OBA accuses Government of making ‘excuses’ to avoid answering questions
Two government ministers have been accused of using delaying tactics to dodge answering questions in the House of Assembly.
The claims were made against Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, and Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, by the opposition One Bermuda Alliance.
Jarion Richardson, the deputy leader of the OBA, said the two ministers “ignored questions for weeks”, and that the Government was failing in its duty to be transparent with the public.
Mr Richardson and Michael Dunkley, the Shadow Minister for Health, submitted written questions to the House of Assembly last month.
The questions were forwarded to Ms Wilson and Mr Furbert by the clerk to the legislature, instructing that “the above questions are for written response on Friday, September 16” — the next scheduled sitting of the House.
But on that date, scheduled parliamentary business was cleared for a special joint gathering after the death of the Queen.
House business was further delayed on the following Friday when the session had to be cancelled because of Hurricane Fiona.
The questions were listed on the order paper for the September 30 session and last Friday’s session, but neither minister submitted their written answers.
Mr Richardson said later that he understood that “procedural” reasons were given for the delay.
He said: “Since early September, the One Bermuda Alliance has asked the Government for simple information on paid consultants.
“The Government waited until the House sitting was delayed, firstly by the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, and secondly, Hurricane Fiona. It then raised a procedural challenge.
“So, they ignored the questions for weeks before communicating to the Speaker of the House that there was something supposedly wrong. Their challenge has resulted in support staff having to review and research.
“More notably, their delaying tactic means the questions don’t have to be answered now for months and months — and that’s only if the Speaker rules the questions are legitimate.
“These answers should have been provided by September 16. When the House sat on October 7 — almost a month later — the Government still had no response or explanation.
“The Government owes a duty of transparency to the public and should answer the questions immediately.
“If the Government chooses not to answer, then it is clear that it’s not procedure that they are concerned with, but transparency.”
The following three questions were presented to the House of Assembly by shadow health minister Michael Dunkley for the attention of Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health.
1. Will the Honourable Minister please provide for this honourable House the full current contract with ResQwest, and any additional contracts with vendors, in relation to goods or services provided through the Covid pandemic?
2. Will the Honourable Minister please provide for this Honourable House the details of the amounts paid by the Government to ResQwest, and any other vendors, broken down monthly due to Covid-related fees up to the end of August 2022?
3. Will the Honourable Minister please provide for this Honourable House the total monthly revenue received in fees paid by travellers due to the Travel Authorisation Form between April and August 2022?
The following three questions were presented to the House of Assembly by Jarion Richardson, the deputy leader of the OBA, for the attention of Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office.
1. Will the Honourable Minister please provide for this Honourable House a list of the individuals currently employed by the Government as consultants, along with the date of contract commencement and, where known, contract conclusion and contract total value?
2. Will the Honourable Minister please inform this Honourable House the Programme Name, Business Unit and Head from the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the Year 2022-23 indicating the source of funding for each of the above-named consultants?
3. Will the Honourable Minister please provide this Honourable House a list of any positions any Member of Parliament might hold within Government or quangos, and the remuneration for that position?
Mr Dunkley confirmed that he had contacted Dennis Lister, the Speaker, to find out why written answers had not been submitted.
The Royal Gazette asked why Ms Wilson and Mr Furbert had not responded to the questions and what the procedural reasons were for not doing so. No response to our questions was received by press time.
The claims came after the Government was accused of making “excuses” to avoid answering questions about a multimillion-dollar programme to assist troubled children.
Speaking in the Upper House on Wednesday, opposition senator Robin Tucker said: “Shouldn’t there be an expectation of a level of transparency … that gives the public assurance that there is adequate accountability?
“Getting answers to questions is one way that helps accomplish that. Using confidentiality as an excuse not to answer questions is simply unacceptable.”