Boat sale leaves police chief floundering
The Commissioner of Police tried to put clear blue water between the service and the sale of the $1.7 million white elephant patrol ship MV Guardian, a public access to information request has revealed.
A string of e-mails revealed that Stephen Corbishley was worried about bad publicity if the sell-off of the Australian-built boat was linked to the Bermuda Police Service and wanted it sold off by the Government instead.
Mr Corbishley said in an e-mail to the service’s finance manager, Wanda Bluefort, in December last year: “Is there any other way we can offer the Guardian for sale without it being obvious it is from the BPS?”
He added: “My concern is it will open up comments to the wastage of money this vessel has incurred and possible negative press.
“Could we perhaps send it over to the Government’s procurement department to get rid of? Or should we just go ahead and wear any flak that comes?”
Ms Bluefort replied: “No. Everyone in Bermuda knows MV Guardian.
“If the public has questions, then our answer is that we are being prudent.”
She suggested that Dwayne Caines, then the BPS media manager, should write a release “to reflect our altruism and concern for the country”.
The patrol boat, the flagship of the police fleet, was bought in 2006 and sold for the knock-down price of $69,000 this year.
The Royal Gazette asked Mr Corbishley why he had tried to shift responsibility for the sale to avoid criticism in the media.
He said: “It was important to ensure the public are confident that the BPS are efficient in their purchase of expensive equipment, such as marine vessels and other transportation, therefore a question was asked of the BPS finance manager to seek the avoidance of negative comment.
“However, it was decided that the sale by the BPS would be publicised, which unfortunately still led to inaccurate commentary, as the Guardian’s devaluation was consistent to the sale price eventually agreed, accounting also to the high repair costs required to make it seaworthy again.”
Mr Corbishley added: “The purchase of the Guardian vessel was authorised by persons no longer with the BPS.
“In hindsight, it was a purchase that did not fit the requirements of marine policing and is a decision I would never have supported if commissioner at that time.
“The Guardian did not provide value for money, economically and operationally, and continued to incur high costs to the public purse in relation to mooring. I, therefore, directed its sale and the correct procurement processes were undertaken.
“The best price was sought in the private market to stop continued and unnecessary costs and gain the appropriate reimbursement to public funds.”
Mr Corbishley said the Guardian was no longer fit for operational purpose in a e-mail in November last year.
He wrote: “It is therefore proposed that the vessel be sold, however, it is in need of significant repair (costs $38K) to achieve any likely market value (quoted as $200k, but I do not believe this will be achieved in current market conditions).
“However, we do not have any budget to accommodate the above repair requirement.
“In view of this, I ask for your authorisation to forward the Guardian to be sold in its current state.”
Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell was contacted the next day to organise the sale.
Mr Cardwell said he was aware of a potential buyer interested in offering $50,000 for the vessel.
He added: “$50k was in the range of what I expected given all the mechanical defects on the boat as it sits right now.
“I will perhaps counter the $50k offer with $75k as that is what I would do if this was a personal boat I was selling.
“If we strike somewhere between $50k and $75k we are good to go.
“Before I recontact the person who made the offer, I will need to hear from procurement and customs on their requirements to seal the sale.”
Ms Bluefort responded later that day that the boat would have to be advertised because the sale price was more than $1,000.
Two bids were received after the Guardian was advertised, one of $42,000 and a second of $69,000 from Crisson Construction, which was accepted.
Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, told the House of Assembly in July that the Guardian had spent most of its time tied up in dock and was “an expensive lesson learnt by the Bermuda Police Service”.
MV Guardian attracted bad press months after it was bought in 2006.
It was reported in March 2007 that the 54-foot boat was out of service due to mechanical problems.
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