Because this is a subject that has been discussed at length before, its important to establish several points at the beginning.
The first is that the service at the Transport Control Department and the vehicle testing centre is vastly improved, both in terms of courtesy and efficiency than it was in the days when get a vehicle relicensed was like going through Dantes Seven Circles of Hell. The second point is that this newspaper endorses privatisation of public services when it can be done better, more efficiently and transparently than by the public sector.
Indeed, if the current Government had embraced privatisation more widely, Bermudas public finances might be in better shape. But that does not excuse a lack of transparency, or a failure to fulfill the goals of a project.
The construction of the new TCD building and the Emissions Testing Centre was criticised by Auditor General Heather Jacobs Matthews because of undocumented cost overruns and the lack of open tendering for the project, which gave rise to accusations of conflict of interest and cronyism.
Regardless of how well TCD runs now, that was not be acceptable. Now this newspaper has revealed that the entire purpose of the $15 million construction of the project — for emissions testing leading to cleaner air and a better environment — remains unfulfilled.
It was stated that the information required to set emissions standards needed to be established. That information gathering was completed last October, and Bermuda Emissions Control operations director Ian Hind said he hoped the regulations would be in place by the first quarter of this year.
Now its August, and theres still no sign of the regulations. It is a little difficult to understand why Bermuda had to develop its own set of emissions standards when presumably they exist elsewhere. Bermuda should certainly aim for high standards, however.
Even so, its hard to understand why the regulations could not have been written pretty quickly once the data was available.
It is also understood that this project may not be Governments highest priority in the current economic crisis, although breathing freely and reducing climate change would seem to be fairly important.
But the real problem with this, coming after all the other controversy on this project, is that it begs the question of how serious Government ever was about emissions testing. On the evidence so far, the answer has to be: Not very serious at all.
That in turn leaves the Government open to further allegations of cronyism.
Given the amount of criticism it already faces on this issue, and the vigour with which it denies it, surely someone in the Ministry of Transport or among the Progressive Labour Partys cadre of political operatives would have been alive to the idea that this should have been a priority, and not a public relations disaster waiting to happen.
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