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Inquiry finds ‘serious violations’

Seven Bermuda Government business dealings had evidence of “possible criminal activity” — with the Commission of Inquiry saying it supports ongoing police investigations.

Potential wrongdoing was found in five projects related to former premier Ewart Brown, three connected to former Works and Engineering minister Derrick Burgess and one to One Bermuda Alliance Senator Vic Ball, the Commission said in its report released yesterday.

Contracts for the new court and police complex in Hamilton, the TCD emissions testing project, Port Royal Golf Course, Heritage Wharf cruise ship pier, GlobalHue advertising, Ambling consultants and a sand and rock for asphalt purchase were all flagged up as showing evidence of possible criminal activity.

In a 178-page document, commissioners revealed that police investigations had already commenced into many of the matters arising from the Auditor-General's report into the fiscal years 2009 to 2012 which they were asked to look into last year. They said they support police continuing their inquiries.

A total of more than $72 million was overspent on four of the seven projects, the largest of which was the 2007 contract for Heritage Wharf at Dockyard, which leapt from $39 million to $60 million. Commissioners said they support an ongoing police investigation into the involvement of both Dr Brown and Mr Burgess over that development.

They said a police investigation should also continue into the involvement of Dr Brown and Mr Burgess in the 2007 contract for Port Royal Golf Course, which increased from $7.7 million to $25.5 million. That project is already the subject of a lawsuit, filed by Attorney-General Trevor Moniz against former trustees of the golf course including Progressive Labour Party MP Zane DeSilva, and his company Island Construction.

The 2008 contract for the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building, which cost $17 million more than its budget of $72 million, has also been referred to police. Commissioners supported the ongoing investigation into Mr Burgess, but could not agree on whether Dr Brown should be investigated.

Contracts for the construction and operation of the TCD vehicle safety and emissions testing programme, dating back to 2001, have been referred to police, along with the Commission's support for the continued investigation into Dr Brown. The cost of construction increased from $5.3 million to $15.2 million, and the cost of operations was $7 million over budget over a period of ten years.

The $14 million contract for American advertising company GlobalHue, in 2009, and the $3.2 million contract for consultancy firm Ambling, from 2008 to 2011, were both cited as evidence of possible criminal activity, with the Commission supporting the continued investigation in Dr Brown.

A “clear conflict of interest” was also found for Mr Ball, while he was a civil servant, in the awarding of a $1.4 million contract in 2009 for sand and asphalt to Harmony Holdings. Mr Ball had failed to declare that his father Eugene had a holding in the company. The panel recommended that matter be investigated by police.

The Commission also looked at the controversial public-private partnership with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and Canadian-based Aecon to build a new airport, but found that there was no evidence of possible criminal activity.

The four commissioners, under chairman Sir Anthony Evans, former Chief Justice of the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts, stressed that a finding of possible criminal activity, or the naming of individuals, did not imply any finding of guilt.

But the Commission wrote in its report: “We have found that there were indeed widespread breaches of Financial Instructions. We found numerous violations, some of which were serious and persistent.”

Dennis Lister, who was succeeded by Mr Burgess in the works and engineering portfolio, was listed in two contracts, but the Commission found no evidence of possible criminal activity.

Meanwhile, eight civil servants were heavily criticised over failure to follow the rules on contracts, with the Commission calling for Government to conduct a “frank, independent assessment of whether all current leaders of the Civil Service have appropriate skill sets, perspective and motivation to effect needed changes”.

Asked about the PLP's record during the time of the allegations, Opposition leader David Burt said: “Although everyone would like to put the decisions of the past on myself, I became the leader of the PLP in 2016 and I have never sat around a Cabinet table for the PLP.

“I am not trying to absolve myself, but I can say that the PLP did pass the Good Governance Act and the PLP was praised inside of this report for recognising the shortcomings of our procurement system and putting in place the GGA.

“But 51 months later there is no code of practice for procurement management that the government has to follow. If the draft code of practice which was published was in place, the airport project would have been against the law.”

The Commission had also looked at failures to comply with Government's internal accounting and procedures and made a total of 50 recommendations for improvements.

These included establishing better working relationships between Government and senior civil servants, improving transparency and safeguards against conflicts of interest and boosting the effectiveness of Government Financial Instructions.

The Commission added that bodies responsible for safeguarding the public purse should be boosted and parliamentary oversight on spending enhanced.

Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said: “These recommendations are welcomed by the Government because they set the stage of the very thing the Commission was set up to achieve, which was, as I said in December 2015, to break the back of bad habits, to heighten public understanding of the issues and to return the principle of accountability to the centre of Government business at any level.”

During the motion to adjourn, Opposition MPs challenged how Mr Dunkley made the announcement, saying he had disrespected Parliament by not making a ministerial statement on which he could be questioned. He responded that he had made the announcement in Parliament as part of the Budget Debate, and the Opposition had the opportunity to question him.

To access the full Commission of Inquiry report, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on a story that we deem might inflame sensitivities. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

Sir Anthony Evans, with Michael Dunkley, the Premier, behind

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Published March 14, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated March 14, 2017 at 9:08 am)

Inquiry finds ‘serious violations’

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