Burch hits back over DCFS move to offices owned by PLP MP
The Minister of Public Works yesterday defended a decision to relocate a government department to offices owned by a Progressive Labour Party MP.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch hit back after the The Royal Gazette reported yesterday that the Department of Child and Family Services had moved last September to 131 Front Street, Hamilton, owned by Zane DeSilva.
Colonel Burch insisted the move was made to “consolidate” the department under one roof which had “added to the safeguarding of Bermuda’s children“.
A Government spokesman added that the annual rent for the DCFS had risen from $589,175 to $788,079 because of the move, but that the new offices were far more “suitable” and would make the department more efficient.
Colonel Burch said: “After years of being ill-housed and unable to meet basic international standards for core functions, 131 Front Street is ideal as it provides adequate space for the entire department, including the security of underground access, a suitably modern technological interface, and, vitally, a secure space for the Sexual Assault Response Team to conduct investigations to international standards.
“The site presents value for money and demonstrates the priority of this Government when it comes to addressing the needs of the Island’s most vulnerable.”
Colonel Burch also took aim at Scott Pearman, the shadow legal affairs minister, who said the news was “concerning”, and real estate experts who contributed to yesterday’s article.
He said: “It is appalling and grossly hypocritical that without the benefit of the full facts, both an Opposition MP and anonymous realtors would launch such an attack on a decision which has added to the safeguarding of Bermuda’s children.
“The facts are that the consolidation of the DCFS into one location will better serve the children of Bermuda.
The spokesman added that, before the move, the DCFS was housed in five buildings, which “led to operational inefficiencies”.
He said: “As a result, the department sought to relocate under one roof in order to enhance the service, safety, and security levels for clients and sought assistance from the Ministry of Public Works' Estates Department to locate a suitable property.”
The spokesman added that Colonel Burch had informed MPs in the House of Assembly more than two years ago that another Government department – HM Customs – was to relocated to to the same office block – and that Mr DeSilva and his family were “beneficiaries”.
He said: “The new lease, valued at $788,079 a year, incorporates all of the sections of the Department under one roof and has been endorsed as fit for purpose by a UK Government team that participated in on-Island meetings on child safeguarding in Bermuda.
“This decision has been guided by and evolved from the Government’s child safeguarding initiative.”
Colonel Burch added: “The chorus of disapproval that has been stirred by such unsurprisingly biased reporting neglects to mention the millions of dollars paid over decades by taxpayers to trusts and companies whose ownership never received press scrutiny based purely on their political affiliation.
“The irony is that this report is based solely on that fact. Make no mistake, more moves will be undertaken and historic wealth that relied on such revenue can expect to be further disappointed as better management of the government estate is applied fairly and evenly.”