The Ministry of Public Works has defunded a total of 62.5 vacant posts as a cost-cutting measure to make up for the $4 million budget cut in the latest fiscal plan for the Bermuda Government.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday (March 2) Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said the Ministry’s Budget allocation for the next fiscal year was $67 million.
While noting that “the Ministry worked to find areas to save costs without reducing staff,” he said: “There are only two areas where these funds can come from – staffing or operations.
“The Ministry of Public Works has received a budget allocation of $67,010,000, which is $3,752,000 below the original 2020/21 year,” he said.
“To achieve this budget, which is almost $4 million less than the last fiscal year and $8.4 million less than two years ago. There are only two areas where these funds can come from – staffing and or operations.
“A combination of reduced operations across the ministry and the removal of funding for 62.5 vacant funded posts, reduce the maintenance and operating budget for vehicles, and reduce the training budget – got us to our goal.”
Outlining the Ministry’s “plans and initiatives for the 2021-2022 budget year”, he said: “Considering the challenges this country and the world has faced over the last 12 months, the Ministry’s plans will be continuously scrutinised and adjusted as necessary to ensure we are on target to achieve our goals.
“At the same time, the Ministry will continue to seek out opportunities that will enable the Government to grow the economy,” he added.
Highlights of the Minister’s full statement:
The Ministry’s budget includes the following Departments:
- Ministry Headquarters
- Department of Public Lands and Building
- Department of Works and Engineering; and
- The Department of Parks.
The Ministry also provides an annual grant to the Bermuda Housing Corporation and supports golf course operations. It should be noted that West End Development Corporation and Bermuda Land Development Company are usually not financially supported by the Ministry’s Operational Budget – however, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, support is provided this financial year.
The Public Work’s Headquarters provides Accounting, Human Resources Management, Purchasing and Supply, Safety and Health and Architectural support for the various operating areas throughout the Ministry – and telephone services for the entire Government, among many other functions. Public Works Headquarters will enter the next fiscal year with a budget of $5,610,956, a decrease of $593,686 or 9.57% when compared to the current year budget of $6,204,642. The budget decrease is due mainly to the transfer of staff from the Ministry’s HR section to Department of Employee and Organizational Development (DEOD) and a reduction in the training budget of $79,990.
The Department of Public Lands & Buildings is responsible for the efficient management of the Government property portfolio to enable the delivery of effective public services. Guided by the Public Lands Act of 1984 and other subordinate legislation, the Department manages the entire Government estate. These assets include commercial and residential leases and licenses, leases and licenses for the foreshore and seabed, the provision of a maintenance and repair programs for all Government buildings, and ensuring adequate insurance for property assets. The Department will enter the next fiscal year with a budget of $19,610,000, which represents a $309,000 or 1.60% decrease from the approved funding for the fiscal year 2020/21. This decrease results from not funding 13 vacant posts within the Department and a reduction in its training budget.
The Department of Works & Engineering is responsible for providing essential services to the Bermuda public and the maintenance of principal elements of the Government infrastructure that are highly visible to residents. The range of activities covered by the Department includes garbage collection and disposal, hazardous waste, road maintenance and repairs, bridge maintenance, capital works delivery, government vehicle maintenance, and safe water extraction, treatment, and distribution. The budget also focuses on adequately resourcing the engineering sections to ensure efficient and expedient delivery of several large capital work projects. These works will include re-building of bridges, refurbishing ferry docks, upgrades to water infrastructure and highways resurfacing.
To facilitate the above goals, the department has $26,975,804 for the fiscal year 2021/22, representing a $2,323,000 or 8.4% decrease below the approved budget for 2020/21. This decrease is attributed to not funding some 23 vacant posts within the Department and reducing maintenance costs for the Ministry’s fleet of vehicles and the Department’s training budget.
The Department of Parks is responsible for maintaining, improving 75 amenity parks protected under the Bermuda National Parks Act 1986.
The department provides:
- trash collection from amenity parks;
- public toilet, park, and school playground maintenance;
- historic site maintenance and restoration;
- seasonal lifeguard service at four public beaches;
- park ranger service and enforcement; and
- special event permitting and seasonal concession licenses.
The department also provides landscape maintenance for 96 government properties, 30 kilometres of roadside verges, 30 school grounds, six  sports fields and three  roundabouts.
The Department will be operating with $8,762,450 for the fiscal year 2021/22, representing a decrease of $526,678 or 5.67% from the approved budget for the fiscal year 2020/21, mainly due to not funding 18 vacant posts within the Department and a reduction in operational activity.
The Bermuda Housing Corporation is responsible for managing 594 Government and Private-Sector residential units Island-wide, along with eight transitional homes made up of 198 rooms for emergency and transitional housing. The BHC manages a portfolio of mortgages, and in previous years provided collateral for other client mortgages with local banks for new homeownership. The BHC is also responsible for the administration and operations of the Helping the Unemployed Sustain Themselves with Limited Employment [H.U.S.T.L.E.] Truck Government initiative and the Rent Geared to Income (RGI) programme where only 25% of household income is paid toward rent for BHC owned properties. The Ministry of Public Works has provided a $6,050,000 grant for 2021/22, which is no change from prior years.
Economic Stimulus Programme
In spite of the reduction in funding, there remains an urgent need to provide stimulus to the local economy to retain and boost employment numbers in the wake of the economic downturn sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To that end, the Economic Stimulus Program is being implemented by the Ministry of Public Works. It involved compiling a list of “shovel ready” projects that are executable within three months. These projects are mostly infrastructure improvements and will not add further burden to government operational expenses. The project’s selection principles are to maximise the private sector’s employment while providing much-needed refreshing of neglected infrastructure.
The Request for Suppliers Qualifications (RFSQ) was completed on February 15, and I can advise that we received contractor/company submissions from multiple disciplines.
Since receiving the RFSQ, assessments of the submissions, including a scoring of technical competence, local employment benefit, and a schedule of unit rates, have been completed, and suitable companies have been added to the approved contractor list. So far of the 100 submissions 48 have been approved.
Following this process and using the restricted procedure (section 16 of Code), the Ministry released the first Request for Quotes on February 22. I expect we will quickly obtain three or more quotations from the various suppliers, grouped by suitability and vocation, to select a contractor for every two projects.
Where works are specialised, or contractors’ availability is limited, either through companies already obtaining a project from the programme or natural scarcity, a Single Source contract will be negotiated based upon the unit rates. Under this contract and following these specifications, the work to be done consists of furnishing equipment, material, supervision, labour, technical knowledge, and skills necessary to satisfactorily and safely complete the job as outlined in the agreement.
I expect we will soon award the first number of contracts to vendors.
Water and Wastewater Master Plan
Last summer, I announced the Government’s commitment to review the current system for handling Water and Wastewater and to properly treat sewage waste across the island, including the two Municipalities.
Phase I of this massive undertaking involves laying underground piping throughout the whole of Southside and the town of St George. The sheer scale of work being done is painstaking but critical to realising the commitment to improving this vital aspect of the Island’s infrastructure.
I am incredibly pleased with the progress overall, the Phase 1 Master Schedule is proceeding as planned and is expected to be completed in the 4thquarter of 2021.
Following the completion of Phase 1, Phases 2 and 3 of the island wide project will begin.
This is the kind of project that addresses the needs of the country: people are working, earning and able to take care of their families while their valuable labour is transforming a vital part of Bermuda’s infrastructure.
Ministry of Public Works Joint Initiative with BELCO
The Public will recall my announcement just over a year ago of the Ministry of Public Works’ and BELCO’s joint initiative to carry out a coordinated approach to road trenching.
The primary objective of this was to enable BELCO to conduct significant upgrades to its network over a three year period. It was also an opportunity for other businesses and stakeholders to coordinate their efforts during this island-wide trenching exercise to ensure that all the necessary entities were prepared and ready to lay all underground equipment. These coordinated trenching works ensure that once complete, the people of Bermuda will have newly paved roads that will be more durable, resilient, long-lasting and not have to be excavated again in the foreseeable future.
I am also delighted to advise that these works have provided employment opportunities, thus further stimulating the economy. The size and scope of the BELCO project and completing it on schedule has involved enlisting private-sector contractors, which in turn created jobs for other sectors.
While we have made progress, I have no doubt we will continue to face challenges ahead. And so, in closing, I want to remind that the Ministry of Public Works will continue advancing capital projects that will keep people employed while refreshing our infrastructure. We will continue to work to retain jobs and still maintain a positive delivery schedule.