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Minister accused of pier update ‘smoke screen’ tactics

Public Works Minister Trevor Moniz has been hit with fresh allegations of “deliberately deceiving the people” over his Ministry’s handling of upgrade work to Heritage Wharf.

One construction expert claims Government must have known weeks before May 15 that the job would not be completed by that date — Mr Moniz issued a statement days before the deadline, claiming he was hopeful all essential work would be finished on time.

Work on the Dockyard facility began in March after engineers concluded that it was not strong enough to accommodate larger liners such as

Norwegian Breakaway, which arrived at Dockyard on its maiden voyage on May 15.

Government repeatedly maintained that, despite the tight schedule, it hoped to complete all essential aspects of the upgrade by that time. Weekly progress reports said that work was on track and, just three days before

Breakaway’s arrival, Mr Moniz praised construction crews for “going the extra mile to ensure the Heritage Wharf project is completed on schedule by Wednesday, May 15”.

And at a press conference held at the wharf on the morning of

Breakaway’s arrival, Mr Moniz failed to mention the work had not been completed or that the liner was using pre-existing moorings. That acknowledgment only came last Thursday — eight days after

Breakaway arrived.

Last night one engineer said the Minister’s statements had been “a smoke screen”.

“They started this job in slow motion and then tried to speed it up ten days before the ship arrived,” the engineer, who asked not to be named, said.

“They should and would have known two weeks before the ship arrived that it would not have been ready — it was working without a schedule.

“Many believed that they would not finish the job on time and now they won’t even finish it this season. Doesn’t that make you think twice?”

On May 16, this newspaper received claims that the ship was tied to the old moorings, and e-mailed questions to the Ministry asking for clarification. A day later a Ministry spokesman finally responded, saying that Mr Moniz was unable to answer our questions because his Permanent Secretary was off sick.

The latest update report prompted an angry response from the Opposition Progressive Labour Party, which accused Mr Moniz of “deliberately misleading the Bermudian public”.

“The Minister repeatedly claimed that the work would be completed by the May 15 deadline,” Shadow Public Works Minister Derrick Burgess said.

“He has known for some time that this was not true, yet he continued to attempt to pull the wool over the people’s eyes. This is an unprecedented breach of the public’s trust and flies in the face of openness and transparency.

“The Minister has been aware of the challenges facing this project for some time. Instead, the truth was withheld from the public and we were given the false impression that everything was in order. The Minister and his technical officers had to have known the truth, yet statements were prepared and released, deliberately designed to deceive the public.

“Knowing what we know now, Minister Moniz’s updates seemed intended to appease the public rather then provide the facts surrounding the Heritage Wharf extension and the true completion date.

“What motive could Minister Moniz have for releasing his latest statement on Bermuda Day? Perhaps the Minister was hoping that with the Island in a celebratory mood, it could slip past the notice of the people.

“This project has been plagued with unanswered questions, update reports that can’t be trusted and an OBA that continues to be caught misleading the public. It is time for honesty and full disclosure from the OBA.”

The Minister of Public Works Trevor Moniz
What Mr Moniz said

Here is what Minister Trevor Moniz said about Heritage Wharf:The Royal Gazette asks a Ministry spokesman to confirm that the wharf will be ready in time for the arrival of Breakaway on May 15. No response is given. The Royal Gazette asks the Minister to respond to claims that the old moorings are being used by Breakaway because the upgraded moorings are not ready. On May 17, a Government spokesman responds: “The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Public Works is out of office today but the Ministry will respond in due course.”

May 12: In a progress report, Mr Moniz said: “The workers have been making every effort, going the extra mile to ensure the Heritage Wharf project is completed on schedule by Wednesday, May 15 and technical staff have been providing around the clock support.”

May 13/14:

May 15: Following the arrival of Breakaway, Mr Moniz gave a press conference at Heritage Wharf. He said that the eyes of the world had been focused on Bermuda “to see if we could pull off the amazing challenge of having Heritage Wharf completed on time”.

“To accomplish a project of this magnitude and scale has required a great deal of teamwork from the Ministry’s engineers, the contractors to the technical advisers,” he said, adding that “setbacks were met with a firm, steadfast, resolute determination to overcome and prevail”. He praised staff for the sacrifices they made “to get the job done” and said that Bermudians had pulled together “to ensure our country looked good in the eyes of all watching”.

He went on to say that workers had “risen to the occasion to facilitate all the work critical to complete this major project”. Mr Moniz did not say that work was not complete and that the new moorings were not being used. And while he did make a reference to “contingency plans”, he failed to say what these plans were, or that they had to be put into operation because the wharf was not ready.

May16/17:

May 23: Mr Moniz issues a public statement on the eve of the Bermuda Day holiday weekend confirming that the upgrades were not completed by the intended May 15 deadline.

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Published May 27, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 26, 2013 at 11:45 pm)

Minister accused of pier update ‘smoke screen’ tactics

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