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No contract for $1.67m bus schedule

New buses soon to hit the roads. (File photograph)

A Canadian company paid more than $1.6 million over the past 17 years to create Bermuda’s new bus schedule never had a formal contract with the Government, The Royal Gazette can reveal.

Schedule Masters Inc, of Brampton, Ontario, was hired by the former Public Transportation Board in 2002 and has received annual payments from the public purse ever since, ranging from about $1,000 to almost $300,000.

It has produced “several iterations” of the schedule over the years, as well as work rosters for bus drivers, but the Ministry of Tourism and Transport insisted that no records exist to detail the work the firm was paid to carry out.

The firm is responsible for the new schedule which came into effect on Monday and which has already sparked complaints from passengers about long waits for buses.

Bus users complained this week about waits of more than an hour, as well as being unable to get a reply at the Department of Public Transportation.

One commuter who works in Hamilton, who asked not to be named, told The Royal Gazette yesterday: “The new bus schedule is dreadful — fewer buses at rush hours and they were packed last night like sardines.”

She added: “People couldn’t get on at the bus terminal and were being turned away. I have no idea how I can get home on public transport now.”

The former One Bermuda Alliance government waived the tender process at the start of 2013 and kept Schedule Masters on as a “sole provider”, a public access to information request has revealed.

The Royal Gazette asked the Ministry of Tourism and Transport for “any and all current, ended or terminated contracts” entered into by the Government for services related to the public bus schedule.

However, an information officer said in a written reply that “none exist”.

She added: “Schedule Masters Inc was hired to produce the bus schedule and rosters for the Bermuda public bus service and has done so since 2002.”

The spokeswoman said services provided by Schedule Masters included development of the new bus schedule, work rosters and the dispatch system.

She added: “The company has provided proprietary systems — specifically several iterations of the schedule — and has installed and programmed the automated dispatching tool in an effort to complete this 17-year-long exercise.”

The firm was the only company or individual listed as having been paid for services related to the bus schedule.

She said $1.67 million was paid to Schedule Masters between 2002 and 2018.

The Royal Gazette asked for any memorandums of understanding or signed documents that detailed the terms and arrangements of the agreement and for materials that outlined how Schedule Masters was selected — but none were released.

The information officer said Schedule Masters was chosen by the former Public Transportation Board, a quango which was dissolved and replaced by the Department of Public Transportation. It is not known if PTB tendered the work.

The spokeswoman said: “A request to waive the RFP process and continue services with Schedule Masters Inc was approved on February 7, 2013 by the acting Accountant-General, as a sole provider.”

The information officer said Schedule Masters was used in recent years “on a task-order basis, in a reduced capacity, compared to PTB, and via an agreed hourly rate to support the final development of the new schedule and roster”.

A breakdown of payments to Schedule Masters since 2002 ranged from a high of more than $292,000 in 2006 to a low of $1,100 in 2017.

The new schedule was announced at a press conference held in December and was expected to take effect on January 7, but was twice delayed.

Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, said the schedule was designed to run with 50 buses, out of a potential 80, to allow for repairs and replacement to the ageing fleet.

Roger Todd, the director of the Department of Public Transportation, said the new schedule would be adjusted, as needed, over the next 18 months.