The following Op-Ed was submitted for publication on Sunday, September 29, 2019 by One Bermuda Alliance MP Michael Dunkley…
Bermudians can recall the refurbishment of the course under the former PLP Government prior to hosting the Grand Slam at Port Royal in 2009.
It was clouded in controversy with a budget of $4.5 million eventually ending more than $20 million over that amount! This was then the subject of a damning report by the Auditor General, allegations that current Minister Zane DeSilva lied to a parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on six occasions and a Commission of Inquiry stating that there was possible “criminal activity” and “straightforward fraud” in referring to actions by some of those involved at Port Royal. News reports indicate that there is still civil court action pending in this matter.
Now fast forward to 2019 and the announcement by the BTA and Minister DeSilva that the island will host the Bermuda Championship to be held at the end of October at Port Royal.
This announcement necessitated work be done to the course to bring it up to expected playing conditions of the PGA Tour; included among the work, fixing all bunkers as they were sadly lacking in bunker sand.
Once again, Minister DeSilva clouds a good initiative at Port Royal in controversy by his actions and inability to be transparent and accountable over the budget and tendering for bunker sand.
In the House of Assembly on July 19th I asked Minister DeSilva during question period to provide “details of the total approved budget for preparing the PRGC and Clubhouse for the Bermuda Championship; detailing the total budget cost with an itemized list of main expenses.”
The Minister replied that it was being finalized. At the time I questioned how the government could sign a contract to host the event and not have a budget prepared and approved for work needing to be done to the course prior to the event!
The next week I asked the same question to government and it was not answered.
Then during our most recent sitting on September 27th, Minister Burch while, not stating the budget for course work, said that it was being “sourced jointly from internal ministry resources.”
So, still a mystery budget amount and with his statement the Minister raises another question as to how Public Works can have a significant amount of money, perhaps as much as a million dollars, “sourced” from internal resources? What happens to those initiatives or programs for which the funding was approved in the budget for 2019-2020?
In regards to the bunker sand, it is expected that Minister Burch will come to the defense of his beleaguered colleague over the contract to tender for sand. What the Minister has not assured the House or people of Bermuda is that Minister DeSilva did not have advance information about the RFP before it was posted on the Government portal on July 16th.
Furthermore Minister Burch has not answered if all work on the course has been tendered and who was successful in that tendering.
I believe many Bermudians support the Bermuda Championship but we also expect to know the benefits and costs associated with it so that tangible opportunity is the result for the island and people. Sadly it appears that the PLP has not learned from their mistakes of the past and the taxpayer could be on the hook once again for poor planning, bad budgeting and a lack of
It is not too late for the Government to come clean with full transparency on this matter now that Minister DeSilva is back from his “mystery shopping” cruise and the House is in session.