Log In

Reset Password
BERMUDA | RSS PODCAST

Declarations of interest

August 24, 2011

Dear Sir,

Premier Paula Cox recently declared that she has “reset the dial”, tacitly acknowledging the numerous tainted Government contracts during the last eight years of the Brown/Cox administration and assuring us that neither we nor she need worry about them any more merely things of the past, no longer of any concern.

Unfortunately, she seems to have overlooked the fact that if any Member of Parliament had an interest in any of those shady contracts, they are now in contravention of the Bermuda Constitution, are no longer a legal Member of Parliament or Cabinet, and are barred from re-election until they make public disclosure of their interests. The same is true for Senators.

The Bermuda Constitution stipulates that if an MP or Senator acquires an interest in a Government contract and fails within seven days to publish a notice in the Official Gazette disclosing that interest, then his seat is deemed vacant and he is no longer an MP, Senator or Cabinet Minister.

The Constitution further stipulates that such person is ineligible for re-election as a Member of the House of Assembly unless, within seven days of his nomination as a candidate, he publishes a notice of his interest in the Official Gazette.

As a matter of Constitutional law, this means that the Premier is not free to simply declare that she has “reset the dial” and then pretend that past transgressions by the Brown/Cox government are no longer relevant.

If any of her Cabinet Ministers or PLP backbenchers have had an undisclosed interest in any Government contract, then they have breached the Constitution the highest law of the land.

Further, if the Premier has reason to believe that a member of her Cabinet or a PLP backbencher had an undisclosed interest in a Government contract, then in accordance with the terms of her Oath of Office, she must so advise the Governor of such breach of the Constitution.

Finally, if the Governor has reason to suspect that any Cabinet Minister, Senator or MP has an undisclosed interest in a Government contract, then he is duty bound to investigate such suspicion. He simply can’t allow a disqualified person to sit in the Legislature.

It is important to remember that the Courts have given a very wide interpretation to the words “any interest” when dealing with laws established to prevent insider dealing by public officials. This strongly suggests that “interest” would include both direct and indirect interests, and would mean that anyone who was a shareholder of a company or beneficiary of a trust that directly or indirectly benefited from a contract with Government would be caught.

So where does this leave us? Well, for starters, it means that the scandals of the last eight years may not be a thing of the past. They are all relevant because if any MP or Senator had an undisclosed interest in those dealings, then they are sitting in the Legislature illegally.

Further, it means that simply asking the Auditor General to investigate the TCD scandal, as Premier Cox has recently done, will not solve the problem either, not only because such investigation is limited to only one of the many dealings of the past eight years, but because the Auditor General does not have the power to subpoena the records and bank accounts of the companies who were awarded these contracts. That would require a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

Of course, the real beauty of a Royal Commission of Inquiry is not merely to catch a number of dishonest politicians. It is to get back all of the profits they may have made from these questionable Government contracts that collectively involved hundreds of millions of dollars lost in “cost overruns”.

Bermuda is in dire financial straits, as seen by the recent cutbacks in the budgets of social services, schools and the police at a time when we need them most. If Premier Cox truly wishes to “reset the dial”, she should ask the Governor to appoint a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate all of these questionable transactions of the last eight years.

We need to clean out dishonest politicians. But most of all, we need the money back.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Smith’s

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published August 25, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated August 24, 2011 at 9:09 pm)

Declarations of interest

What you
Need to
Know
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon