Criticism of ‘farcically’ laid out National Security budget
Opposition MP Mark Pettingill claimed the public has no idea how police money is being spent because the National Security budget has been “farcically” laid out.
The One Bermuda Alliance politician complained that, unlike in previous years, the Budget Book doesn’t spell out how much of the National Security’s $108 million for 2012/13 will go towards specific items.
Traffic wardens, K9, community beat officers and the child victim unit all have a zero next to them for this fiscal year, despite receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars two years ago.
People need to know how their money is being used, especially during an economic crisis, said Mr Pettingill.
Minister Wayne Perinchief agreed the lack of details was not helpful, but assured the House of Assembly those items are now filed under the Commissioner’s Office, which saw its budget increased from $1.7 million to $48 million.
Speaking during the Budget debate on the National Security Ministry, Mr Pettingill told the House: “It’s not broken down to say how the money is being spent.
“This is a fundamental flaw that with great respect makes the Budget Statement appear somewhat farcical.”
If it’s going to give such loose information on spending, Government may as well just say it’s having a $1 billion budget and leave it at that, said Mr Pettingill.
“The biggest issue in this Country is the economy, and the alleged mismanagement thereof,” he said.
“So people are focused on this stuff, eagle-eyed, on how this money is being spent. When you do this, you open yourself up to some serious criticism.”
Mr Perinchief explained that $47 million of the Commissioner’s Office’s $48 million would go on salaries, which includes cash for sections of the community policy division such as traffic wardens and K9.
“The reason they are placed in the Commissioner’s Office is to reflect the Commissioner’s remit to post officers as required,” said Mr Perinchief.
But he conceded: “I do take the position of the members on the other side that it doesn’t make for very pretty accounting.”
Also during the debate, Charlie Swan, who was elected as a United Bermuda Party MP, urged young people to take the Regiment seriously and, even if they don’t wish to serve, to make the most of their time as a recruit.
“Find something within that opportunity you can benefit from,” Mr Swan told the House.
Shadow Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell praised police for statistics showing total crime has fallen from 2007 to 2010; however he noted the final quarter of 2011 has seen an increase.
“We don’t understand why crime goes down and then goes up,” said Mr Crockwell.
“We are seeing overall the trend from 2007 to 2010 is good, but the increase in the fourth quarter of 2011 could be a new trending going the wrong way.”
Firearms incidents have soared, noted Mr Crockwell, from one shooting in 2008, to 14 in 2009, and 39 in 2010. He said there were 124 firearm incidents in 2011.
The fact five gun fatalities in 2011 is being heralded as an improvement shows how far Bermuda has fallen, said Mr Crockwell, who added that the good work done promoting tourism is undone when visitors are subjected to violent crime.
He said he hoped the increase in the Borders Control budget would mean more cash is being spent making it harder to smuggle guns into the Island.
“People are saying there’s a large stock of firearms in this Country,” he said. “I can’t believe it’s just a few firearms for all the offence. How are the firearms getting into this Country and causing the havoc it’s causing?”
Shadow Attorney General Trevor Moniz questioned whether the falling overall crime figures may simply mean people have stopped bringing crimes to the police’s attention.
“Is it just fatigue from the public who don’t want to report it any more?” he asked.
St George’s West MP Kim Swan, who was elected as a United Bermuda Party MP, repeated his call for more policing in the Old Town.
Mr Swan said it’s become so rare to see police officers since the station closed, he’s been acting as a makeshift policeman himself.
He was directing traffic for half an hour after a recent accident, he said, without a police officer in sight.
And while Mr Swan praised the move to allow visitors arriving on yachts to stay on the Island for longer periods of time, he said the level of policing the incoming yachts would also have to be increased to prevent the importation of firearms.
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