‘Purchase of a new car questionable,’ says OBA
The One Bermuda Alliance deputy leader has questioned the purchase of a new car for the Premier in the existing economic climate.
Jarion Richardson also called for greater clarity on rules regarding who uses the fleet of 13 GP number-plated vehicles and for which purposes.
The comments came after it emerged two Kia Seltos, with a usual retail value of $46,000 each, have been bought as replacement cars for David Burt and Rena Lalgie, the Governor.
The Government said the cost of the cars would be $25,000 each once customs duty had been deducted from the price tag, and that they were needed due to high maintenance costs for the previous cars used.
“Government cars are not widely supported by the public right now. GP cars are controversial on a good day and given how bad off we are financially, it is highly questionable.
“With the increase in debt, everything the Government does right now is under scrutiny because they have demonstrated they are not trustworthy.
“So, when we look at the purchase of government cars, which are already being questioned – the use of the cars, who has them, why they have them, when they get them – and, then you add to that a general impression of government imprudence in spending, you see the purchase of a new car as questionable.
“The reason for this has to be absolutely, and publicly, clear considering the bad state of the Bermuda finances.”
Mr Richardson also called for clearer information on the Government’s approach to transferring to electric cars over time.
He said: “The problem that we have right now is that there is no clarity around the Government’s replacement of its current fleet of vehicles with electric vehicles, or even that it intends to do so.”
The Government did not say whether the new cars are electric when asked.
This comes despite Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, stating last November: “In replacing GP vehicles, we would look to replacing them with electronic vehicles.”
A government spokesman defended the costs involved adding: “The actual price Bermuda Motors would charge would be $46,000 as indicated on their website.
“According to Bermuda Motors, the actual price per vehicle is $17,844 landed before duty and other add-ons – ie profit.”
Asked if this set a good example given the Government was hit with three grim economic reports this week amid the cost of living crisis, the spokesman said: “We have the choice to pay $30,000 for the repairs of 20-plus-year-old cars, or less than $25,000 for new vehicles.”
Pressed on whether this was the start of a replacement for the entire fleet of GP cars, the spokesman said: “This will be a phased approach in light of the age of all of the remaining vehicles.”
He added: “It’s important to note that expenditure for government vehicles is accounted for in the Budget.”
Regarding the two new cars, Colonel Burch said the previous vehicles needed to be replaced urgently after clocking up $60,000 in repair bills.
Colonel Burch added that the Government’s fleet of 13 ministerial cars was in a constant state of repair, and had not been replenished in the last 12 years.
The minister said: “We believe this decision represents a prudent investment in our Government fleet.
“Quite frankly, they needed to be replaced urgently. The Governor’s former vehicle was 23 years old, and the Premier’s car was 21 years old.
“In fact, out of our fleet of 13 ministerial cars, six are out of service due to maintenance and repairs. The newest Toyota Corolla model vehicle used in the ministerial fleet is more than 12 years old.
“I can also say that ministerial cars frequently break down – and in some cases, every week. Replacement parts to carry out the necessary repairs are becoming a challenge to procure due to the age of the vehicle, and can take months to be imported.
“It should be noted that these official cars are not solely used by Government officials and the Governor, but also to transport visiting dignitaries including heads of state.”
A spokeswoman for Government House told The Royal Gazette: “The provision of an official car for the Governor is a responsibility of the Government of Bermuda.
“The Toyota Camry, which had been reassigned to Government House as a temporary Crown Car since 2018, has been deemed not to be economically viable to repair.
“Accordingly, a request for a new vehicle was made by Government House to the Department of Public Works.
“A 2022 Kia Seltos has now been assigned to Government House to be used as the Crown Car.”