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David Burt says cost-of-living payouts delayed due to Auditor-General demands

David Burt during an interview with Royal Gazette News Editor Jeremy Deacon (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Repeated delays in the roll-out of the Government’s much vaunted $15 million cost-of-living crisis relief package do not amount to a “shambles”, David Burt has claimed.

The Premier was speaking after much heralded rebates on payroll tax stalled, and a $500,000 push for LED light bulbs has failed to materialise.

The one-off $150 “back to school” payment for public school students had paid out to only barely half of eligible parents a month after the new term started.

Mr Burt told The Royal Gazette: “I don’t know if I’ll agree it’s been a bit of a shambles.

“I would say that during the pandemic we got criticism from the Auditor-General’s office for ignoring financial instructions.”

He added: “If I waived that process and went directly, I would get the same criticism that we got previously, so I accept that.

“The payroll tax rebate issue, it’s the same thing. The forms are going up this week. They were supposed to be up the end of last week.

“The [Acting] Financial Secretary had asked me to delay it to make sure they can make that process even more efficient.

“I accepted that, even though I knew that would be a topic that would come up in so far as criticism.

“But when we’re dealing with the Auditor-General, it is important that we make sure that we do not get negative audit points.

“I will accept that I would have loved to deliver it more quickly, but I also must accept, and I think you must accept, that we must deliver things in keeping with the laws of this country to make sure that there is clear and proper auditing processes.”

Mr Burt said: “We had expected the payroll-tax items up by the end of September. We have not made that date. I accept that.

“I want to follow something that’s far more quick. But I have to accept that I don't always get my way. We must follow the processes that are there, and you have to listen to technical advice when it's given.”

Mr Burt claimed the Government was sensitive to the need to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.

He said: “The biggest priority in this country right now is housing; that is what we have been focused on as a Cabinet. Cost-of-living is a broad topic, and it breaks down into healthcare, cost of energy, costs of food and cost of housing.”

The Premier said the tax system needed to be overhauled.

He said: “I am fully committed as Minister of Finance to execute fundamental tax reform.

“I think that when you look at, when there's bodies, whether it's a Fiscal Responsibility Panel and others that have said that Bermuda's tax border must shift.

“When you look at the amount of money that working people pay in taxes versus those persons who are far more wealthy, and the percentage of their income that they pay in taxes, I believe that there is a space for shift.

“You will see what the Government’s plans are moving forward on this particular issue in the pre-Budget report, which comes out in November.”

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Published October 19, 2022 at 9:34 am (Updated October 19, 2022 at 9:34 am)

David Burt says cost-of-living payouts delayed due to Auditor-General demands

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