An uphill struggle to get information on the BLDC

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  • (Photo by Mark Tatem)
Little information: The headquarters of the BLDC at Triton House,Southside.

    (Photo by Mark Tatem) Little information: The headquarters of the BLDC at Triton House,Southside.


Who's Who at the BLDC

Edward Saunders was appointed chairman of the Bermuda Land Development Company (BLDC) in 2010 and served in the position until April 2011.
The 65-year-old is a former chairman of Bermuda Hospitals Board and St George’s Parish Council.
He has previously served as chairman of the PLP’s constituency three branch in St David’s, where he lives. It is understand he does maintenance/construction work for a living.
Pastor Leroy Bean was appointed to the board of BLDC in 2009. He served as deputy chairman throughout 2010 and until April 2011.
According to the Progressive Labour Party’s website, the 50-year-old is chairman of the PLP’s constituency five branch in Hamilton East, where Deputy Premier Derrick Burgess is the sitting MP.
In September 2010, Mr Bean was selected as the PLP candidate for constituency four but has yet to be officially rolled out as the party’s candidate for St George’s South.
He is part of Transfiguration Ministries and founded the non-profit organisation CARTEL (Challenging and Reclaiming the True Essence of Life) in 2007, which educates young people about the pitfalls of gang life.
Mr Bean, of Hamilton Parish, is chairman of Government’s Trucks Advisory Committee.
The other BLDC members at the time the board was disbanded by Ms Cox were, according to Government, Leroy Robinson, Stuart Hollis, Aaron Spencer and Angelique Burgess.
The current board is chaired by PLP backbencher Dennis Lister. The other board members are Jason Green, Arthur Jones, John Dill, Scott Simmons, Malcolm Furbert, Arthur Pitcher, Michelle Jackson, Caroline Foulger and Curtis Dickinson

The Bermuda Land Development Company rarely hits the headlines.

In fact, most taxpayers could be forgiven for knowing little about its existence, so seldom are they told anything about it.

The quango’s website, www.bldc.com, features limited information on the parcels of land it manages and nothing at all about its finances, its board of directors or its recent activities.

The most recent newspaper article featured on the website’s “In the News” section is from 2007 and the same page suggests visitors download a newsletter from 2004.

BLDC’s board meets behind closed doors and its discussions are not made public, despite the fact that it’s a government-owned private sector company which has received millions of dollars from the public purse since its inception.

In the last ten months, it has been moved from the Ministry of Works to the Ministry of Environment and then back again to Works, with next to no publicity.

There was no announcement when its board was disbanded in May 2011, even though, according to a Progressive Labour Party statement last week, Government had “invoked the ultimate sanction of accountability”.

And members of the public were left totally in the dark, until now, about the reason for that sanction: the fact that BLDC had paid more than $160,000 in consultancy fees to the chairman and deputy chairman of its own board.

Until the Auditor General’s Special Report on the Misuse of Public Funds was released last week, taxpayers did not know Ms Cox had recommended that chairman Edward Saunders and deputy chairman Leroy Bean pay back the cash.

Nor did they know she recommended they resign, that the pair refused to do so or that then Works Minister Derrick Burgess “took no action” to get rid of them.

Ms Cox promised in July that Bermuda’s long-awaited public access to information (PATI) law, which will require bodies such as BLDC to be more open, would become operational “in the second half of 2012”.

She also announced new legislation earlier this month which she said would “further enhance good governance and transparency and ... further underscore the message that this Government adheres to the high standards of ethical behaviour: transparency and accountability, fairness and equity, efficiency and effectiveness, respect for the rule of the law”.

In the meantime, getting information about BLDC, which was established as a limited company by the Base Lands Development Act in 1996, remains an uphill struggle.

On Friday, The Royal Gazette requested a copy of its most recent annual report, plus information on its staffing and 2011/12 budget.

A Ministry of Works spokesman said he could not provide an annual report or say when the last report was published. He was also unable to share any financial information.

He said BLDC employed 29 staff and that its chief executive officer Andrew Swan was on extended medical leave. Its acting CEO is Francis Mussenden.

The last reference this newspaper found in a Government budget book in relation to a grant received by BLDC was for 2007-2008, when it got $2.5 million.

It is believed it has since managed to generate enough of its own income from rental tenants to meet its costs.

The quango is responsible for the former bases at Southside, Daniel’s Head and Tudor Hill and was in charge of Morgan’s Point until 2010.

A report published by the Cabinet Office’s Central Policy Unit in 2003 warned that BLDC’s ability to use government funds to finance operating expenses could “lead to poor financial management and inadequate control of costs and revenues”.

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Published Jan 30, 2012 at 6:09 am (Updated Jan 30, 2012 at 6:47 am)

An uphill struggle to get information on the BLDC

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