Commissiong blasts Govt over SAGE Commission
Government “outsourced” leadership and unpopular decision-making to the SAGE Commission, Opposition MPs charged, during a heated Motion to Adjourn in the House of Assembly last night.
Progressive Labour Party MP Rolfe Commissiong blasted SAGE as an example of Government “immunising itself from having too close a hand on decisions they know will be unpalatable”.
He also branded its awards contest a “fiasco” — and called for the $12,500 prize to the winner, civil servant Magnus Henagulph, to be “returned so that it can be given to a more worthy person”.
The Pembroke South East MP said the prize ought to have been given to Ryan Robinson Perinchief, who won the under-18 category of the awards.
Mr Commissiong took issue with Mr Henagulph's cash-saving suggestion that the police executive move out of the Veritas Place building — which described the lease as “questionable” because the building was “owned by [a] former PLP MP”.
“Come on,” the Shadow Workforce Development Minister shot back. “The fact of the matter is [Arthur] Hodgson, at the time of that lease being signed, was with the company who runs Veritas Place, and had been out of Government at least five years.”
Mr Hodgson, a former Cabinet Minister, received permission to build at the Court Street site in 2007, as part of the developers group Abbott Holdings Limited.
Mr Commissiong added: “We all know that throughout Hamilton there are many Government departments and ministries that have been rented, and have generated significant monies to the owners, some of whom had very close associations with the United Bermuda Party or sat in these same benches.”
He characterised Mr Henagulph's savings suggestions in the winning document as “red meat confirming their worst fears about Government”.
And PLP MP Walter Roban said the SAGE Commission's credibility had been “severely damaged” by the “fiasco” surrounding the competition.
“This contest, and how it has been handled — not to belittle the value that might come, but their reputation has been soiled and damaged,” Mr Roban added.
Shadow Finance Minister David Burt revealed that he had received a letter of apology from Mr Henagulph for an error in the civil servant's submission relating to a company part-owned by Mr Burt.
He said that the error undermined the credibility of all recommendations and questioned why both Government and the Commission had not commented on the controversy surrounding the awards.
“The fact that the award was given off of a submission that contained false information — I was very bothered by that, but the SAGE Commission and Government have been silent,” he said.
Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell defended Mr Henagulph, who works as a spokesman for the Department of Tourism.
“He is an outstanding public relations officer. He has performed admirably in the role for me and he performs his duties at a very high level,” Mr Crockwell said.