Responding to questions from Opposition MP Michael Dunkley, Health Minister Kim Wilson disclosed that the Government has earned nearly $5.5 million in fees generated from the controversial travel authorisation forms.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on Friday, the Minister also disclosed that the Government has paid out more than $500,000 to the company that created the software to create the forms and manage the process.
She told MPs that government received $5,427,487 from the scheme that requires anyone visiting Bermuda from abroad to complete the form at a cost of $75 before they are allowed into the island.
To date, a total of 83,333 forms have been completed.
Ms Wilson told MPs that $550,240 had been paid to tech firm resPartner Ltd, the company that created the form, which trades under the name ResQuest.
She also confirmed that the company was paid a percentage of the $75 fee generated by each form submitted to Government. But she was not able to say exactly what that percentage was.
The Government had a “month-to-month” contract with resPartner Ltd and that a “a Request For Proposal to continue this programme had commenced”, she added.
When asked by Mr Dunkley if any Bermudians had been blocked from entering the island because they did not have a form, the Minister replied: “That is a matter that is within the public domain.
“There were some challenges two weekends ago with respect of persons who returned to Bermuda without the requisite travel authorisation form.
“The Minister of Transport put quite a lot of information in the public domain,” she said.
The Opposition MP later repeated the calls for the TAF to be abolished, saying: “The OBA strongly believes the TAF is no longer required.
“While we support protecting our borders, recent history has shown widespread concern in the community due to the challenges faced by countless travellers in completing the form,” said Mr Dunkley.
“The people of Bermuda are asking, and we echo their sentiments: who is this TAF actually benefiting? The health and safety of the island or the coffers of friends of the Progressive Labour Party Government?”
The tax amounts to yet another burden on many families, he said.
“There are options to simplify and streamline entry requirements into the island, as other jurisdictions have done.
In a statement released last night, the Shadow Minister of Health and National Security said: “The OBA strongly believes the TAF is no longer required.
“While we support protecting our borders, recent history has shown widespread concern in the community due to the challenges faced by countless travelers in completing the form.
“Now we have learned that over 85,000 forms have been completed since its inception in July of 2020, over $5.4 million has been raised by this fee, and paid by travelers to the government, and ResQwest, the vendor for the website, has been paid over $550,000 up until the end of April 2021.
“The people of Bermuda are asking, and we echo their sentiments: who is this TAF actually benefitting? The health of safety of the island or the coffers of friends of the Progressive Labour Party Government?
“During tough times this tax is another burden on many families. In addition, as we now know so much more about Covid, we contend the TAF has served its purpose. There are options to simplify and streamline entry requirements into the island, as other jurisdictions have done,” said Mr Dunkley.
“The PLP need to listen to the concerns of the people we serve, free up and provide a more customer friendly system when travelling.”
The Parliamentary Questions:
1. Since the inception of the Travel Authorization Form [TAF] will the Honourable Minister please provide this Honourable House with the total amount of revenue collected every month up to June 30, 2021, as well as the monthly total of travellers (resident and visitors) submitting the required form and fee?
2. Will the Honourable Minister please provide details of any and all fees paid out monthly to any vendors or consultants as part of any contracts or agreements in connection with the TAF, or any work associated as such, from the inception of the TAF until June 30, 2021?
3. Will the Honourable Minister please provide the complete details, including the names, addresses, type of company, a description of the work or service provided and total compensation for any contracts with vendors or consultants associated with the TAF since its inception?