Additional overspends of $15m approved by MPs
By Owain Johnston-Barnes and Jonathan Bell
MPs approved more than $15 million in additional overspends from the 2010/11 financial year on Friday.
Government passed two previous supplementary estimates for the year last March, but the House of Assembly heard that the actual spending was higher than believed at that time.
The additional supplementary estimates were said to be $23.4 million, with around $7.6 million being technical subsidies, made up by underspending in other areas.
The chief area of overspending was King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, specifically hospital subsidies. While the House approved $15 million in overspends for hospital subsidies last year, on Friday they sought the approval of an additional $9.9 million for the year.
Portability claims were revealed to be another $534,096 over previous estimates, and capital development of the Central Laboratory cost $483,060 more than budgeted.
It means that while the hospital was budgeted at $85 million for 2010/11, it actually spent around $110 million.
Zane DeSilva acknowledged that the subsidy and portability claims were notably higher than anticipated, but added: “These are payments for real services provided to real people.”
While he said that fluctuations are to be expected, Opposition MP
Dr Grant Gibbons responded that since 2005, the estimates have been consistently low.
“It’s almost become a joke,” he said.
One Bermuda Alliance’s
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin meanwhile criticised Government for not increasing the budget for the subsidies after seeing consistent overspending in the area.
“If you get it right, then you don’t have to come and explain to the people of Bermuda how you can start with one figure, and end up with something completely different.”
Also requiring further subsidies was the Ministry of Education, which overspent $5.15 million on substitute teachers and para-educators.
Dame Jennifer Smith noted that the area had been a source of frustration, but noted that the number of paraprofessionals employed in the Island’s public schools has fallen since 2010/11.
Dr Gibbons responded that the overspending was again the result of a “completely unreasonable” budget, noting that while Government had spent $10.8 million on substitutes and para-professionals in 2009/10, it had reduced the budget to just $1.47 million for the following year.
Derrick Burgess told the House that much of this extra cost had gone into overtime. The new bus schedule was not yet in place, but expected to be implemented in June of this year.
An overspend of $12,833 in Airport Operations was as a result of work done on the Operations Offices, Mr Burgess added. Renovations had uncovered a need for plumbing and electrical work.
Shadow Transport Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin responded that the dragging on of the implementation of the grey schedule meant high costs on operators’ wages. She suggested a competition.
“Send schoolchildren from Victor Scott out and say they need to come up with a schedule. I promise it will happen in a week.”
She took no issue with Mr Burgess’ accounting of $36,766 extra for certification of airport software, but questioned why it had taken 23 years to spot the infrastructural flaws at the airport. Mr Burgess replied: “Fix it when you see it.”
Confusion arose in the accounting for the Stores Building put up for Public Transportation. Mr Burgess apologised and said the correct figures were not available.
Public Works Minister
Michael Weeks spoke for overspends at what was then Works and Engineering.
A total supplement of $2.38 million was run up by diverse factors, such as $112,000 extra for higher electricity rates charged by Belco on engineering services; $177,550 in overtime for waste management overtime caused by a lack of availability of garbage trucks; $700,000 overspent on water payments caused by low rainfall.
Overspends at the Bermuda Housing Corporation were $174,567 on housing.
Mark Pettingill protested: “The estimates are not based on fixed items; a lot of these things seem to be guesstimates and pie in the sky.” He said that gave the Opposition concern about the Government’s approach to the Budget as a whole.
An overspend for Labour, Home Affairs and Housing was accounted for by National Security Minister
Wayne Perinchief, as a court-ordered payout awarded to police following a 2008 tribunal.
The award of $2.34 million was applauded by the United Bermuda Party’s
Kim Swan: “These long-suffering police officers received their just rewards,” Mr Swan said.
The Ministry of Justice also recorded an additional $914,594 in spending over budget, with Deputy Justice Minister
Michael Scott telling the house that an increase in demand for legal aid was responsible.
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