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Burgess stands up for court building project

The construction of the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building was “well-managed”, former works and engineering minister Derrick Burgess has insisted.

Mr Burgess went before the Public Accounts Committee yesterday to defend himself against the Auditor-General's suggestion that there were question marks hanging over the project.

The building opened five years ago on Court Street, Hamilton, and was estimated to have cost between $13 million and $26 million more than expected.

The Auditor-General's report stated: “During the course of the audit, we were denied the right to audit material expenditures related to this capital project.

“In subsequent years, these appropriate disclosures were not made. These matters led me to question the propriety of certain transactions and the underlying cost and values of the building.”

However, Mr Burgess said that the building's quoted cost of $71.9 million was for the shell only, and therefore did not include interior elements such as carpets and tiles.

He also said that a lack of Bermudian knowledge on the part of Canadian architecture firm Carruthers, Shaw and Partners had complicated the building's completion.

This included problems such as installing non-regulation fire-escape steps and delays in work schedules as issues on-site had to be deferred to Canada.

“That's why we fired them and hired a local Bermudian architect firm,” he added.

“I would venture to say, that if we had kept those Canadian architects, we would have paid much more.”

In July 2013, The Royal Gazette revealed that the Government had paid CS&P $700,000 to settle a breach of contract lawsuit. Regarding the matter of payments being made to the contractor without invoices, Mr Burgess said that he and the project's architect had already explained the issue to an audit committee.

“No invoice was paid without being signed and certified by the architect,” he said.

“The architect answered everything the committee asked about that and we came away from that meeting feeling very good, but they never made the corrections.

Although Mr Burgess conceded that he did not know the project's exact overall cost, he said that the overspend did not exceed a typical figure for a project of that magnitude, and that the finished structure was “the best-looking building in town”.

“Ask me anything. I don't lie,” he added.

Derrick Burgess

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Published May 27, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated May 27, 2016 at 3:16 pm)

Burgess stands up for court building project

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