Column: Spending $175,000 On An Empty Office

January 10, 2019

[Opinion column written by Michael Dunkley + Updated]

After details of Cabinet Office contracts were published in the Official Gazette it was revealed that the PLP Government has spent at least $175,000 on an empty office in Washington.

The Premier and his spokespeople tried to justify this waste of hard earned taxpayer dollars with the excuse of pressing EU matters and the Caribbean Financial Action Taskforce review.

Chart from the contracts notice, the Liberty Place is the Washington Office:

PATI Contracts Dec 31 2018

A Government must focus on all important matters and must not drop a ball on any. So, if the budget provides funding, and it is spent, the taxpayers expect a return on the money spent!

Don’t bite off more than you can chew and don’t make excuses after money is wasted.

The OBA made the decision, which was announced in the Budget Debate of 2017/18, to close the Washington Office. During that debate it was announced the budget would be cut from $407,000 to $206,000 dollars.

The allocation would cover rental expense, insurance and utilities only until such time as the space was sublet. The process of subletting the space was to be undertaken by the Ministry of Public Works in consultation with the building agent in Washington DC.

It was our view then that we should step away from a bricks and mortar presence to one of extending our professional lobbyist reach.

An External Affairs Strategic Planning Committee was formed. Members of the committee were Dr. Derrick Binns, Paul Scope, Pamela Burrows, Cheryl Lister, Karla Lacey, Jeremy Cox, Ross Webber, Richard Winchell, Leila Maderios and Travis Gilbert. This committee reported to Cabinet.

In addition, we should continue to build the good relationship with the US and directly visit Washington and meet with key political leaders. This was done with good success by the former OBA Government.

Any Government has the right and ability to launch initiatives which they believe will benefit the people they serve. However, spending money with no return is not acceptable and something that the Loyal Opposition will fervently call out.

Many people put their hope in the PLP at the last election, but sadly that hope is disappearing with the continuing lack of transparency and accountability.

To date, Bermuda has failed to progress under the PLP Government. Ironically the only jobs being created are a result of OBA projects at the airport redevelopment and the St. Regis Hotel.

Yet we see spending on an empty office in Washington; a qualified audit in the first year, an increased Cabinet, with two Ministers having seemingly little responsibility but a nice paycheck, and Ministers with a growing number of paid personal consultants.

This is not putting Bermudians first.

Finally, people should note the inappropriate and false political statement by a government spokesperson, who served both the OBA and PLP Governments.

“From October 2015 until the change of government in 2017 it should be reminded that in our major trading partner we essentially had no representation whatsoever when faced with a new administration and tax reform.” It goes on to say “ the office was shut down with no plan…”

Government spokespersons should never allow a Premier or Minister to have them deliver a political statement about a former administration. Ministers should do it themselves and not inappropriately hide behind a civil servant.

The OBA continued to strengthen our good relationship with the US by having high level meetings with key political leaders such as Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, GK Butterfield, Cory Booker, Steve Scalise, Jim Clyburn and the Congressional Black Caucus amongst others.

In addition, with the input and support of International Business, we had communication with the White House in the early stages of the new administration when tax reform was a hot topic. Bermuda is in a better position because of this work.

There are 175,000 other ways we could have spent the money allocated to an empty office and no excuse can justify the failure to be accountable for hard earned taxpayer dollars.

This is not putting Bermudians First.

- Michael Dunkley is the former Premier and current MP for Smith’s North

Update 5.15pm: Minister for the Cabinet Office Walton Brown today stated, “The shadow minister of everything and former Premier of Bermuda is once again attempting to rewrite history and erase his record of failure.

“In 2017, when the OBA was defeated at the polls, the PLP came into office to find that the OBA had inadequate representation in place to defend our interests in the United States, many of our long established relationships had eroded, and we were spending money on an empty office that the OBA shut down without a plan.

“Proper diplomacy requires that you make friends before you need them, yet the shortsighted move by the OBA government left Bermuda with no political presence when the then new Congress and new President came into office. This was a particularly shortsighted move by the OBA with the Trump administration’s tax reform agenda that could impact dramatically on Bermuda.

“Former Premier Dunkley may criticize our decision to reestablish the DC office and ensure that Bermuda’s interests are consistently defended on Capitol Hill. Yet we are confident that this decision, supported by our international business partners, is the correct decision for Bermuda.”

Minister Brown concluded, “No one likes to spend money without getting an outcome that tangibly benefits Bermuda. Being forced to pay rent on an empty office that was vacated and left empty under the OBA’s watch is far from ideal for Bermuda or the taxpayer. Despite this, we have an obligation to resolve the situation and we are working to fulfill our pledge to have proper representation for Bermuda in Washington DC.”

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Comments (23)

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  1. watching says:

    I am sure the public can find thousands or even millions of ways to spend monies that the OBA spent/wasted during their time in office.

    • TO WATCHNG::
      You are sooo correct. Look at America Cup Bermuda…. that OBA is so devious and ridiculous!!

      • question says:

        Look at you. Twisting and turning to try to defend your incompetent government wasting borrowed money on empty offices.

        While our children sit in mouldy classrooms with dysfunctional wifi and an education system that is crying out for better management. And while you increase tax on food so that old people can’t buy things they want. And yet you waste money so that a fat cat sit in a big empty office overseas.

      • Come Correct says:

        How does it feel to be a liar, deliberately trying to mislead people?

      • LaV says:

        you can actually taste your hatred for certain people, can’t you?
        Bitter, isn’t it?

    • watched says:

      Go on then……

    • Double S says:

      I know where we can find $1.2mn of taxpayer monies right now…

    • sandgrownan says:

      You go first. Go on.

      And you have to do it in the context of a broader economic plan. You know, one that increase cash circulation in the economy.

      I’ll wait.

    • Come Correct says:

      Would you like to provide examples of where the OBA wasted tax payers money? Please say the America’s cup.

      • Youth says:

        Sylvan richards spending 30k in Brazil for a week comes to mind. Sour milk man said nothing when this happened.

        • Come Correct says:

          You can have that. Completely ridiculous. As absurd as that is and actually thought acceptable, it’s a drop in the bucket in comparison to other things.

  2. trump supporter says:

    Thats peanuts compared to:

    Port Royal
    Court building

    Give some credit saved a little.
    Thanks voters

      Incorrect. That OBA was so dysfunctional, callous, and bent of “their own agenda”.They get credit for nothing!!

      • Come Correct says:

        You’ve said nothing, yet again. You are irrelevant.

  3. …spending millions on America Cup BERMUDA…HHMM…
    the pot calling the kettle BLACK.. fancy that!!
    Do as I say but do not do as I do!!

    • watched says:

      If you gave me $10, and I gave you back $100, I guess you wouldn’t consider that a good deal either, eh?

      If you don’t understand that, then please don’t waste your breath commenting on the America’s Cup, as it’s clearly too complicated for you.

      • Ok says:

        That’s 100% BS and you OBA cronies know it! Only the rich truly benefitted from AC! Can’t find that magical $360M can you? It’s because it never made it into public coffers!

      • Ok says:

        I recall Bob Richards staying that “we have no money” with that stupid grin of his but then only 1 month later found millions for AC! Yes that’s right! Follow the money!

  4. DeOnion says:

    what experience does Mr Perinchief have in government reform?

  5. andrew says:

    2 comments? Wow..PLP can really do no wrong in their voters eyes.

    • Make a New Plan Stan says:

      You are only seeing comments from a few people…..have you spoken to every PLP voter?

      These forums are commented on by people with the time and inclination to post and seem to be giving people an extremely skewed picture of the views of the entire group.

      Think about that before you assume the few that comment speak for all…

  6. J Austen says:

    If the Milkman was genuinely interested in seeing his party return to power, he would go away. He is a proven loser at the head of the ticket of two different parties (at least so they claim) and should defer to those with a better likelihood of winning. The best opinions in the world, which his are not, are useless if you cannot win a majority. Time to hang em up pal and let someone younger and prettier get involved.

  7. Business Advisor says:

    Property rental should only be justified by profit.
    If it is not profitable it is probably in fact a boat…a hole in the water…you pour money into…
    How many non profitable properties does govt rent with my money (tax dollars)?
    Give me a total on that.