Why have we spent $7.9m on a non-existent industry?
Seven million, nine hundred and thirteen thousand and sixty-two dollars.
What is the significance of this number? This is the amount you, the taxpayer have spent on a still non-existent gaming industry over the last four years. Let me provide some context.
As reported in The Royal Gazette recently, the regulator Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission was set up in 2015 under the previous government.
The BCGC was handed $1.3 million in its first year and a further $2.5 million, in the 2016-17 financial year.
It has been reported that nothing was budgeted for 2017-18, but soon after winning power in the July 2017 General Election, David Burt, the Premier, revealed that the taxpayer would have to provide $1.6 million, in operational expenses for that year.
The commission was again allocated no money in this year's Budget, but recent questions put to the Government, by Michael Dunkley, about whether it is likely to receive public funding in 2018-19, revealed that the total BCGC expenditure for the most recent period of April 1, 2018 through June 2019, was $2,513,062.
Looking at this from an administration perspective, over the last four years, we have seen gaming commission executive director Richard Schuetz resign, (with the BCGC refusing to give details of how much it spent on a successful legal bid to silence him), we have seen the replacement of the commission's chairman, Alan Dunch, (who resigned after the Government tabled legislation to oust him and place BCGC under ministerial control), and we see that the BCGC has had no executive director since Mr Schuetz left the island in December 2017, and his six-figure salary post is understood to have been advertised, at least three times, since then.
Why, as Mr Dunkley has asked, after 18 months from the departure of the former commissioner Mr Schuetz, is this critical leadership position vacant?
What we have not yet seen from this administration is the passing of the critical gaming regulations, which are needed in order to secure a correspondent bank, which will then move this industry forward.
Mr Dunkley noted that a comprehensive draft was completed by the former chairman of the BCGC and his team, [over two years ago] it was blessed by the Attorney-General's chambers, approved by Cabinet, and was ready to be tabled, and then the election of 2017 was called.
Since that time, we have seen no visible progress towards overcoming the casino gaming regulations hurdle.
Back to the numbers. One can criticise and speculate about where the money was spent (ie it was for salaries, consultants, administrative costs, rent, general overhead and “other” expenses), but I ask one salient question: how does the Government justify the spending of $7,913,062 of taxpayer dollars on a non-existent gaming industry? Do we keep fishing? Or cut bait?
“You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats, procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”— Thomas Sowell