OBA: Public being misled over economic recovery spending
An Opposition Senator has accused the Government of misleading the public over the scale of investment for one of the four pillars of its economic recovery plan.
Government is to invest $22 million on an emergency stabilisation initiative at Tynes Bay Waste Management Plant, but only 30 per cent of that money is being spent in Bermuda, with the remaining $16 million going to overseas-based companies and workers.
Although Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, said he was not concerned about the breakdown of costs, Opposition Senator Douglas DeCouto said Jason Hayward, the economy and labour minister, had listed the $22 million investment in his ERP reports.
The critical work was announced in September with the aim of keeping the waste-plant going until a wider refurbishment job totalling $150 million could be carried out.
The Government declared earlier this year that Tynes Bay was one of the four key areas it is concentrating on to drive economic recovery.
Asked if he was concerned less than one third of the $22 million was going to local companies and workers, Colonel Burch told The Royal Gazette: “Why would I be concerned?
“It’s a foreign plant. We are going back to the same people who built the plant.
“And, that’s a small portion of the $150 million. We don’t have the expertise in Bermuda to fix the plant.”
Dr DeCouto, who has raised the matter in the upper chamber, claimed the Government was “misleading” people over the issue.
He told The Royal Gazette: “It is concerning because Tynes Bay is supposed to be one of the four pillars of the economic recovery plan put forward by the government - that’s how the government has pitched it.
“But, this is about maintenance, not economic recovery. If you do the maths, this is about $5 million, $6 million (locally), so it is misleading.”
The $22 million stabilisation project was launched in an effort to keep Tynes Bay operational and avoid “catastrophe”, according to the Government.
Leslie Robinson, the Junior Minister of Public Works, who revealed how the $22 million project budget was split in the Senate, called the situation a “vast and complex operation”, but did not give a breakdown of specific costs involved.
It is the third critical work project at the plant since 2020 involves 70 Works and Engineering staff, 50 local contractors and 60 overseas contractors, the junior minister said in response to questions from Dr DeCouto.
Ms Robinson said the costs involved divided as 60 per cent for equipment and 40 per cent for workers and consultants.
She added that payment for overseas expertise was “normally higher” than for Bermuda-based firms and individuals.
Colonel Burch told MPs in September that since the $150 million refurbishment plan was announced, the facility had endured the failure of one of its two refuse cranes in April and vendor delays caused by Covid-19.
He warned that there was a very real risk of catastrophic failures at the waste plant if action was not taken as he announced the $22 million emergency plan to MPs.
The minister said: “I want to stress in the strongest possible terms that the risk of a catastrophic failure is very real.”