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Wall of silence

Public Works Minister Michael Weeks has said he will consider releasing the report into how the $4.1 million thruster wall at Heritage Wharf in Dockyard was damaged.

He needs to do so as a matter of urgency, and he also needs to release all the information which shows why the thruster wall is not needed now when it was apparently required in the first place. Without that information, almost nothing makes sense about what now appears to be a stupendous waste of $4.25 million in taxpayers’ money.

The record shows that the thruster wall was required to provide protection to the dolphins located at Dolphin Quest in the lagoon and surrounding area of the National Museum of Bermuda, and to prevent damage to the foreshore and seabed from the mega-ships’ powerful wash caused by their thrusters.

In 2010, the wall was damaged after Hurricane Igor brushed past the Island. It is difficult to understand how a hurricane that did not do much damage to the Island could have caused such severe damage to the wall unless there was a design or construction deficiency since all features of the Heritage Wharf had to have been built to withstand hurricanes.

And yet Mr Weeks says the report found no fault with the construction. If that’s the case, was there a design error? It is worth noting that contractor Dennis Correia has stated that the wall was redesigned four times, and that was one of the reasons costs overran on the project. In any event, the public has the right to know what the report did uncover and to decide if it the findings make sense.

The bigger question is whether the thruster wall was needed at all. At the time of the design of the project, it was required, but only a few years later, Mr Weeks now says it is not and can safely dismantled. While $2 million of the material can be reused, at least $2 million of further investment cannot and has been wasted. But no one is held accountable for this. Apparently, no one is to blame.

This is just the latest chapter in a saga that has seen multiple accusations of cost overruns, breaches of planning procedures and questionable decision-making. The public has the right to know what went wrong, so that, at the very least, these mistakes will not be repeated.

A right to know

ZBM chief executive officer Rick Richardson is right to defend his journalists over the investigation by Government into a leaked internal audit report into the Government’s Department of Communication and Information.

It must be assumed that Government has some confidence in its own team’s findings, even if there may be further work to be done.

The use of public money is a legitimate area of public concern, especially in these straitened economic time. More importantly, ZBM journalist Gary Moreno sought comment from the Government before the report aired and reported the response when it was received.

It does not appear that there was ever any effort by the Government from the time It received the request for comment to dissuade ZBM from airing the story, or to seek a delay in its broadcast.

Even if that had been the case, there seems to be a legitimate public interest in the story, and the public is entitled to know the full circumstances. A Government that believes in transparency should tell the public what it knows instead of launching an investigation into an alleged theft of a document.

A crew from Crisson Construction begin work on removing the damaged thruster wall at the Heritage Wharf in Dockyard (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published April 18, 2012 at 9:26 am (Updated April 18, 2012 at 9:25 am)

Wall of silence

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