Port Royal Q&A yields little by way of tangible results
Once again, the Port Royal Golf Course is in the news for all the wrong reasons, with some familiar faces creating the problems.
Bermudians can recall the refurbishment of the course under the former Progressive Labour Party government before hosting the PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Port Royal in 2009.
It was clouded in controversy with a budget of $4.5 million eventually ending more than $20 million over that amount. This was then the subject of a damning report by the Auditor-General, allegations that present minister Zane DeSilva lied to a parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on six occasions and a Commission of Inquiry stating that there was possible “criminal activity” and “straightforward fraud” in referring to actions by some of those involved at Port Royal. News reports indicate that there is still civil court action pending in this matter.
Now fast-forward to 2019 and the announcement by the Bermuda Tourism Authority and Mr DeSilva that the island will host the Bermuda Championship to be held at the end of October at Port Royal.
This announcement necessitated work be done to the course to bring it up to expected playing conditions of the PGA Tour. Included among the work is the fixing of all bunkers, as they were sadly lacking in bunker sand.
Once again, Mr DeSilva clouds a good initiative at Port Royal in controversy by his actions and inability to be transparent and accountable over the budget and tendering for bunker sand.
In the House of Assembly on July 19, the minister during Question Period was asked to provide “details of the total approved budget for preparing the Port Royal Golf Course and clubhouse for the Bermuda Championship, detailing the total budget cost with an itemised list of main expenses”.
The minister replied that it was being finalised. At the time, I questioned how the Government could sign a contract to host the event and not have a budget prepared and approved for work needing to be done to the course before the event.
The next week, I asked the same question of the Government, and it was not answered.
Then during our most recent sitting on Friday, public works minister Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, while not stating the budget for course work, said that it was being “sourced jointly from internal ministry resources”.
So, still a mystery budget amount and with his statement the minister raises another question as to how the Ministry of Public Works can have a significant amount of money, perhaps as much as $1 million, “sourced” from internal resources?
What happens to those initiatives or programmes for which the funding was approved in the budget for 2019-20?
With regard to the bunker sand, it is expected that Mr Burch will come to the defence of his beleaguered colleague over the contract to tender for sand. What the minister has not assured the House, or people of Bermuda, of is that Mr DeSilva did not have advance information about the request for proposal before it was posted on the government portal on July 16.
Furthermore, Mr Burch has not answered if all work on the course has been tendered and who was successful in that tendering.
Many Bermudians support the Bermuda Championship, but we also expect to know the benefits and costs associated with it so that tangible opportunity is the result for the island and its people. Sadly, it appears that the PLP has not learnt from its mistakes of the past and the taxpayer could be on the hook once again for poor planning, bad budgeting and a lack of accountability.
It is not too late for the Government to come clean with full transparency on this matter now that Mr DeSilva is back from his “mystery shopping” cruise and the House is again in session.
• Michael Dunkley is the former Premier of Bermuda, an Opposition backbencher and the MP for Smith’s North (Constituency 10)
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