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Bill closes land valuation tribunal loophole

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Legislation to prevent conflicts of interest at the Land Valuation Appeal Tribunal was passed in the House of Assembly.Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, told the House of Assembly that the Land Valuation and Tax Amendment Act 2020 would “provide for a procedure for addressing the disclosure of conflicts of interest by members”.Colonel Burch explained to parliamentarians: “The valuation lists set out the annual rental values for properties in Bermuda.Colonel Burch continued: “As part of keeping the entries in the list accurate and up to date it is regularly amended in respect of changes to properties such as new builds, renovations, mergers and demolitions.“Land owners then have a statutory right to challenge the proposed amendment to the list should they be aggrieved with the assessment.Colonel Burch said: “In instances where the objection is not resolved with the Land Valuation Department the objection will proceed for a hearing before the tribunal.”Colonel Burch added: “The proposed amendment stipulates that where a member of the tribunal has any direct or indirect interest in any matter before it, they shall fully disclose their interest to the tribunal at the earliest opportunity and not take part in any, or further discussion of the matter and have no vote in relation to the matter unless the tribunal has resolved that the interest does not give rise to a conflict of interest.”He said: “This proposed amendment is in keeping with Government’s objective to have members on all government tribunals disclose any known conflicts of interest, thereby ensuring independent and impartial hearings.”Craig Cannonier, the leader of the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance, said he had no objections to the Bill, which would amend the Land Valuation and Tax Act 1967.He added that the change would help to make sure “we have as much transparency as possible”.