UBP: Fire Public Works Minister over Global House lights scandal

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  • The UBP has called for Public Works Minister Derrick Burgess to be fired over the Global House lights saga.

    The UBP has called for Public Works Minister Derrick Burgess to be fired over the Global House lights saga.

The United Bermuda Party want Public Works Minister Derrick Burgess to be fired for expecting taxpayers to bail him out of the Global House lighting scandal.

Charlie Swan, UBP’s spokesman for public works, is publicly calling on Premier Paula Cox to kick Mr Burgess out of her Government for his “callous disregard” of technical advice when installing the new lights.

He called the Global House fiasco “a classic example of bad government”, adding that “bad habits are hard to break”.

Mr Burgess, who is also Deputy Premier, ignored the advice of technical officers and gave the go-ahead for the controversial LED lamps two years ago at a cost of about $100,000.

Works and Engineering staff were last week called in to start to reverse Mr Burgess’ original decision by replacing the LED fixtures with fluorescent tube lights. The replacement of the potentially dangerous LED lights came just four days after The Royal Gazette revealed they breached health and safety regulations, as well as building and electrical codes.

Mr Swan said Mr Burgess should be held accountable because he had never publicly explained why he acted against the advice of experts. He said his actions “make a mockery of transparency and accountability that we, the people, have been promised”.

Mr Swan said: “The fiasco involving lighting at Global House is incredibly disconcerting given the state of the Bermuda economy, the huge public debt Bermudian taxpayers are faced with and callous disregard for proper financial instructions.

“This is another example where a minister of a PLP Government has usurped a decision that should be made by a civil servant; a classic example of bad government.

“The choices are clear; the Minister should do the honourable thing and resign or the Premier should fire the Minister. Failure to advance either of these options will further weaken confidence in the Government.”

Mr Burgess is understood to have returned to work yesterday after being out of office last week. However, Ms Cox refused to tell The Royal Gazette if she was planning to take any further action against him.

Ms Cox has previously said that she has “zero tolerance” for all practices that contravene financial instructions and future contacts would come under scrutiny through the Procurement Code of Practice and Financial Instructions Regulations.

Mr Swan said a similar scenario would not go “unchallenged or without punishment” in other countries.

He said: “What’s ironic, is that in spite of the financial hardship that Bermuda’s people face, we are still experiencing PLP Ministers acting irresponsibly, without conscience and morality, and unethically.

“In other Commonwealth jurisdictions where interference is uncovered and further where the results are this catastrophic such a matter would necessitate that the Minister in question resign or be fired immediately once it became public knowledge. In other jurisdictions ministers are accountable.”

The issue was brought to light on Monday when The Royal Gazette published the details of a report by the Electrical Section of the Ministry of Works and Engineering highlighting a series of errors about the LED installation in 2009.

The damning report stated that no proper feasibility study was carried out, technical officers had raised concerns in advance about poor lighting levels, the lights installed were not certified with a recognised electrical testing laboratory, and an electrical permit for the lights was not applied for.

Mr Swan, who is involved in installing LED lighting himself, said samples from potential suppliers should have been tested to gauge the opinions of staff.

He also said there would have been plenty of time to reconsider as the ballast in light fixtures must be removed or disconnected before installing LED tubes.

“We have been down this road before” with Mr Burgess, Mr Swan said.

He highlighted “other episodes that come to mind” including the building of the Berkeley Institute and “the improper survey for footings” at the $90 million Dame Lois Browne Evans building and the eventual move of a portion of the Police Service to the Veritas building opposite.

He said: “The end results have invariably cost diligent, hard working Bermudian taxpayers millions of dollars.

“You would think that the PLP Minister would have learned a lesson by now, but bad habits seem hard to break.”

Mr Swan added that the lighting situation at Global House was “very serious” saying Mr Burgess “knows better ... there are no excuses”.

He added: “This time the Bermuda taxpayer cannot afford to bail this Minister.”

Government has refused to say how much the new lights cost and whether taxpayers will foot the bill when repeatedly asked by The Royal Gazette.

A Government spokesman said last night that Mr Burgess, who is overseas, “had made it clear that at the time that he sought Cabinet approval for the installation of LED lighting in Global House, he was motivated by the prospect of creating a more environmentally friendly Global House and by the prospect of creating enormous savings for Government”.

The spokesman continued: “Recognising the worldwide trend towards ‘green’ buildings, he saw the Global House initiative as a pilot for the installation of energy efficient LED lighting in other Government-owned buildings.

“Minister Burgess has made clear also that at the time that the installation of the LED lighting in Global House commenced in May 2009, he had not seen his technical officers’ report setting out concerns about the LED lighting. The technical officers’ report is dated April 2010.

“ETM, the company that was awarded the contract to install the LED lighting, has already replaced a number of lamps in Global House as a result of occupiers’ expressions of concern.

“Additionally, the Department of Public Lands and Buildings is replacing and improving lighting throughout Global House.

“Minister Burgess recognizes the importance of the health and safety of all Government employees and, in collaboration with his colleague, the Hon D Neletha I Butterfield, Minister of Government Estates and Information Services, the Minister now responsible for all Government-owned buildings, will ensure that any breaches are rectified immediately.

“It is to be noted that Government’s procurement and tendering process has been revamped and it is bolstered by a governance framework that includes court sanctions for proven charges of violations against Financial Instructions and the Code of Practice for Project Management and Procurement.”

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Published Oct 25, 2011 at 8:05 am (Updated Oct 25, 2011 at 8:05 am)

UBP: Fire Public Works Minister over Global House lights scandal

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