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Delay to publication of airport review

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A report on a review into the controversial deal to rebuild Bermuda's airport is complete, but the Government has declined to say when it will be made public.

A spokesman for the transport ministry confirmed the final draft of the report by the Bermuda Airport Authority and the American-based consultant LeighFisher had been received, but he added: “It will undergo Cabinet consideration before it is made public.”

Denis Pitcher, an independent political commentator, said the review and the report should be released, while the delay suggested “that the results of the review are not compelling enough to rush to complete and publicise it”.

He added: “The airport deal served as a major wedge of division among our people.

“We were assured that the One Bermuda Alliance had sold us out while the OBA lined up a significant number of its own reviews at considerable cost due to public opposition.

“To pay for yet another review and not publicise the results would seem like a terrible waste of money we don't have the luxury of wasting.”

He added: “The review as well as the report absolutely should be published.”

Walter Roban, the Minister of Transport and Regulatory Affairs, said a month ago that the review of the public-private partnership deal to rebuild LF Wade International Airport had been “concluded at the end of the year in accordance with our commitment”.

At the time he said the report on the review was “nearing completion”.

The review was one of the Progressive Labour Party's election platform pledges for its first 100 days in power.

Mr Roban refused last week to answer a series of questions on the review and the Government's report on its findings.

These included when the BAA report was received by the Government and if he thought it was too late to change the contract if it was found to be a bad deal for Bermuda.

Mr Roban said in a ministerial statement last October: “As Opposition, we expressed our dissatisfaction with this arrangement and as government that dissatisfaction remains.”

He added: “Despite the public opposition, shameful events which saw Members of Parliament sneaking into the House of Assembly under darkness, police officers surrounding the Sessions House and the pepper spraying of peaceful citizens, the former government did not pause to reflect on the wisdom of entering into this agreement.”

He added that the Government believed that “the country cannot afford what the former government signed us up for” and that it remained “confident” it could achieve “a better deal for Bermuda”.

Mr Pitcher said that if the review was to back the deal struck with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and developers Aecon, it would damage the Government.

He explained: “It would reflect poorly and raise the question for many swing voters whether perhaps the party were willing to put themselves first rather than Bermudians.”

Mr Pitcher added that if the PLP Government had left it too late to renegotiate the deal, it would also dent its image.

He said: “We were promised that there was a better deal to be had and that it would be a top priority for the new government from day one.

“It would suggest they squandered the time they had to ensure they got us the better deal we were promised.”

Bob Richards, former OBA Minister of Finance, said: “I remain confident that the deal my team negotiated was the best deal available to us at the time, given our financial circumstances, and I am very pleased with the conduct of Bermuda Skyport Corp Ltd and the progress of the project.”

He added he had a “very keen interest” in the progress of the airport redevelopment.

He said: “But the matter is now in the hands of the new government. It is up to them to decide what options there may or may not be available to them.”

The airport redevelopment deal was opposed by pressure groups the People's Campaign and Move in the lead up to last July's General Election.

Chris Furbert, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, and Reverend Nicholas Tweed, leaders of the People's Campaign, did not respond to questions on the airport review.

Move also failed to reply to questions.

A protest against the redevelopment in December 2016 turned violent when police officers clashed with demonstrators who blocked entry to the House of Assembly.

Officers used pepper spray on the crowd outside Sessions House.

David Burt, the Premier and then Opposition leader, Derrick Burgess, Lovitta Foggo and Michael Scott were among the PLP MPs who showed up to picket Parliament.

At least 26 complaints were made to the Police Complaints Authority by members of the public in the wake of the demonstration.

The Bermuda Police Service said 14 of its officers were assaulted.

Making progress: redevelopment of airport (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Early stages of the new airport terminal (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published February 06, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 06, 2018 at 6:28 am)

Delay to publication of airport review

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