Opinion: Auditor’s Report On Port Royal Costs

December 11, 2014

[Opinion column written by OBA MP Susan Jackson]

The Auditor General’s Report into the then-Government’s handling of the upgrade of the Port Royal Golf Course was hair-raising stuff.

Many of the checks and balances the Government has carefully put into place over the years to oversee the spending of public money on large public projects went out the window. The PLP Government had to change the law in order to give oversight of the project to the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Tourism instead of the Ministry of Public Works.

The need for competitive tendering was sometimes ignored. The Trustees of the Golf Courses didn’t seem to bother with the normal public money protocols – money was sometimes spent without authorisation, there were cost overruns, lack of oversight and accounting procedures up and down the chain of command, and loans authorised without Parliamentary approval.

The project, initially budgeted for $4.5 million ended up costing $24 million.

It was almost as if the PLP Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Tourism gave the Trustees a sack full of money and said “Here, spend this. If you need more, we’ll fill it up again for you.”

Perhaps a part of the reason was that Premier Ewart Brown wanted the new Port Royal to be the site of the PGA Grand Slam, so time was always of the essence in getting the work done.

But urgency is no excuse for throwing the rulebook out of the window. The Auditor General said this: “Should those persons responsible for the failure to safeguard the public purse be held accountable? The answer must be a resounding and unequivocal Yes.”

The House of Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee will undoubtedly be making an investigation. Will they see to it someone is held accountable? We’ll see.

The Port Royal project was controversial almost from the day it started. One widely-seen story in July, 2008, began by saying Government MP Zane DeSilva can expect a “bumper” payday for helping renovate the Port Royal public golf course.

The report said, “The Island Construction boss, who also sits on a Board of Trustees which oversees the management of the island’s three public courses, was the only company to submit a bid to Government to carry out excavation work, which accounts for the bulk of the $13.6-million price tag for the project.”

“The revelation supports earlier claims from rival construction firms that the job was never put out to tender and contradicts claims by the Board of Trustees that Mr. DeSilva won the contract after ‘providing a competitive price’.”

Golf Course Trustees Chairman Wendall Brown had said: “Island Construction was given the contract because of their experience, having recently done the excavating at Tucker Point and Mid Ocean and providing a competitive price. At no point was Mr. Zane DeSilva involved with the bidding process either as a Trustee or as a representative of Island Construction.”

At the time, UBP leader, Shadow Tourism Minister and golf pro Kim Swan said that written answers provided by Dr Brown to questions asked in the House of Assembly clearly supported the claim that no other companies had been invited to submit bids for the excavation work.

And he said: “The Board of Trustees claim that they hired a project manager to oversee the project but clearly Zane DeSilva is the project manager. He is the deputy chairman of the Board and is also chairman of the links committee, and he just so happens to end up winning the contract for the bulk of the work?”

There were also complaints by those who felt Bermudians had been bypassed in favour of foreigners for jobs at the course once it was completed. The issue was discussed by the Bermuda Professional Golfers Association, when several members expressed their disgust at the way they say local applications had been ignored.

Questions about hiring were dodged neatly by the former PLP Premier’s Press Secretary at the time, who said “The Golf Courses [Consolidation] Act 1998 gives the Board of Trustees hiring power for the public golf courses. So there is no appropriate person in Government for these questions.”

It can’t be denied that Port Royal is now a first-class addition to Bermuda’s golfing attractions, but apparent disregard for the rules was no way to accomplish that.

The irony is that the PLP government’s then-Ministers and Members of Parliament, who sat as quiet as mice while all this was going on, and who must have known it was going on, are now screaming every time the One Bermuda Alliance Government steps up to the plate to get the job done properly.

- Susan Jackson

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Comments (46)

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  1. watching says:

    I highly doubt that Ms Jackson wrote this column, but nevertheless it is attributed to her.

    So I ask Ms. Jackson – the article states
    “Perhaps a part of the reason was that Premier Ewart Brown wanted the new Port Royal to be the site of the PGA Grand Slam, so time was always of the essence in getting the work done.

    But urgency is no excuse for throwing the rulebook out of the window. The Auditor General said this: “Should those persons responsible for the failure to safeguard the public purse be held accountable? The answer must be a resounding and unequivocal Yes.”

    So does she agree with the OBA throwing the rulebook out the window when it comes to the airport deal? The UK has told the OBA what they should do, yet Minister Richards is choosing to do what he wants. Does MP Jackson agree with this stance which would be in contradiction to her comments (or the comments attributed to her) in this opinion column.

    • watching you back says:

      The airport is no where even close to being the same thing and so far is only an exploratory MOU. I love all the indignation when the opposition gets a little of what the give out on a daily basis. Will there be a town hall meeting about Port Royal? Will there be a march? How about the People’s Campaign, Christopher Famous and D. Tavares…will they all write opinion pieces demanding justice over this? Just curious.

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      The OBA does indeed owe us an explanation as to why they have gone the route they did towards this airport, but it does need to be recognized there are differences to be applied to this. Primarily, the PLP owe Bermudians and explaination about why they seemed to have gone out of their way to ensure there wouldn’t be any accountability for an overrun that cost us millions of dollars, the OBA needs to explain the process by which we have entered into this MOA with CCC that is not supposed to cost Bermudians anything and what measures are being taken to ensure it doesn’t. And let’s leave out the PLP propaganda of $1b, as that already been discredited by the most basic of economic calculation, that even a shadow finance minister should have understood.

  2. aceboy says:

    The PAC is chaired by the Shadow Finance Minister, David Burt and stacked with PLP faithful.

    If you think that investigation is going to find any wrongdoing you are in dreamland.

    • watching says:

      That is untrue and ridiculous. The PAC cannot be stacked with any particular side as it is comprised of members from both sides of the House, as it was during the PLP’s time in power.

      FYI http://www.parliament.bm/Public_Accounts_Committee.aspx

      The PAC is chaired by David Burt, the Shadow Finance Minister and is comprised of

      Mr. Terry Lister (retired, so I am assuming someone has to replace him)
      Cole Simons -OBA
      Jeanne Atherden – OBA
      Glen Smith – OBA
      Jeff Sousa – OBA
      Lovitta Foggo – PLP
      Clark Somner – Committee Clerk

      So assuming the website is up to date, one can clearly see that the PAC is hardly stacked with PLP faithful.

  3. #33 Area Voter says:

    What is the purpose of the OPed? Seriously?

    • SMH says:

      Errr..we lost $20M. Reason enough for me!

    • tators says:

      Seriously Miss Jackson? Divide and conqueror. You are not the one. Can’t take notice of a seat inheritor.

    • Sandgrownan says:

      The point is, that while the knuckle draggers express “concern” on a regular basis and add “..gate” to everything they can…the point is they played fast and loose with the public purse and the this needs to be repeated. It provides context.
      For DeSilva to question government spending is hypocrisy of the worst sort.

    • Justin says:

      A: To name and shame. What’s wrong with that?

    • Rhonda says:

      to get people all worked over….to get resentment without full facts to set in…

  4. Rhonda says:

    OBA trying to stir up excitement, wasn’t this reported to the House, hence the Oba can debate it there. And you wonder why are divided

    • SMH says:

      A $20M over spend and your this is stirring up excitement. You obviously don’t care what our politician do to us…as long as they’re PLP. We all need to raise our standards.

    • Unbelievable says:

      Sorry, Rhonda but this is important. You’re acting like it’s no big deal. The majority of BDAns don’t listen to the House of Assembly radio so having an explanation here on a popular news website makes sense.

      The PLP done messed this one up big time and you need to acknowledge that.

      • Rhonda says:

        debate it in the house get all the facts then come to court of public opinion… ask yourself if the truth is what the OBA is after why come here first…

        • Unbelievable says:

          The truth is within the Auditor’s Report. Or is she another OBA flunky as you would have everyone believe? Clearly you don’t want to hear the truth at all.

          A little bit of self reflection is what the PLP really needs and you can begin that process when you are ready.

        • SMH says:

          ….cause the PLP always wait until things a debated in the house first before having town hall meetings, marches, etc. Or is it only OK if we do it??

        • jt says:

          Were you critical of Walton Browns press release concerning PRCs and fronting?

        • aceboy says:

          After all the outrage over a 300,000 dollar payment which wasn’t even public funds you want to let this issue fade away? This is $20 million of public funds!!! The Auditor has ALREADY done the investigation, the PAC should simply hand the file to the police. Will they? I doubt it.

    • serengeti says:

      If that’s how you feel, you’d better put a similar comment on Bean’s OpEd.

  5. SMH says:

    Well said. This whole project is reflective of the PLP lack of respect for the voters of Bermuda. Personal gain over Bermudians every step of the way. Shameful. Never again

  6. flikel says:

    In my opinion, we (the public) need to expect and demand more from our political leaders.

    Regardless of who is in Government, the criticisms are essentially the same…overspending, lack of oversight, ‘friends and family’.

    The PLP was accused of these things, the UBP was accused of these things, and now the OBA is accused of these things.

    This is an indication that the system is broken. The system itself needs to be revamped. If the same issues persist, regardless of who is in power, then there needs to be fundamental changes to ensure these issues never happen again.

    The fact that these issues resonate throughout time indicates a general lack of political desire to implement the necessary safe guards to effectively prevent this from happening again.

    We, the public, need to demand and expect more from our political leaders. It is common place to defend or justify an action by accusing your political rival of essentially doing the same thing….’yes I overspent, but so did you’… ‘yes, I hired my friend, but so did you’.

    How about taking the bold steps to ensure this does not happen again.

    • flikel says:

      Also, why do we judge the wrongness of an action depending on is performing the action? If it’s wrong…then it should wrong regardless of the perpetrator.

      It is tiring hearing supporters decry an action when committed by their political rivals, but support the same action when committed by their favored political party.

      • SMH says:

        Yup….bunch of hypocrites. I do feel sorry for PLP support base that their leaders think so little of them that they allow themselves to continue to be treated like this

  7. SMH says:

    You call a $20 MILLION over run on a $4million dollar project trying to stir it up. I think this need to be debated and discusses each and every single day until WE call get the answers we deserve. We all need to hold our leaders to higher account and I for one do not accept the possibility of corruption in any form. According to you this should just be brushed under the rug…NOT FOR ME!

  8. watching says:

    why is MP Jackson writing this op-ed when the report has to be tabled in the House? Is she trying to preempt the House debate? Let’s see how much she actually says in the House to this report. She is virtually silent in the House on a week to week basis.

  9. watching says:

    Also, she calls it the PLP Cabinet Office?
    So is it now the OBA Cabinet Office?
    Hmm, I thought the Cabinet office was the Cabinet Office regardless of which government resides there.

    More silliness from the OBA. We have had the horrible opinion columns attributed to Toni Daniels and now we have this ridiculous one by Susan Jackson. Did they write them tho?

  10. Doubting says:

    If you chage the names, dates, and departments it sounds just like what is happening now with the airport. SMH

    • Sandgrownan says:

      Er..no it isn’t. You have to be functionaly retarded to believe that.

    • Come Correct says:

      …No it doesn’t…

    • Grow up People says:

      Sour grapes??

    • sally says:

      Well said there Watching, you are spot on!

    • Bermy says:

      Sounds nothing like the airport at all, this actually took money out of every tax paying Bermudians pocket. The airport project is currently just an MOU.

  11. Sad Days for Bermuda says:

    These comments prove that MPs can do no wrong to PLP supporters. No wonder the PLP killed this country and it’s economy…none of their supports tried to stop them. It’s time for Bermuda to grow up and make their MP accountable for their actions. I personally would like to see Zane publically questioned for his involvement on Port Royal and a Special Inquiry specifically set up to look into this, yet another fiasco and make the finds public for all to see and then judge their leaders on. Come on people, grow up

  12. Next Step? says:

    The next step should be to turn this over to the police.

    While the PLP may have changed the law to allow moving this to the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Tourism, that did not eliminate the need to document cash flows – where (or who) did they go to and for what purpose. All of that should be documented.

  13. Your joking says:

    So this was Zane’s response in 2013…….funny reading now

    PLP: ‘Minister Failed To Get Her Facts Straight’
    May 1, 2013
    “Minister Gordon-Pamplin has failed to get her facts straight, as Island Construction categorically did not receive a $14 million contract for landscaping at the Port Royal Golf Course,” Shadow Minister of Health Zane DeSilva said.

    Mr DeSilva was speaking in response to a statement by Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, with two having exchanging words about the FutureCare health insurance programme for seniors.

    Mr DeSilva had said “punitive increases” were put in place, while the Minister said “I think that the $14M that the Minister charged the people of Bermuda to do some landscaping at Port Royal golf course would have gone a long way to ensure that money was available for further benefits to our seniors, but it appears that his priority was not with our seniors.”

    Starting back in 2008, Port Royal Golf Course underwent a major renovation spearheaded by Boston-based architect Roger Rulewich. The overall cost of the work is generally cited at $14.5 millon.

    Mr DeSilva said, “In her haste to deflect attention from the rash and radical increases in FutureCare for the island’s most vulnerable seniors, Minister Gordon-Pamplin has failed to get her facts straight. Island Construction categorically did not receive a $14 million contract for landscaping at the Port Royal Golf Course.

    “The Minister has not only attempted to deceive the public, but is indicating that neither I, nor my company, should receive government contracts based purely on my political affiliation. We demand that Minister Pamplin-Gordon apologize for this irresponsible and unstatesmanlike behavior and immediately retract her statement.

    “The OBA may believe that innuendo, deception and deflection are effective ways to hide the truth, but what is done in the dark will be revealed in the light. The facts are that the OBA has broken a slew of election promises, been caught in repeated untruths and favored the elite and their friends in the business community over Bermuda’s working class and our community’s most vulnerable. The OBA has consistently run from tough questions, taken credit for PLP achievements and ducked responsibility for their actions.

    “The facts are that the OBA callously raised FutureCare fees on seniors who could afford it the least and have failed to answer the cries of seniors whose prescription benefits are too low. We call on the OBA to stop running, stop deflecting and stop misleading our people,” concluded Mr DeSilva.

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    • Edmond Spenser says:

      Technically Zane is correct. The contract was for 4.5m not 14m, of which 24m was actually paid.

  14. Alvin Williams says:

    Turn over to the police hey? does this mean that the Bermuda police is higher than Scotland yard which was brought in to investigate government financial policies and found nothing; and whose report was than endorse by the than governor? A fact that greatly upset the same political elements which are behind this current OBA government and their continue engagement in the politics of distraction.We know why the OBA continues to engage in the politics of distraction and that is to take the eyes of Bermudians off what they are doing and the real issues in this country. But that will not work as long as there are those of us who will not allow them to blind the people of Bermuda with their attempts to deflect attention from the real issues by engaging in the politics of distraction.

  15. Navin Johnson says:

    Zane the OBA callously lowered my Future Care premiums not raised them…many more people benefitted from the lower premiums….also just out of curiosity where did the material go that was excavated from Port Royal? Was it sold to someone else? funny how the PLP wants to rant about $350,000 that came into the coffers of Bermuda from the JETGATE deal and yet wants to ignore the $20,000,000 yes TWENTY MILLION that was taken from the coffers….strange ….and who offers more op eds and opinion pieces than the PLP faithful on a daily basis …no one cares about them other than themselves and yet we are subjected to their views despite their 14 years of failure as a government

  16. ….Surely you jest. says:

    This is the second OpEd the OBA have churned out on this one. I guess that means its not yet having the traction they had hoped. But anyway, is this the same government that has spent the last few weeks telling us unwieldy, slow, and impractical open tenders and RFPs are? The same government whose sole rationale for engaging CCC to develop the airport is because open tenders take too long ? Oh ok. Pot calling kettle.