Burt raises concerns about airport project
David Burt, the Shadow Minister of Finance, highlighted several shortcomings in the Bermuda Government's airport redevelopment project published in the Deloitte Report — including there being no guarantee of value for money.
At a town hall meeting at Warwick Workmen's Club on Wednesday evening, Mr Burt outlined a raft of issues raised over the development in the report as well as from the Progressive Labour Party's own findings.
The report investigated several aspects of the project including the commercial case which Mr Burt said “poured cold water on” Government's claim the current approach could guarantee value for money.
“We identified key gaps in evidencing that the sole-source procurement approach that was selected will offer the best VFM,” the report said.
Mr Burt told an audience of almost 100 people that suppliers Aecon could receive in excess of $2 billion in revenues over the 30 to 35 years it would retain control over operations.
He said the airport collected $25.2 million in revenues and had $20.56 million in expenses which equates to an annual surplus of $4.67 million.
According to his estimates, the OBA will need more money to give to Aecon to repay its loan, some of which will come from the solar farm, airspace revenue and tax increases.
He said: “There is no such thing as a free lunch — something has to give. There is no way we are going to get a new terminal for free. Given current revenue, $8 million of additional profit/surplus must be found to finance a $200 million airport project.”
While the Government is expected to raise $11.5 million in new taxes, Mr Burt said the airport turns a $16m surplus annually which will go to Aecon. “As a result Aecon stands to collect in excess of $2 billion.”
The One Bermuda Alliance has outlined plans to build the new terminal through a public-private partnership with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC).
Mr Burt continued: “The report was very critical of the OBA Government's approach to the airport redevelopment and highlighted key and integral steps missing from the economic case.”
He highlighted a section of the report saying one thing lacking was “an economic assessment of a defined list of options to identify the most economically advantageous solution for Bermuda and some specific Green Book and wider best practice considerations such as use of a public sector comparator and optimum bias assessment.”
Finally, he touched on the report's evaluation of the airport project's financial case which read: “While there has been a great deal of work on the affordability of the project, it has been developed by the Canadian Commercial Corporation as opposed to the Government. The main element missing from the affordability of the project is that the perspective it has been developed under leaves several cost components of the Government amiss. Requires further development.”
“We keep on hearing that the Government is not going to borrow any money. Aecon is going to borrow money for us and use our revenues to pay the money back. It doesn't matter if we borrow the money or if Aecon borrows it — the only difference is that it doesn't show up on our budget book but yet the money is still being borrowed against our airport and we are still paying back against the revenue of our airport.”
Shadow Minister of Transport Lawrence Scott outlined the PLP's alternative plan to create an Airport Authority that would allow Bermudians to take advantage of projected revenues generated by the airport, as reported in yesterday's Royal Gazette.
He also raised the issue of job security saying that, under the OBA's plan, the 48 existing jobs were not guaranteed to be safe.
Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell received our request for a response to Mr Burt's presentation but said the ministry would be holding a press conference on the issue in due course.