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Travel authorisation forms have earned government $5.4 million

Kim Wilson, the health minister (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Government has earned almost $5.5 million in fees generated from controversial travel authorisation forms, it has been revealed.

But it has also paid out more than $500,000 to the company that created the software to create the TAFs and to manage the process.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, provided the figures in the House of Assembly yesterday morning.

Responding to questions from Michael Dunkley, the Opposition national security spokesman, Ms Wilson revealed that Government had received $5,427,487 from the scheme, which was introduced a year ago following the outbreak of Covid-19.

Anyone visiting Bermuda from overseas must complete the form at a cost of $75 before they are allowed into the island. Government has received 83,333 completed forms.

Ms Wilson said $550,240 had been paid to tech firm resPartner Ltd, the company that created the form and trades under the name ResQuest.

Ms Wilson confirmed the company was paid a percentage of the $75 generated by each form that is submitted to Government, although she was unable to say what that percentage was.

She said Government now had a “month-to-month” contract with resPartner and that “a Request For Proposal to continue this programme had commenced”.

Mr Dunkley asked if Government kept track of the number of forms that were rejected because they were incomplete. Ms Wilson said she believed those figures were recorded but she would have to check and “report back”.

Mr Dunkley also asked if any Bermudians had been blocked from entering the island because they did not have a form.

Ms Wilson replied: “That is a matter that is within the public domain.

“There were some challenges two weekends ago with respect of persons who returned to Bermuda without the requisite travel authorisation form.

She added: “The Minister of Transport put quite a lot of information in the public domain.”

Later yesterday, Mr Dunkley repeated calls for the abolition of the TAF.

He said: “The OBA strongly believes the TAF is no longer required. While we support protecting our borders, recent history has shown widespread concern in the community due to the challenges faced by countless travellers in completing the form.

“The people of Bermuda are asking, and we echo their sentiments: who is this TAF actually benefiting? The health and safety of the island or the coffers of friends of the Progressive Labour Party Government?”

Mr Dunkley said the tax was another burden on many families and had served its purpose.

“There are options to simplify and streamline entry requirements into the island, as other jurisdictions have done,” he said. “The PLP need to listen to the concerns of the people we serve, free up and provide a more customer friendly system when travelling.”

Earlier this week he said US policy only required passengers to show a valid negative PCR test and, if vaccinated, a vaccination certificate, before boarding a plane.

But a Government spokeswoman scotched that idea.

She said: “Travel Authorisations have been in place for one year, and are an essential part of our border control framework.

“We look forward to the day they are no longer needed, but they remain an important tool in reducing the risk of the importation of the coronavirus.”