Airport agreement under review
The controversial airport redevelopment deal is under review by an international firm of consultants, Minister of Transport Walter Roban said yesterday.
The review was ordered by the Government and will be carried out by the Bermuda Airport Authority and US-based global consultants LeighFisher.
Mr Roban told The Royal Gazette: “Our goal is to finish by December.”
The public-private partnership agreement, signed by the former One Bermuda Alliance administration with Canadian Commercial Corporation and its contractor, Aecon, was attacked by the Progressive Labour Party while in opposition.
Michael Dunkley, the former premier, said last night the OBA plan was “the best deal for Bermuda” and accused the PLP of resorting to “Trump-like” misinformation.
Mr Roban said the assessment of the agreement started just after the PLP came to power in July, with LeighFisher contracted four to six weeks ago.
He could not provide a figure for the potential cost of scrapping the deal, saying that would be “hypothetical” until the review was finished.
Mr Roban added: “As opposition we expressed our dissatisfaction with this arrangement, and as Government our dissatisfaction remains.”
The minister said that Bermudians wanted a new airport, but that the Aecon deal was one that “we were forced to accept, as the project was not opened to other bidders”.
He added: “When a significant amount of people expressed their disapproval, they were ignored.”
Mr Roban said: “The conduct and contempt shown by the former finance minister to Parliament, refusing to answer questions, and misleading by omission, did nothing to ease the concern and unpopularity shown by the Bermudian people for this agreement.”
He described LeighFisher as “a global management consulting firm offering infrastructure advisory and consulting services to aviation, infrastructure and government markets”.
The review is being conducted by the Bermuda Airport Authority, which contracted LeighFisher under its own terms of procurement.
Lester Nelson, chief executive officer of the BAA, said the company had given the government strategic advice in the past, but that it had played “a small role” in the OBA's plans for redevelopment of the airport.
Mr Nelson was unable to provide the cost of LeighFisher's services and said the firm was “known to us from the former Department of Airport Operations”.
He added that LeighFisher had been hired on a sole-source contract — allowed under the authority's financial instructions.
Mr Roban said the Government was “determined to chart a different path” to investigate if the country could get a better deal.
He added: “We believe the country cannot afford what the former government signed us up for.”
Mr Dunkley dismissed yesterdays' announcement as “not a review, but the hiring of a consultant”.
The former premier said Mr Roban had failed to reveal the contract terms, such as “was it a sole-source contract, what is the fee involved and the length of time for the consultancy work to take place?”
Mr Dunkley said due diligence had been carried out by the OBA from the start, which included engagement with the UK Government.
He added that the Blue Ribbon Panel set up to review the deal had declared it “not perfect, but it is a good deal” and said that it had been approved by organisations such as the Bermuda Tourism Authority, the Bermuda Hotel Association, the Chamber of Commerce,
and the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers.
Mr Dunkley called LeighFisher a reputable firm and said he looked forward to the results of the review.
He said: “Any government has the right and ability to review a contract or policy.
“However, in this matter the PLP opposed the project from the beginning and often spread misinformation and employed Trump-like tactics to divide people and confuse the issue.
“It was not about what is best for Bermuda but about how to get elected.”
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