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A government announcement on boosted opportunities for Bermudian businesses breached the ministerial code of conduct, the One Bermuda Alliance claimed yesterday.

The OBA went on the offensive after Wayne Furbert, the Cabinet Office minister, said that he hoped the paper product maker, the Bermuda Paper Company, would become a preferred vendor to government ministries, departments and quangos.

David Burt, the Premier, later dismissed the Opposition's concerns as “laughable”.

Trevor Moniz, the acting chairman of the OBA, said: “It is a breach of the ministerial code of conduct, particularly after a General Election has been called.

He added: “No major announcements are made except emergency action. Any announcement of a contract possibly being given to someone is viewed as a bribe, as you are looking for people to vote for you.”

“It's a general rule of politics in any Western democracy — you put a stop on that. It is sleazy, they know better and it smells of desperation.

“The press conference was about the Government thinking about talking to them about bidding on a contract which is bizarre — it's electioneering. He should just go through a request for proposal process.”

The code of conduct for ministers ruled: “Ministers must not use ministerial resources for party political purposes.

“They must uphold the political impartiality of the Civil Service and should refrain from asking civil servants to act in any way which would bring them into conflict with the Civil Service conditions of employment and code of conduct.”

The press conference was held at the Department of Communications' headquarters at Global House, Church Street, Hamilton.

Mr Furbert said at the event: “The Government aims to use its purchasing power to promote equality without regard to physical ability, gender or race.”

He added: “The Bermuda Paper Company's price points are substantially lower than comparable name brands and with the product being made right here in Bermuda, customers do not have to deal with the tedious logistics and costly shipping process. Their products are low-cost, high-quality alternatives to imported paper products.

“I am advising that the Government has entered conversations with the owners seeking to make them suppliers for government ministries, departments, and quangos and we are hopeful that the Bermuda Paper Company will become a preferred vendor.”

The company, which started operations in March, is owned by Cain Kunze and Gregory Armstrong, who said they hoped to expand the workforce to up to ten staff.

It produces toilet tissue, hand towels and other paper products for residential and commercial use.

The owners said they also wanted to expand its range to include table napkins, hospital bed lining paper, writing paper and disposable food containers.

The company has four members of staff, but the owners want to add warehouse staff, truck drivers, and a receptionist to the team.

Mr Armstrong said: “We want to be able to employ more Bermudians, keep more money in our economy and offer a better product at much a cheaper rate.”

The Premier said later at the regular Covid-19 briefing: “I find it completely laughable that persons would think that a government who has pledged to support home-grown industries, that has amended its procurement code of practice to make sure that preference is given to black-owned businesses, women-owned businesses and businesses owned by persons with disabilities, and the Government acting on its platform pledges and making sure that we support a new company to increase employment in Bermuda, is something that the Opposition would be opposed to.”

He added: “I'm proud of the work that we've done in reforming procurement.”

Mr Burt said: “We want to make sure that we support home-grown industry and we're not going to apologise for that.”

To view a statement from the Minister for the Cabinet Office, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

On the attack: Trevor Moniz, acting chairman for the One Bermuda Alliance (File photograph)
Roll call: Wayne Furbert with Bermuda Paper Company's Gregory Armstrong, left, and Cain Kunze (Photograph supplied)

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Published August 28, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated August 28, 2020 at 4:42 pm)

PLP accused of breaking election rules

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