Fahy hits back over claims of lost $300,000
Transport minister Michael Fahy has dismissed Opposition criticism over the Bermuda Government's supposedly lost $300,000 payment for public buses as “absurd and way off-base”.
On Monday, online news site Bermuda Real suggested that former Director of Public Transportation Dan Simmons pushed through the advance to a man in Belgium, despite the trepidation of top government officials.
But instead of delivering the new buses, the article alleged that the man cashed the cheque and disappeared with the Bermuda taxpayers' money, initially believed to be $1 million before being reassessed to $300,000.
It added that the Government was understood to be “pursuing avenues of investigation and recovery”.
Lawrence Scott, the Shadow Minister of Transport, lambasted Senator Fahy and the One Bermuda Alliance — calling the matter “irresponsibility and incompetence at its highest”.
“We don't know if it's $300,000 or if it is as much as a million, which goes on top of the $18 million that went missing under Senator Fahy's watch,” Mr Scott said, referencing the Corporation of Hamilton's $18 million debt over a failed development at Par-la-Ville.
“No minister took accountability for this and came forward to tell the Bermudian people that a mistake had been made — it had to be found out by a journalist that this money went missing,” he added.
“What else is going on behind the scenes?”
Responding in yesterday's Senate, Senator Fahy denounced Mr Scott's “flippant” remarks, adding: “These very personal insinuations are a little tiresome.”
Regarding the Par-la-Ville development, in which he was accused of soliciting bribes last year, Senator Fahy pointed to the Supreme Court's exoneration of the “scurrilous” claims made by the developer.
“What we're seeing here is a memory deficit,” he added.
The minister went on to clash with Senate leader Marc Daniels, after mentioning Mr Scott's ongoing court case for wrongful dismissal with JetBlue Airways.
Mr Scott has claimed he lost his supervisor job in April due to his opposition to the L.F. Wade International Airport redevelopment, while JetBlue says he was fired for serious misconduct.
Sen Daniels demanded that Sen Fahy withdraw his “wholly unfair and inappropriate” remarks, which he later did under duress.
Sen Fahy went on to describe the then-Ministry of Tourism and Transport's relationship with the Belgian management company Mercury Trading over the past four years.
In August 2012 and December 2013, he said that the Ministry entered into two contracts with Mercury Trading to purchase a total of 16 buses.
However, the quality of the contracts was later found to be “inconsistent with industry norms and practices”, and in April 2015 the Ministry entered into a dispute with Mercury Trading “relating to the supply of and payment for those buses”.
“A settlement agreement was signed by [Mr Simmons], and that appeared to happen without any other involvement,” Sen Fahy said.
“I am not placing any individual blame on anyone at this stage, because we have internal investigations ongoing.”
Sen Fahy explained that there are four outstanding buses in dispute and that the Government is defending itself over the matter in Belgian courts.
He added: “In the way the payments were made, this was not something which was approved by Cabinet. It has gone awry. Sometimes you have to let these things run their course.”