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Refusal to release airport details defended

Minister without Portfolio Leah Scott.

The financial secretary yesterday defended the Bermuda Government’s refusal to release full details of the Airport Redevelopment Agreement to the Public Accounts Committee.

At a PAC meeting in Hamilton, Anthony Manders insisted that confidentiality remained in the public interest while the One Bermuda Alliance and the Canadian Commercial Corporation hashed out negotiations on the $250 million L.F. Wade International Airport project.

However, the PAC will continue to push Mr Manders to release the agreement’s schedules — a longstanding bone of contention between the OBA and the Progressive Labour Party.

He will have to return for the next meeting, after the committee issued a summons requesting Schedule A of the ADA — covering definitions and interpretations — be released for private review.

OBA backbencher Leah Scott told Mr Manders that she could not understand why the PAC, as a Government watchdog, was being forbidden from poring over the Government’s actions and expenditure.

She added that she did not understand how the release of Schedule A could hamper the negotiations. Ms Scott said: “I’d like to know what the regulated fees and charges are.

“I’d like to know the definition of ‘limited government support’.

“We can’t assess the agreement accurately because we don’t know what these definitions are.

“I don’t see what the harm would be in releasing that document.”

PLP MP Lovita Foggo said: “We need this information and we can have this information in a private session. We are parliamentary officers and we are entitled to do things on behalf of the people and in the best interests of Bermuda.”

Explaining the reasons behind the confidentiality agreement, Mr Manders said that a lot of the relevant information is commercially sensitive and its release could affect the Government’s reputation.

“Aecon [CCC’s developer] has done a lot of work with traffic forecasts, modelling, building designs and things of that nature.

“If we do not go forward with Aecon, we pay them whatever’s due for all the work they’ve done and the information becomes ours and we move forward.

“But it would be inappropriate for Government to release all the work they have done before a definitive agreement has been signed.”