PLP “joins with the Bermuda Trade Union Congress in condemning and opposing the use of taxpayer funds to pay for what we consider an act of cowardly political intimidation against the President of the BPSU, Mr. Jason Hayward.’

“There rightly exists concern that an OBA government that told our seniors that ‘money doesn’t grow on trees,’ and who slashed the education and scholarship budgets, have found the money to pay high legal fees to silence a member of civil society. These actions, in our opinion, will be used to victimise the BPSU and intimidate others from speaking out against the actions of the Dunkley administration.

Mr Bean added, “What we are witnessing is silence from the watchdogs, whose responsibility is to guard the principles of good governance. The Auditor General’s Office, which loudly and vociferously opposed the use of taxpayer funds for a serious case under the PLP, where individuals attempted to frame the then Premier and a Cabinet Minister for corruption, has been silent.

“The Governor, supposedly the final check and balance against government corruption, lack of transparency and dictatorial action, has been silent, for reasons only the UK Government can explain. Suffice it to say, that it may be time to consider having a watchdog for the watchdogs.”

Shadow Finance Minister David Burt’s Statement

Mr Burt said, “In January of 2012, the Auditor General released a Special Report on the “Misuse of Public Funds” [PDF] – Inside of that report there was a section that highlighted “Inappropriate Use Of Public Funds for Payment of Personal Legal Expenses.”

“The Auditor General examined the Progressive Labour Party government’s use of funds to pay for a legal action taken after forged cheques, which attempted to implicate a sitting Premier and Minister in a corruption scandal. I repeat these were forged cheques placed into government files.

Following her review, the Auditor General said the following:

“The key issue here is that public funds were used to initiate a private legal action which is inappropriate and a direct violation of Financial Instructions. Financial Instruction 3.5 provides that ‘Government funds or property should only be used for Government purposes and must not be used for personal reasons’. Further Financial Instructions 10.4 places the onus and the responsibility on the Accounting Officer to ‘ensure that Government funds are not used for personal gain or profit’”.

She went on to say:

“There is no statutory provision for the underwriting by Government of the legal cost of a Minister, servant or agent suing in a private civil action. We, therefore, considered any such expenditure to be improper and unjustified.”

“On Monday August 17, Minister Bob Richards answered a Parliamentary question posed to him in the House of Assembly, where in confirming to the people of Bermuda that he was using their tax dollars to launch a personal lawsuit, in his own name, against the President of the Bermuda Public Services Union – said the following:

“In line with the Public Accounts Committee recommendation, included in their report of June 14th, 2014, on the inappropriate use of public funds for payment of personal legal expenses, the Cabinet has provided its support for the civil action taken by myself as the Minister of Finance against the President of the Bermuda Public Services Union.”

Audio of Minister Richards speaking about the legal funding in the House on August 17th:

“Members of the media and the public may not recall the recommendations made, but as the chairman of the PAC I am familiar with those and would like to remind the public of what the PAC actually said.

“The report gave the following recommendation:

“PAC recommends that the Government examine amending Financial Instructions to allow for the Cabinet to support a civil action taken on behalf of a Minister against anyone who defames and damages the reputation or credibility of the Minister when he or she is carrying out his or her duties. The PAC also recommends that any amendment to Financial Instructions make it clear that any proceeds from any such action revert to the Government of Bermuda.”

“It is clear that the Auditor General considers private lawsuits initiated with government funds to be a violation of Financial Instructions and said that, “There is no statutory provision for the underwriting by Government of the legal cost of a Minister, servant or agent suing in a private civil action.”

“To the best of our knowledge, Financial Instructions have not been modified since the PAC recommendation was made and therefore the Government is acting in contravention of Financial Instructions by approving this expenditure of taxpayer funds for the Minister’s private legal action.

“This is a clear violation of Financial Instructions, and I would expect the same zeal from the Office of the Auditor General in dealing with this matter of the hurt feelings of Minister Richards as that office gave to the matter of forged cheques being placed in official government files. ”

Opposition Leader Marc Bean’s Statement

Mr Bean said, “The Bermuda Progressive Labour Party today joins with the Bermuda Trade Union Congress in condemning and opposing the use of taxpayer funds to pay for what we consider an act of cowardly political intimidation against the President of the BPSU, Mr. Jason Hayward.

“There rightly exists concern that an OBA government that told our seniors that ‘money doesn’t grow on trees,’ and who slashed the education and scholarship budgets, have found the money to pay high legal fees to silence a member of civil society. These actions, in our opinion, will be used to victimise the BPSU and intimidate others from speaking out against the actions of the Dunkley administration.

“The use of intimidation and bullying tactics to silence dissent is not new in Bermuda. This latest use of the courts is simply a return to the dark days of yesteryear, and has no place in any modern sophisticated jurisdiction. It certainly has no place in 21st century Bermuda.

“Yet, the misuse of virtually unlimited tax payer funds by the OBA, to target and destroy those who disagree with or speak out against them, is a particularly low and repugnant approach to governance.

“In a normal society where the press corps would lead in ensuring transparency and accountability of the government of the day, and in a normal society where the voters and citizens have the freedom to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a government’s actions, the current environment would accurately be described as a path towards censorship and totalitarianism.

“What we are witnessing is silence from the watchdogs, whose responsibility is to guard the principles of good governance. The Auditor General’s Office, which loudly and vociferously opposed the use of taxpayer funds for a serious case under the PLP, where individuals attempted to frame the then Premier and a Cabinet Minister for corruption, has been silent.

“The Governor, supposedly the final check and balance against government corruption, lack of transparency and dictatorial action, has been silent, for reasons only the UK Government can explain. Suffice it to say, that it may be time to consider having a watchdog for the watchdogs!

“When the courts were first used to target members of the PLP, many of us stood silent. Some of us thought that those who had been targeted had somehow brought this victimisation upon themselves, and held other uncharitable, erroneous notions. We in the PLP will not make that mistake.

“The Bermuda Progressive Labour Party stands with the Bermuda Trade Union Congress and the workers of Bermuda because we believe in a Bermuda where Bermudians are treated fairly, and with decency and dignity.

“We have entered a dark chapter in Bermuda’s history, a chapter that can only be closed if we, the people of Bermuda remember that our unity is strength.

“In the past, our unity overcame the wealth, power and influence of those who sought to keep Bermuda in the dark ages.

“Yesterday, they targeted Marc Bean and David Burt. Today, it is Brother Jason Hayward. Who will be next? At this stage, it can be any voter in this country who may publicly question the words and deeds of the Dunkley administration.

“Regardless of who that person may be, it represents ‘one person too many’, and sets Bermuda on a path of further instability. After all, Bermuda is not another world, and recent history indicates that such Government actions lead to equal and opposite reactions from the people. That is an international norm. With the economic and social challenges we collectively face, the requirement of honest, prudent government is needed now more then ever.

“To the people of Bermuda, on this Labour Day weekend, we, as with all peoples around the world, are going to be faced with a future choice, that of freedom or control by their government. Our future, like others, is dependent on the choice we make. Choose wisely!”

Update: In response, a Ministry of Finance spokesperson said, “Government’s Financial Instructions (FI) provides the basis for the financial controls, processes, and procedures under which the Government operates. A key requirement of FI is to ensure that Government funds or property should only be used for Government purposes and must not be used for personal reasons.

“With regard to the current issue it should be noted that Cabinet has already provided its support of the civil action taken by the Minister of Finance in the capacity as the Minister of Finance against the President of the Bermuda Public Services Union for defamation and damaged reputation when he was carrying out his duties as the Minister of Finance.

“The Government considers the funding of this action to be for a government purpose and is the appropriate course to follow in the interest of the Government, and Bermuda’s international reputation.

“With regard to whether the use of public money to fund this matter is a violation of Financial Instructions, it should be noted that Financial Instructions already state that “Government funds or property should only be used for Government purposes and must not be used for personal reasons”.

“Accordingly, as this is considered a Government purpose no violation has occurred and there is no need to amend Financial Instructions. No rule of general application can be phrased to suit all circumstances, but the overarching principle is that Government funds should only be used for Government purposes and all transactions should be fully documented.

“It can be reported that at this time no payments have been made by the Government towards this matter but if any payments are made they will be transparent and fully documented. If any payments are made any proceeds from this action will revert to the Government of Bermuda.

“In his reply to the Public Accounts Committee Report on the “Inappropriate Use of Public Funds for Payment of Personal Legal Expenses” tabled in the House of Assembly on July 17th 2015 the Minister of Finance noted that there was no need to amend Financial Instructions as they already provided for this matter.”

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Comments (35)

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  1. Ringmaster says:

    The other week LaVerne Furbert took the media to task for referring to the lawsuit being against Jason Hayward as President of the BPSU. She made it clear Mr. Hayward was speaking on behalf of the Peoples Campaign. Perhaps the PLP would also like to correct their press statement.

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      We all know that nothing but the absolute truth comes from the lips or fingertips of Laverne Furbert.

  2. Your shadow govt. ..it seems …dissapeared more money than a natural disaster!…..Seriously…people equate your tenure not unlike a natural disaster!

  3. RBYC member says:

    Minister Richards I understand your fight, but honestly you’re the one who explained to Bermuda money doesn’t grow on trees. Wouldn’t the public funds being used for the lawsuit be better at growing Bermuda. Let this senseless fighting go. Soon we will be 10 bananas short of Haiti.

    • serengeti says:

      What’s more interesting is that Burt said in 2014 that government should fund these types of lawsuits, and yet now he says government should not fund these types of lawsuits. He doesn’t seem to be consistent when it comes to ethics.

      • Sisu says:

        And that is why politicians are slimy buggers. They change their beliefs on a whim when they think it will benefit them most – and think nothing of it. I hate that. If you don’t have the courage of your convictions then what do you have? Toeing the party line at every opportunity stifles growth of unique ideas and does nothing to benefit Bermuda as a whole. Why are so many so weak when it comes to expressing disdain within their ranks? Is it because they know they are woffless without the PLP or OBA name behind their own? I think that speaks volumes of the level of candidates we are currently blessed with: unelectable by themselves.

      • mj says:

        Mr. Burt is now speaking from the position he holds, so regardless of his personal opinion he is speaking in terms of what the Auditors report states..Lets hope that the Accounting Officer is aware and doesn’t dispense the funds as the accountability is from that office which would actually dispense the monies for what the finance minister is seeking..

        • Double D says:

          His position was stated as the Chairman of the PAC in June 2014.

          A position he currently still holds.

        • Build a Better Bermuda says:

          The PAC statement he made wasn’t his personal… it was an official PAC stance, an official PAC statement to which he is still the chairman for. Now he is crying foul because they are doing exactly what he recommended they do, for exactly the reason they stated.

    • Truth Teller says:

      That is a very racist statement (Donald Trump style) from the colour blind racism tool kit: “…10 bananas short of Haiti”

      Of course black monkeys eat bananas right. a racist wolf whistle if there ever was one.

      And RBYC is probably laughing at how clever he was knowing that his fellow white supremacists will easily interpret the racist code language (wink, wink)!

  4. More crap from the persons that brought you -$800B= NO ACCOUNTABILITY. Deception as a political tool,paid wild strikes, selective hearing to their benefit only ETC ETC ETC. Someone please advise how much PUBLIC funds they squandered. Two future world leaders in that video. Couldn’t run the Ringling Cicus

  5. Common Sense says:

    I agree that the taxpayer should not fund this lawsuit. The PLP would get some credibility if they would return the huge monies that they spent on the losing lawsuits when they tried to stop the media from publishing the investigation into the BHC scandals. It was obviously in the interests of the PLP that the public should not get to know what had happened to their money. The courts, all the way up to the Privy Council decided that the right for the Public to know overided all other factors. This was really a case of the PLP against the people of Bermuda, with the people paying for it.

  6. aceboy says:

    It is ok when the PLP does it. Not when the OBA does it.

  7. Northshore says:

    PLP`s motto “Do as we say not as we did many times!”

    • Family Man says:

      Not even ‘do as we say’ because last year Burt was saying Govt should fund these defamation lawsuits otherwise only the rich will be willing to serve in government. Now Burt is saying the exact opposite. It’s a flip flop party.

      Who would want to serve in government and have their reputation and good name be dragged through the mud if you could not afford the thousands of dollars to defend yourself.

  8. steve says:

    its that simple.

  9. JD says:

    Putting the debate to funding aside for a moment, I have a real problem with the inflammatory language used by Marc Bean here.

    Censorship…totalitarianism? What in the world are you talking about?

    This isn’t playtime guys. If you’re going to go on the radio you need to know that there are rules as to what you can and can’t say. I would have thought that this was pretty basic stuff for a president of a major Union to grasp, let alone the leader of a political party.

  10. Hoolieh says:

    David Burt has lost his integrity!
    That’s what happens when you’re influenced by others…
    Mr. Flip Flop!

    • have some backbone says:

      Nothing more unworthwhile than having this current PREMIER!!So bent on his own destructive agenda to certain groups of people!

      • hmmm says:

        this is extremist nonsense, show proof.

        have some backbone yourself and put your full name out there.

      • Build a Better Bermuda says:

        That current groups of people being Bermudians, that destructive agenda that has so far reduced the budget deficit, seen the begins of recovery of our economy, has managed to prevent the wholesale cutting of the CS that many have called for, has brought a premier sporting event to our shores that has already begun to show signs of benefits beyond just that event by expanding our profile to the sailing world… and on and on that so many would rather ignore.

  11. Bermyman says:

    “PAC recommendation”, do something about PORT ROYAL PLEASE! That is misuse of public funds in a major way!

    How many lawsuits under the PLP we defended with public money. Can someone give us a tally?

  12. J Starling says:

    If I read it correctly the PLP is saying they don’t have a problem in principle with such use of public monies, just that the changes haven’t been made to allow such yet. And as a result the Gov is acting in contravention of the law\financial instructions – and so the same criticism that was made when they did it should equally apply to the OBA.

    • wexed says:

      The PAC report added they they take “note of the Auditor General’s recommendation that surcharged funds be paid back, but does not support the recommendation – as the Committee accepts the explanation that Cabinet approved the funds and it was the view of Cabinet that the funding was for a ‘government purpose.”

      As far as recommendations, the report said: “PAC recommends that the Government examine amending Financial Instructions to allow for the Cabinet to support a civil action taken on behalf of a Minister against anyone who defames and damages the reputation or credibility of the Minister when he or she is carrying out his or her duties.

      “The PAC also recommends that any amendment to Financial Instructions make it clear that any proceeds from any such action revert to the Government of Bermuda.”

    • serengeti says:

      If the PLP were in power they would having the Auditor General arrested about now.

  13. Terry says:

    More propaganda.

    Spread disinformation. They did it but have not suffered the wrath of the Auditor Colonel.

    We go through more Auditors than I do rum and I don’et even drink it.

    At least this one did not go to jail.

    I see a pale moon rising.
    Shalom.

  14. jt says:

    I believe the statements need to be challenged and Mr. Hayward held accountable, if the court determines he must be. However, I have come to the conclusion that the public should not foot the bill. That being said, if there is an award for Mr. Richards he would be entitled to keep it.

  15. 21st Century says:

    Should BPSU funds (members’ dues) be used to defend Mr. Hayward? I don’t think so. He was speaking behalf of the Peoples Campaign not the Union.

  16. BDAGIRL says:

    Dr Brown and Mr Burgess are suing Mr Spagnuolo and another architect, Lawrence Brady, for $2 million each for alleged defamation of character.
    The case hit the headlines in January 2012 when Auditor General Heather Jacobs Matthews condemned Government for spending more than $31,000 of taxpayers’ money on legal fees for Dr Brown and Mr Burgess in relation to the case.

    Same thing here whats good for one is good for the other

  17. Common Sense says:

    What should a BPSU member do if they do not support the PLP?

  18. UmJustSaying says:

    I don’t understand what the problem is. JOE PUBLIC is
    paying for all the mistakes, mishaps and c@#k-ups. There are more pressing issues on the table. Remember JOE PUBLIC’S money pays you to be there and your pension if you stay around. History has already written
    HOW WE GOT TO WHERE WE ARE.

  19. Peanut Butter and Bacon Sandwich says:

    Forget the story – as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words and pity poor Mr. Bean who looks so unhappy up there beside his future leader Mr. Burt.

  20. Bram Stoker says:

    Mr Burt was chairman of the PAC when it made the following recommendations:

    “PAC recommends that the Government examine amending Financial Instructions to allow for the Cabinet to support a civil action taken on behalf of a Minister against anyone who defames and damages the reputation or credibility of the Minister when he or she is carrying out his or her duties.

    “The PAC also recommends that any amendment to Financial Instructions make it clear that any proceeds from any such action revert to the Government of Bermuda.”

  21. Dr. the Hon. Ewart F. Brown says:

    The problem for the OBA was that they ignored Mr. Burt’s Committee’s recommendation. They did not change Financial Instructions and so they were stuck.

  22. The Truth and Nothing but the Truth says:

    The PLP stand with the BPSU, UM Mr.Bean tell us something we don`t know. Yes that`s right you cannot can you. This is no more than a advert for PLP DYING SUPPORT! Here`s something you don`t know, did the OBA use taxpayers money? So being you didn`t bring proof here is some free advice,,,,, SHUTUP!