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Questions that need answering about Dockyard deal

The Minister of Finance said 11.2 acres in 2015, while Wedco’s 2014 photograph shows 9 acres (Photograph source: www.planning.gov.bm/documents/SouthBasin/SouthBasinEIS.pdf)

Official Hansard records from December 16, 2015.

The Honourable E.T. “Bob” Richards: “Thank you, Mr Speaker.

“In accordance with section 2AA (3) of the Government Loans Act 1978, I rise this morning to inform this honourable house of the execution of an unconditional government guarantee for the West End Development Corporation payment obligations in relation to a $39 million credit facility provided by the Bank of Butterfield & Son.

“The facility is related to the reclamation of 11.2 acres of land for commercial use, including the America’s Cup at South Basin, Dockyard. The project loan term is for a period of six years from the date of initial drawdown.

“Mr Speaker, with the America’s Cup on the horizon, the Government is eager for the project to proceed and succeed, and is looking forward to working with Wedco, the ACBDA [America’s Cup Bermuda] and the developer to achieve that objective. Thank you.”

E. David Burt: “Mr. Speaker, in the minister’s statement, he says related to the reclamation of 11.2 acres, ‘However, we know that the project has been reduced to 8.5 acres from 11.2 acres of reclamation. Given that there has been a reduction, why is there still a guarantee for $39 million? Should not that amount of the loan have been reduced?”

On January 13, 2017, four simple questions were asked:

• Why was the 11.2 acres reduced to only nine acres?

• If there was a reduction in land space, should not there have been a reduction in project costs?

• How many of the $324,000 monthly payments has Wedco actually paid?

• How many of the $324,000 monthly payments have we, the taxpayers, actually paid?

Thus far, these are some of the answers given:

“There has been a lot of confusion on the nine and 11 acres. The problem has been perpetuated because, technically, they are both correct. There are nine acres of newly created land that, when taken together with the existing long arms and the land that was there, makes 11 acres total”

— Ray Charlton, chairman of West End Development Corporation, January 14, 2017

So, according to Charlton, there were only nine, not 11.2, acres reclaimed. Very interesting, as the public were told by the Minister of Finance in the House of Assembly that the Government was backing a $39 million loan specifically for 11.2 acres of land reclamation.

On January 15, 2017, Charlton made this statement:

“There were some references by politicians to it being 11, but that was to be the maximum depending on depth for the outer perimeter and seabed conditions. I have been informed that with the total of the arms and the existing that we have about ten acres and not 11 as I stated above.”

So, according to Wedco chairman Charltons’s statement, it has gone from 11.2 acres now down to ten acres.

On January 19, 2017, Wedco general manager Andrew Dias offered this explanation for the reduction in land space:

“It should also be noted that the project includes a number of additional elements beyond the land reclamation, including the construction of a new bridge, the approach causeway, site infrastructure, design and engineering costs, etc. The cost of the land reclamation itself is approximately $23 million.

“Rather than increase the cost of the project, it was agreed, instead, to work to a fixed total budget and to maximise the project build to what the budget would allow; hence, the existing nine-acre design.”

So, how much land space did we get:

• 11.2 acres as per the Minister of Finance?

• Ten acres as per the Wedco chairman?

• Nine acres as per the Wedco general manager?

Perhaps what is most interesting is the photograph taken from the Government’s own 2014 documents, which clearly shows that Wedco had planned on reclaiming only nine acres, not 11.2 acres as stated by the Minister of Finance in 2015, nor ten acres as stated by Charlton.

What is most telling is that neither man has answered the most important questions:

• How many of the $324,000 monthly payments has Wedco actually paid?

• How many of the $324,000 monthly payments have we, the taxpayers, actually paid?

The public have a right to know these answers.