OBA hits back over airport

  • Douglas DeCouto, a One Bermuda Alliance election candidate (Photograph supplied)

    Douglas DeCouto, a One Bermuda Alliance election candidate (Photograph supplied)

The Progressive Labour Party was accused of “stunning hypocrisy” yesterday for its barrage of abuse of the airport terminal development.

The attack by Douglas DeCouto of the One Bermuda Alliance brought a sharp response from the PLP, which criticised the OBA’s transparency record when it was in power between 2012 and 2017.

But Mr DeCouto, the OBA candidate for Warwick North Central, said the OBA had released more information on the deal “than any other Government project in history”.

He accused Mr Burt of failing to release details on the building of the acute care wing at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital — also financed under a public-private partnership.

The new hospital wing, agreed under a PLP administration, opened in 2014.

Mr DeCouto said: “The Premier should be explaining why a PLP Government committed Bermudians to spend $1bn on a hospital wing.

“Let’s stress this — a wing, not an entire new hospital.”

He added the hospital and the airport were the island’s sole major construction projects operating under a public-private partnership, but that the contrast between the two administrations’ handling of them “could not be more stark”.

Mr DeCouto added: “The details of the hospital deal are still kept under lock and key at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital — even though David Burt twice promised to release an unredacted report regarding the financing of the wing.”

The OBA asked Mr Burt in the House of Assembly to the release financial details of the hospital contract in 2018 after the PLP won back power the year before.

Mr Burt told Jeanne Atherden of the OBA that he had pledged to reveal the contract details when he was Opposition leader and that he was “more than happy to keep that commitment”.

Mr DeCouto accused him of failure to keep the promise.

He also questioned whether details would be released on the plan to build the Ottiwell A Simmons International Arbitration Centre in Hamilton under another public-private partnership with US-based Milhouse Engineering and Construction Mr Mr DeCouto said the Premier’s “hypocrisy and lack of transparency are habitual”.

He added: “What is the rationale for freezing out Bermudian firms? Who is putting up the money for the project? How is the revenue from the centre being carved up? Who will own the property?

“What is the rate of return to Bermuda? What is the rate of return to the US company? Who is this company and what are their bona fides? Are there any side deals with the US company? If so, what are they?”

The public-private partnership for construction of the new airport, struck between the former OBA government and the Canadian Commercial Corporation, was opposed by the PLP since it was announced in 2014.

Support and opposition for the deal, divided on party lines, reached boiling point in December 2016 with a clash outside Parliament between police and protesters who blocked legislators from a planned debate on legislation to approve the deal.

The two Bills were approved in February 2017.

Revenues generated by the airport are to be used to pay the construction costs incurred by Aecon, CCC’s contractor, under the agreement.

But the airport’s earnings collapsed this year after air travel was shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Government had to pay out $5.8 million in July to Aecon to make up for the shortfall in income under the terms of the contract.

The PLP vowed to “put the ownership of our airport back in Bermudian hands” in its platform for the October 1 General Election, which was released earlier this week.

David Burt, the Premier, said on Wednesday that a new deal would be discussed after construction on the terminal was completed.

A PLP spokeswoman attacked the OBA for having Vic Ball, the OBA candidate in Smith’s West, speak at a press conference yesterday on its platform for social support.

Mr Ball was accused of “friends and family” links over a $1.4 million Bermuda Government contract that he approved when he was a purchasing officer for the Government in 2009.

The purchase of roadworks material from Harmony Holdings was criticised by a Commission of Inquiry in 2017 because Mr Ball’s father, Eugene Ball, was a principal of the firm.

The spokeswoman questioned why Mr Ball was a candidate if the OBA was “as committed to clean government as they say”.

Mr Cannonier was attacked in the House of Assembly and later resigned as premier in 2014 over the Jetgate scandal, which erupted after he flew to the US in a private jet owned by a businessman who had contributed to the OBA’s 2012 election campaign.

The spokeswoman also launched an attack on Michael Dunkley, who replaced Mr Cannonier as premier, and demanded he “come clean about the failure of the Morgan’s Point deal that cost taxpayers $200 million”.

The war of words came a week before voters head to the polls to pick the island’s next government.

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Published Sep 25, 2020 at 4:13 pm (Updated Sep 25, 2020 at 4:13 pm)

OBA hits back over airport

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