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Premier playing favourites with board appointments, OBA senator claims

Marcus Jones, a One Bermuda Alliance senator (File photograph)

An Opposition senator accused the Premier of playing favourites with the appointment of MPs and senators to Government boards.

Marcus Jones, the shadow economic development minister, told the Upper House that David Burt awarded influential positions in line with a “frequent family plan”.

Mr Jones said: “It’s well known the Premier has the power to form his own Cabinet by choosing his ministers, senators and board members within Government.

“What the public does not realise is that for those MPs in his party that do not make the cut as minister, he awards them positions to Government boards and chairs or as members.”

He added: “That MP or senator that signed up as a public service now gets a chance, not once, not twice but in some cases three times from the public purse.”

Mr Jones, speaking during the motion to adjourn, said: “Mr Premier, your slip is showing.”

He highlighted the $3.6 million paid to Denis Pitcher, Mr Burt’s fintech adviser, for the sole source contract to design the resQwuest software used to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Burt said last week, in response to a similar accusation from Cole Simons, the Opposition leader, that the Auditor-General had “audited and will continue to audit” the Government reaction to the pandemic.

Mr Jones also took a shot at Owen Darrell, a government senator and junior minister for the Cabinet Office, Education, and Public Works, as well as chairman of the National Sports Centre, for “making north of $100,000”.

He added that the former NSC chairman, Jache Adams, a Progressive Labour Party MP, was made chairman of the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation this month.

Mr Jones claimed it was “the frequent family plan at work”.

But he was forced to retract later remarks after Ernest Peets, the Senate leader, countered that the NSC board had “declared there has been no wrongdoing”.

Mr Jones launched a broadside at Mr Burt over the appointment to the Senate of Rolfe Commissiong and Curtis Richardson.

Mr Commissiong was picked as government leader in the Senate and as community affairs and sports minister in October 2020, but removed two days later.

The appointment came despite Mr Commissiong earlier standing down as a Parliamentary candidate after he admitted an “inappropriate” remark made to a woman two years earlier.

Mr Richardson, a senator and junior national security minister, had to resign this month after a battle over rent arrears owed to an elderly former landlady ended up in court.

Mr Jones highlighted the loss of flights to the island and told the Senate they came after Mr Burt, who also holds the tourism portfolio, “moved to transfer greater powers to his ministry from the Bermuda Tourism Authority”.

He said the Covid-19 travel authorisation scheme for air travel to the island, where the fee is to be cut from $75 to $40, was a “classic cash grab”.

He added there was “no certainty” behind plans by Gencom, owners of the Fairmont Southampton hotel, to carry out a $200 million renovation of the resort.

Mr Jones queried the resignation on Monday of Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister – who has yet to reveal why he quit, just days before the annual Budget statement.

He said it suggested “a total lack of confidence in the Premier’s leadership”.

But Mr Darrell hit back that he was left in “shock and dismay” by “a rambling session for 15 minutes”.

Mr Darrell added: “Speaking of the leader of this country as wearing a slip is totally out of order.”

He said accusations of a “frequent family plan” sounded arrogant and called Mr Jones “the failed candidate from Constituency 19”.

But Ben Smith, the shadow education minister, criticised Mr Darrell for “deflection”.

Mr Smith said: “Instead of paying attention to the whole community, you’re only paying attention to the people that you want to help – not everybody.”

Dr Peets, closed the motion to adjourn with an appeal to senators to be “extremely focused” when speaking.

He said: “Right now, what really matters is our country’s economic recovery.”

He added: “I do not take issue a lot, but today I take issue with comments around a wardrobe metaphor.

“Is this what the motion to adjourn is about? Talking about slips as a metaphor?”

Dr Peets said: “Maybe we should describe the Opposition as the emperor’s new clothes.

“If we understand what that metaphor is, the emperor is naked and does not realise it.”

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Published February 17, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated February 17, 2022 at 7:45 am)

Premier playing favourites with board appointments, OBA senator claims

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