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De Couto: hiring government consultants has created a stench

Questions: Opposition senator Douglas De Couto (File photograph)

The hiring of government consultants has created “a stench” emanating from the Cabinet Office, according to an Opposition senator.

Douglas De Couto spoke out after revelations last week that the Government had hired more than 70 consultants for various projects since the start of 2021.

“We were talking about wastewater earlier today and sometimes, on particular days if you’re crossing Supermart or in that area, there can be a certain whiff in the air, a certain smell,” he told the Senate.

“I have to tell you that, as you walk along Front Street from the West, that smell is starting to come from Cabinet Office. I think the Bermudian public is getting a stench when they learn some of the details of what is going on.”

He claimed that at least one of the hirings was linked to Premier David Burt’s private business interests.

“As we’ve seen, this government is fully contaminated with conflicts of interest,” said Dr De Couto.

“I don’t now if we should call it Bitgate or Fingate or how the people would think about it, but I think it merits a lot of digging.”

Dr De Couto singled out half-a dozen of the 70 contracts revealed by Mr Burt in the House of Assembly on Friday after questions from the opposition One Bermuda Alliance.

He highlighted a contract for a consultant being paid $1,875 per hour as a “strategic adviser” for the controversial Fairmont Southampton redevelopment project.

“I would love to know the advice he is providing because, either the Government is ignoring his advice or he’s providing bad advice,” said Dr De Couto.

“Because pretty much everyone I know has come to accept that Bermuda is in a pretty bad position when it comes to negotiating this hotel and the Government is not doing a very good job of negotiating it. That does not sound like we’re achieving value for money.”

Dr De Couto also slammed a $120,000 payment to an education communications specialist.

He said: “Today, can anyone tell me where the education minister has been? We haven’t heard anything from him.”

Referring to Mr Burt’s stake in a remote dispatch company, Dr De Couto said: “He’s speaking in the other place about how he’s going to direct the minister to deal with taxis. I’m surprised the Premier thinks that’s OK. He should have taken a back seat. It looks bad and it undermines leadership.”

Dr De Couto said: “The fish rots from the head.

“This government has a track record of, at best being misleading, and at worst providing patently false comments and statements, and surrounding itself with operators whose motives are questionable.”

Owen Darrell, the Government Senate leader, defended the appointments, claiming that consultants were hired on their merits and expertise, and experience.

He added: “They work hard to deliver on behalf of this government and the people of Bermuda.

“It’s disingenuous for anyone to imply that these professionals – most of whom are Bermudian – are somewhat unworthy to work hard.”

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Published May 25, 2023 at 7:55 am (Updated May 25, 2023 at 7:32 am)

De Couto: hiring government consultants has created a stench

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