UBP: Works Minister is hiding behind ‘timelines, obfuscation and innuendo’ on LED lights for Global House
Minister Derrick Burgess has been accused of launching a “cover-up” to try to clear his name over the LED lights scandal.
The Royal Gazette has been told that Government called in Electrical Technology Management (ETM) for urgent talks as soon as we revealed the energy-saving lights at Global House breached health and safety standards. The then-Public Works Minister was off Island at the time but ETM bosses are understood to have been told to gather together “all the relevant documents”.
Company employees were told they had to help “end all of this” by handing over the facts and figures about the installation of the 1,300 replacement lights in the summer of 2009, which cost about $100,000. Three binders of information, including the official certification of the lights and their electricity savings, were handed over to Mr Burgess on his return on October 27.
The information gathered stated that the electricity bill for Global House was an average of $44,000 a month in 2008, but the LED lights were responsible for savings of up to $5,000 a month.
The files also explained the bulbs were “cutting-edge technology” and their use in the Government building on Church Street should “jump-start their popularity in Bermuda”.
Then just six days later Mr Burgess, who is also Deputy Premier, broke his silence with an interview with The Bermuda Sun.
Charlie Swan, UBP’s spokesman for public works, said the “publicity stunt” and “staged photo op” in last week’s paper had been nothing more than “a cover-up”.
Mr Swan said: “Typical of many elected officials, Minister Burgess seeks to hide behind timelines, obfuscation and innuendo. I, for one, don’t buy it, and nor should anyone else. Minister Burgess did it wrong. He’s got it wrong. He should be shown the door.”
Mr Swan said Mr Burgess had taken more than two years to act on the lighting complaints of workers, which he said “defies logic” and “should not have been tolerated”.
Mr Swan said: “Where is the openness? Where is the transparency? Where is the accountability that Premier Cox speaks to?”
On October 17
The Royal Gazette published the details of a report by the Electrical Section of the Ministry of Works and Engineering highlighting a series of errors about the LED installation. It stated the lights breached health and safety regulations, as well as building and electrical codes. The damning report also stated no proper feasibility study was carried out, technical officers had raised concerns in advance about poor lighting levels, the lights installed were not certified with a recognised electrical testing laboratory, and an electrical permit for the lights was not applied for.
Works and Engineering staff were then called in to start to reverse Mr Burgess’ original decision by replacing the LED fixtures with fluorescent tube lights. Mr Burgess, who gave the LED contract the go-ahead, has repeatedly refused to answer
The Royal Gazette’s questions or agree to an interview with reporter Sirkka Huish.
Mr Burgess did however bump into Ms Huish at the swearing-in ceremony of Government’s two new Junior Ministers at Government House last week.
Even though the two have previously met on several occasions, Mr Burgess sought confirmation of Ms Huish’s identity and told her: “I wanted to check I had the right person.”
Then when Ms Huish politely asked how the Minister was, he said: “Don’t you dare smile at me” and walked off.
In his Bermuda Sun interview, Mr Burgess said he played by the rules and “did not do anything wrong”.
He claimed the LED lights were the best bulbs you could buy at that time, did not pose a health hazard, were better for the environment and saved taxpayers’ money.
Mr Burgess said MET Laboratories rather than the more commonly recognised Underwriters Laboratories (UL) had certified the lights.
He also insisted he did not go against the advice of his technical officers as they had not given him any advice.
Mr Burgess went on to say he only saw the report, which was carried out in April 2010, when he returned from his vacation. He said the report speaks of The Occupational Safety and Health Regulations Act 2009 when the lights were put in under the previous 1982 regulations.
The story failed to mention why the lights at Global House had needed to be changed back to fluorescent strips and whether taxpayers were footing the bill.
Mr Swan said he welcomed Mr Burgess finally speaking out, but said the published story “used more space extolling the virtues of LED lighting than in explaining the Minister’s actions with the Global House issue”.
He said: “The issue is not LED lights themselves, the issue is the manner and mindset which he, the Minister, exhibited in installing these lights in Global House.”
Mr Swan said Mr Burgess’ interview highlighted “the modus operandi of this Government, concerning unethical versus illegal behaviour”.
He said: “Either is wrong, and in this lighting debacle, the health and safety of citizens he purports to represent has been put at risk.
“As a citizen of this Country, I expect elected officials to exhibit both ethical and legal behaviour.”
The story was printed in the Bermuda Sun on the day of the Cabinet reshuffle where Mr Burgess was moved from the Ministry of Public Works to Transport.
Mr Swan added: “The fact that the Minister has now been moved to another Ministry Transport speaks more to the problem, and so creates more questions than answers about his actions.”
Mr Burgess and ETM president and CEO Leroy Robinson did not respond to requests for comment.