Richards: Opposition got facts wrong over infrastructure plan
Plans to devise a long-term infrastructure development strategy were scrapped by Government before they could be drawn up, according to Environment and Planning Minister Sylvan Richards.
Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, Mr Richards dismissed earlier claims by Opposition leader Marc Bean that the former Progressive Labour Party had paid a consultant $500,000 to devise a plan just before the last general election.
Mr Richards pointed out that, although a preliminary report was presented to the new Government, it was decided not to pursue the project.
The row erupted after Mr Richards, along with Premier Craig Cannonier and Public Works Minister Trevor Moniz, attended the two-day KPMG Island Infrastructure Summit in Miami earlier this week.
On Monday, Mr Bean branded the trip a “junket” and a waste of taxpayer dollars — because he had attended the same conference last year. He added that, as a result of that trip, the former PLP Government had subsequently devised an infrastructure development strategy.
“In the fourth quarter of 2012, PWC was paid approximately $500,000 to produce the infrastructure strategy. Naturally, the creation of the strategy was ongoing by the December 17 election, and upon completion, was to be presented to the incoming government,” Mr Bean claimed.
Mr Richards poured cold water on that claim, revealing that a strategy has yet to be devised, stating that PWC, after a successful request for proposal, was contracted to create a two phase report.
“The Phase I report gave a broad overview of the initial considerations for a ‘Vision for Infrastructure in Bermuda', including strategic drivers which underpin the case for developing the National Infrastructure Plan,” Mr Richards said. “The Phase I report had a contracted price tag of $50,000 and was completed December 21, 2012. To date, the full payment for this Phase I Report is a grand total of $58,181, consisting of $50,000 per the contract, and $8,181 in incidentals.
“The purpose of the Phase II report was to deliver the actual National Infrastructure Plan. This OBA Government has made a decision to not proceed with the Phase II report at this juncture, and is considering its options with regard to the management of Bermuda's long term infrastructure.
“This Phase II report had a contracted price tag of $340,000. As the Phase II report is not moving forward at this time, the total dollar amount spent on the National Infrastructure Plan to date is $58,181 which is a far cry from the inaccurate $500,000 figure that was quoted repeatedly by the Opposition leader.”
He said that because the second phase of the report was never begun, there was no National Infrastructure Plan created.
“Let us be very clear, this government, The One Bermuda Alliance is diligently in the process of working out the best way forward,” he said. “We are hard at work at putting together real plans, which have real potential to help Bermuda get back on track. Not ‘Pie in the Sky', feel good words, but determined action.
“We contrast this with the misleading information and misquoting of figures that continues to come our way from a former Government that talked about helping Bermudians and getting Bermuda back to work, while in reality, overseeing the largest mass exodus of jobs in Bermuda's history.
“If we are to truly collaborate and work together, let us all be honest brokers on behalf of the Bermudian people whom we are honoured to serve.”
Asked by members of the Opposition if Government would release the completed Phase 1 to the public in the spirit of transparency, Mr Richards said it would be discussed.
“The Phase I that was brought to us was not our work,” he said. “It's just like if I inherit work from someone else and I'm not comfortable with the work, then I'm not going to proceed with it. I'm not going to show it to anyone because my name's going to be attached to it.
“The point to be made is it was $58,000, not $500,000, which is what the leader of the Opposition said.”
Environment Minister Sylvan Richards accused Opposition Leader Marc Bean of claiming he attended a conference which he alleged never took place.
Earlier in the week, Mr Bean released a statement saying he had attended the KPMG Island Infrastructure Summit, and issued a request for proposal for the development of an infrastructure strategy for Bermuda as a result. But Mr Richards said yesterday: “I did some checking and the Opposition leader, in his capacity as a former Minister under the previous government, actually attended the last KPMG summit which was held September 22 to September 23 of 2011. There was no summit held in 2012 due to a number of elections occurring in the various islands, including our own, that would have normally attended that year.”
However Mr Bean later insisted that he did attend a KPMG Island Infrastructure Summit held in January of 2012. Mr Richards responded: “If my facts are incorrect, I have to apologise. “I have to rely on my civil servants. I did write this based on the information that was given to me.”
But he later told the House that Mr Bean had attended an energy conference in the Bahamas in January of 2012, not the KPMG conference, but the Opposition leader said he attended both conferences. An article published in The Royal Gazette on January 17, 2012, stated that Mr Bean was to attend the two-day KPMG National Infrastructure Strategy Seminar in Miami with then Public Works Minister Michael Weeks and others.