Silence is deafening on NSC-AESG collaboration – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Silence is deafening on NSC-AESG collaboration

Dear Sir,

Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

If my last letter regarding the questionable financial arrangements for the National Sport Centre’s solar panel project did not raise any alarm bells with the public, then maybe this will:

Atlantic Energy Solutions Group Ltd is the contractor chosen for the National Sports Centre solar panel project, which is now under way. This is how they got here:

September 2018: After a comprehensive public tender process, AESG was chosen as the Government’s preferred bidder/contractor for the NSC’s solar panel project — and at that time, it claimed that it had financing in place.

February 2, 2021: The Registrar of Companies published its local companies “Strike off” notice, listing (among others) “Atlantic Energy Solutions Group”. Notice reads: “The Registrar of Companies has reason to believe that the companies specified in the Schedule hereto are not carrying on business or are not in operation. Notice is hereby given that at the expiration of three months from the date of publication of this Notice, the companies listed in the attached Schedule will, unless cause is shown to the contrary, be struck off the Register and will be dissolved.”

May 2021: AESG, without financing in place, was formally approved as the NSC solar panel contractor. The Government did not put the project back out to tender, in spite of AESG’s original financial terms and conditions having changed substantially.

June 4, 2021: NSC secured its own financing for the solar panel project, in the form of an HSBC loan for $3.2 million, which required a guarantee by the Government (taxpayer). Note: as per the Office of the Auditor-General’s website, NSC’s audited financial statements are five years in arrears. Interestingly, you may recall that it was reported in The Royal Gazette that NSC internal documents revealed that its deputy chairwoman addressed chairman Jaché Adams as follows: “We have not requested a loan because we can’t pay back a loan.” Final AESG contract terms and conditions were vetted and approved by the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

August 27, 2021: As of this date, AESG, the recipient of the Government's $3.2 million solar panel contract is not listed on the Registrar of Companies website.

Both the NSC and AESG are clearly “tainted” with regard to their financial history, and yet the finance ministry deems it prudent to go forward with the project under modified financing terms and conditions, which clearly translate to a higher risk to the public purse and therefore to the taxpayer.

I would like to think that our finance minister, whom I feel to be fiscally prudent, surely would not sign off on this deal, given all of the red flags stated above. In fact, I find it very strange that we have officially heard from only sports minister Ernest Peets and Mr Adams, the NSC chairman, regarding the “thorough vetting, review and approval” of the financial arrangements for this solar project.

Where is the official, public statement from our chief watchdog of the public purse — ie, finance minister Curtis Dickinson — reassuring us that this is a sound, fiscally responsible project to take on? He has been noticeably silent on this matter.

For me, the silence is deafening.

BEVERLEY CONNELL

Pembroke

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Published August 30, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated August 29, 2021 at 12:20 pm)

Silence is deafening on NSC-AESG collaboration

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