Government will not release BLDC consultants' 16-page report
Government is refusing to release a 16-page report on the Bermuda Land Development Company, which cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
The document was produced in 2010 by BLDC’s chairman and deputy chairman at the time, Edward Saunders and Pastor Leroy Bean, after a suggestion by then Works Minister Derrick Burgess that an investigation into the operations of the company was needed.
As revealed in the Auditor General’s Special Report on the Misuse of Public Funds, Mr Saunders and Mr Bean were paid $110-an-hour in consultancy fees for their work for the quango during 2010, netting $160,230 in total.
Yet the “detailed report” they were tasked with completing by the end of March that year appears never to have been released into the public domain.
The Royal Gazette has been unable to obtain a copy of the report from the Ministry of Public Works, which is responsible for BLDC, or from BLDC’s current chairman Dennis Lister, despite several requests.
We also asked the clerk at the House of Assembly to check if the report was ever tabled for MPs to read.
A Works Ministry spokesman said yesterday: “We are not commenting any further on this. It’s a board matter.”
PLP backbencher Mr Lister has ignored our e-mails and telephone messages.
The clerk to the House said the only record of anything being tabled by BLDC since February 2009 was a resolution regarding the lease at Daniel’s Head.
She was unable to tell us when the last annual report from BLDC was tabled in the House.
The Base Lands Development Act 1996 requires a report and financial statements to be tabled each year by the Minister responsible.
Mr Bean has not responded to requests for an interview from The Royal Gazette but he was quoted in Wednesday’s Bermuda Sun as saying that he and Mr Saunders completed a review of the finances and overall management of the government-owned BLDC.
He reportedly said: “The Bermuda public needed to know the truth about BLDC and that is why we prepared a report.”
In the same edition of the Sun, Deputy Premier Mr Burgess was quoted as saying he instructed Mr Saunders and Mr Bean to investigate “some inefficiencies at the quango” and that “they did and gave a 16-page report”.
The Auditor’s report, which was released on January 26, reveals that of the fees paid to Mr Saunders and Mr Bean, only $81,840 was formally approved for payment by BLDC’s board, with $78,390 unapproved.
Auditor General Heather Jacobs Matthews states: “The consultancy arrangement placed both the chairman and deputy chairman in a fundamental conflict of interest given their oversight role in the company.
“The actions of the chairman and deputy chairman clearly represent a breach of fiduciary duty.”
She recommends that the board take appropriate steps to recover the consultancy fees, a view supported by Premier and Finance Minister Paula Cox.
Mr Bean, branch chairman for the Progressive Labour Party in Transport Minister Mr Burgess’s Hamilton East constituency, reportedly told the Sun: “I have no intention of paying the money back that I was paid as that would show I have done something wrong. And I have done nothing wrong.”
Mr Burgess is quoted as saying: “If they pay the money back, it’s like admitting they have done something wrong.”
Mr Lister and Public Works Minister Michael Weeks have not responded to questions about whether they are seeking to have the fees repaid.
Mr Burgess has accused Mrs Matthews of being on a “personal witch hunt”, arguing that the board’s actions in relation to the consultancy fees were within the company’s bylaws and the Companies Act 1981.
It has not been possible to reach Mrs Matthews for comment since her report was released as she has been overseas. It is understood she is due back in her office today.