Senators clash over $5.8m airport payment

  • Nearly ready: the new terminal at LF Wade International Airport (Photograph supplied)

    Nearly ready: the new terminal at LF Wade International Airport (Photograph supplied)


Senators clashed over the airport redevelopment project in the wake of news of a multimillion-dollar payout to the terminal’s operators.

Ianthia Simmons-Wade, a government senator, said the handling of the project by the previous administration would have long-term consequences.

She added that the airport — named after her late husband, L. Frederick Wade, the former Progressive Labour Party leader — was significant for her and her family, but the honour was now bittersweet.

Ms Wade told the Upper House last Wednesday: “Even during the sunniest day, a cloud will be over the LF Wade International Airport if this contract is not amended.

“No one expected to have to be paying for 30 years.

“Every time we travel, every time we look at that airport, we have to put our hands down and say someone is in my pocket because we will be paying for a very long time.”

But Dwayne Robinson, an opposition senator, said the Government’s approach to the Ottiwell A Simmons International Arbitration Centre mirrored the One Bermuda Alliance’s highly criticised approach.

Mr Robinson said: “In the same breath that we talk about not putting an airport out to tender, we have a current government that went to meet with folks overseas to discuss sewage treatment and came back with an untendered contract for the Ottiwell Simmons building.

“It’s very convenient for me when I hear that folks would like to lay this debacle directly at the feet of the OBA, when we inherited a government that was fiscally mismanaged and capital expenditure was out of control.”

He added that airport staff had worked in poor conditions and if the OBA had not acted, they would have been criticised for a lack of care of employees.

They were speaking after the Government announced that, because of the closure of the airport in April, it had to pay almost $5.8 million as part of a minimum-revenue guarantee included in the airport redevelopment deal.

The MRGs were agreed under an agreement signed by the previous One Bermuda Alliance government with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and its contractor, Aecon.

James Jardine, an independent senator, said that he had highlighted concerns about the minimum-revenue guarantees for the airport deal as early as November 2016 and had asked the government of the day to find an approach to reduce the risk.

He added that he voted in favour of the project only after he was given assurances that the Government would search for insurance coverage and that he had continued to pressure the Government about it.

Mr Jardine said: “I was finally told that they did seek out whether they could receive the necessary insurances, and I was told it was not cost-effective to do so.

“We are in a market here — I think it’s the third-largest insurance/reinsurance market in the world — and I suggest at the time they could have cobbled together some sort of risk-transfer agreement.”

The senator said it was “distressing” to see the island caught in an “unusual occurrence” such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

But he added: “It is those unusual occurrences that you buy insurance for.”

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Published Aug 3, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 3, 2020 at 7:22 am)

Senators clash over $5.8m airport payment

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