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PLP vows to fight on after airport defeat

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David Burt, PLP Deputy Leader and shadow finance minister, described the defeat of his motion on Friday as a "setback" (File photo by Nicola Muirhead)

The defeat of an Opposition motion opposing the proposed redevelopment of the airport was a “setback” but not the end of the issue, according to shadow finance minister David Burt.

The motion, moved by Mr Burt, also called for the project to be subject to a public Request For Proposal (RFP) process.

But after more than six hours of debate in the House of Assembly on Friday night, the motion was defeated by 19 votes to 12, with all Government MPs voting against it.

Last night, Mr Burt said “a competitive tender process is the only way to ensure that Bermuda gets the best deal”.

“The public can rest assured that while the defeat of this vote in parliament is a setback in our mission to ensure Bermuda gets the best deal, it is not the end of this issue,” he added.

“We will not sit back and allow Michael Dunkley, Bob Richards and the OBA Cabinet to run roughshod over the good governance act, financial instructions, Auditor General recommendations, and the will of the people of Bermuda.

“We will do all we can to ensure that this deal is handled with the highest standards of tendering and ethics to ensure that over the next 35 years, the Bermudian people get the best deal possible.”

At the end of Friday’s debate, Mr Burt said he knew that there were OBA MPs who did not support the way the airport project had been handled and he urged them to have “courage in their convictions” and support his motion.

However, the motion was defeated by seven votes.

Only 12 PLP MPs were present in the House when the vote took place, excluding Speaker Randy Horton.

By then, Marc Bean, the Leader of the Opposition, had been suspended from the Chamber after a motion to censure against him was carried by Government MPs, while Zane DeSilva, Dennis Lister and Derrick Burgess were not present for the vote.

Mr Burt claimed Government’s unanimous rejection of his motion showed they were “intent on disregarding the basic and fundamental rules of good governance”.

He added: “During the debate in Parliament, not a single member of the OBA was able to assure Bermuda that we are getting the best deal and that is because with a sole source contract, Aecon does not need to compete against any other company with regards to price.

“The OBA have been in office for 29 months and during that time they continue to bypass the rules that were put in place by the PLP following the recommendations of the Auditor General to strengthen the tendering process.”

The redevelopment of the airport has become a hotbed of political and public debate.

The People’s Campaign has demanded accountability over the airport development proposal. It has charged that a mass of e-mails show tainted dealings with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) and the contractor Aecon that was chosen for the job.

Finance Minister Bob Richards has maintained that nothing untoward took place during the discussions with the CCC and Aecon, saying he had not known about Aecon until a June 4, 2014, meeting in Toronto, which was brokered through the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Mr Burt added: “The Good Governance Act requires that the Office of Project Management and Procurement approve the award of all contracts.

“The Office of Project Management and Procurement has not approved of this deal, however Minister Bob Richards and the OBA are moving this deal forward over the objections of the very department that is there to ensure that proper tendering processes are adhered to.

“These processes are in place to ensure that public funds are handled properly and Minister Richards’ declaration that they would continue to move forward despite the lack of approval from this important department should alarm all persons and companies that pay taxes.

“The recent release of e-mails and the admission by the Minister of Finance that he was aware Aecon was the contractor from the very beginning of this process calls into question this entire deal. Despite these revelations and the concerns voiced by the opposition, community groups, independent commentators, and 75 per cent of voters, Premier Dunkley, Minister Richards and the remainder of their OBA colleagues refuse to rethink this sole sourced deal to the Canadian Company Aecon.”

• For the full PLP statement, click on the PDF file under “Related Media”.