Campaigners back plan to diversify contracts
A campaigner for the disabled has thrown her support behind a government plan to give more contracts to businesses owned by the disabled, women and black people.
LaKiesha Wolffe, who has an artificial leg and is the founder and owner of A New Life Consulting, a disability management charity, said: “It is about time that Government and people generally look at disabled people differently.
“We're not stupid and you can't look at us like we're ‘less than'.
“A lot of us have knowledge, we have degrees, and we want to do different things, but they don't give us the chance.”
Ms Wolffe said she was annoyed that people who were not disabled were hired to “make policies that they will never live, feel or understand”.
She was speaking after Wayne Furbert, the Cabinet Office minister, announced the new policy in the House of Assembly last Friday.
Ms Wolffe said: “I give Wayne Furbert an A-plus and I hope that I'm one of the people to be picked as a consultant. What Wayne Furbert is doing is right.”
The policy statement was also backed by Ewart Brown, a former Progressive Labour Party premier.
Dr Brown said: “Naturally, I support any steps that Government and the private sector take to compensate for the injustices of the past and present.
“Previous administrations, including my own, could have done more in this vein.
“The real challenge will come when the voices of privilege express their indignation upon reading of the Government's intentions.”
But he added: “This is a good step in the right direction.”
Mr Furbert said the Government would expand on a programme that has already seen small businesses receive contracts worth a total of $38 million over the past three years.
Mr Furbert told MPs: “Our aim is to replicate the success of awarding contracts to small business, and we intend to use Government's purchasing power to promote equality of opportunity with regard to disability, gender and race.
“We will still seek to utilise the public purse to create opportunities for business owners who were marginalised in the past, particularly black-owned small businesses, as well as others deemed unsuitable by past governments.
“If we genuinely want to diversify our economy and economically empower those Bermudians who up until now have not had a piece of the economic pie, we must take steps to make this happen.”
Mr Furbert said the Government would identify companies that are doing business with Government whose ownership is at least 51 per cent black, female or disabled, and give them a better chance of more contracts.
He said: “We have learnt that the impact of the government purse is so strong that maintaining the status quo is not good enough. Talking is not good enough — action must be taken and action we will take.
“It vital that business owners know that Government is ‘open for your business', because it is and we are.”
Mr Furbert highlighted that successive governments had given contracts worth more than $70 million to small businesses over the past six years.
But he added: “For the first time a government is able to identify and measure the value of what it pays to small business. But this does not go far enough.
“For decades, business owners who joined the right golf club, went to the right private school or knew the right people would always win government contracts.
“Having been awarded a contract once, they would subsequently get more contracts, partly by doing good work, and partly by playing the game to get another contract.
Mr Furbert said: “Some businesses being more successful than others is normal as we choose to live in a capitalist society, but not if that success is earned by unfair practices.
“This government is not going to rest on its laurels and pat itself on the back — we are pushing for further diversity.”
• To read Wayne Furbert's statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”