UBP turned OBA candidate Bob Richards failed to meet his Constitutional obligation to disclose government contracts, and, under the Bermuda Constitution, is ineligible to hold office. Jeff Sousa is likely guilty as well.
PLP Chairman Anthony Santucci:
In the November 27, 2007 edition of the Royal Gazette, United Bermuda Party parliamentary candidate Mr. Bob Richards declared his interest in Government contracts. In his 2007 declaration, Mr. Richards noted that he was, “Director and Qualified Shareholder of BITS Ltd.” Mr. Richards is still listed as President and is a shareholder of Bermuda Information Technology Services Limited in his Declaration of Interest that can be found online at parliament.bm. Based on this evidence it is puzzling that Mr. Richards and the OBA feel that this information should not be published as the law of Bermuda requires, especially given that we understand that this company still has contracts with the Bermuda Government.
In that same UBP declaration in 2007, Mr. Jeff Sousa declared his interest as “President and Qualifying shareholder in Sousa’s Landscape Management Company Limited”. We also understand that Mr. Sousa’s company still has a contract with the Government of Bermuda.
Has something changed since 2007 and if not, what does Mr. Richards, Mr. Sousa and the OBA have to hide? The constitution of Bermuda is clear on the legal obligations for transparency of Parliamentary candidates and, given the above, it is clear that Mr. Richards and the OBA have willfully and flagrantly ignored the law of the land.
Since this campaign began, numerous questions have been raised that the OBA have either been unable to answer or simply refused to answer. Whether it was their attempt to cover up the Secret Plan to form the OBA and increase their use of "black surrogates," or their conflicting and contradictory positions on Future Care, Day Care and cutting jobs in the civil service, the OBA stands revealed as an organization that appears to be committed to hiding the truth about who they are, what they will do and what they are about.
We call on the OBA to come out of the shadows and stop hiding. Tell the people of Bermuda when Mr. Richards' interest in the multi-million dollar government contract ended. Bermudians have a right to know.
The so called party of transparency refuses to answer questions about the secret plan that called for the use of "black surrogates." And, now, it seems that they are failing to meet their obligations under the Constitution of Bermuda to disclose their interests. And, these people think that they're ready to govern this country?
Earlier this year, UBP turned OBA MP Bob Richards praised the Cayman Islands and their Premier, McKeeva Bush. The Royal Gazette splashed the headline "Richards: Get Bermudians to work by following the Cayman lead" in June 2012.
Today, Neville Tyrrell, PLP candidate in Constituency #11 asked, "In light of today's arrest of Caymanian Premier McKeeva Bush, I wonder if my opponent still believes that we should follow the Caymanian lead?
"I was extremely disturbed earlier this year to learn that Mr. Bob Richards had talked down Bermuda and praised the Cayman Islands. International business is watching and when we have an MP talking down our own country, it's a disgrace.
"Bob Richards didn't put Bermuda first when he made those comments, he put his own power first. Bob Richards and the UBP/OBA are so interested in power that they will seek to drive business away from Bermuda with their words. It's clear that Bob Richards and the OBA/UBP are in it for themselves and not for the people."
Today, Minister Glenn Blakeney responded to last week's OBA press conference by noting that the OBA's Nandi Davis had her facts wrong and questioned why she was unable to field simple questions from reporters.
"I was shocked to watch that press conference and when the first question was asked, she turned back to Bob Richards for help," noted Minister Blakeney.
"Then, when the second question was asked, she also looked perplexed and Bob said, 'I don't want to take over these press conferences.'"
"Even in her prepared remarks, Ms. Davis got it wrong. We've expanded our prevention strategy at the Middle School level and the Sunshine League noted that while government funds remained steady, they saw a decrease in support from the private sector. Given this reality, it's surprising that Ms. Davis didn't address her concerns to major potential private sector donors.
"Mirrors just graduated another successful class. It's telling that the OBA would criticize the PLP for not expanding Mirrors even further when it was the PLP that introduced the programme!
Moreover, Minister Blakeney took great exception to Ms. Davis’ remarks about the Mirrors Programme and reminds the public that Mirrors is still very strong, citing the recent graduation of yet another cohort. In fact, as a result of Minister Blakeney's prevention strategy, allocated resources have been targeted towards a younger demographic, which has proven extremely successful at the Middle School level as well as having a very positive impact on young male students, upon being introduced as a pilot program at St. David's Primary School.
The OBA also touts another deliberately false and untrue statement, suggesting that the Sunshine League closed as a result of their reduced Government Grant. The truth is that the Sunshine League Board of Trustees had determined they were closing before They even knew that their grant would be reduced. The primary reason cited was the major difficulty they had with securing private sector funding support and that they did not want to continue operating as a 24-hour residential facility.
Earlier this week, Bob Richards attempted to pass off a PLP idea that we've already implemented as one of his own.
Premier Paula Cox sets the record straight:
Though we welcome Bob Richards’ remarks today about saving money on the Government’s insurance bill, I would refer him and the people of Bermuda to my comments given in the House of Assembly on March 16, 2012.
‘Mr. Chairman, we continue to investigate ways to find efficiencies and realise further savings. One such example is a pending review of the structure of all of Government’s insurance programmes, with the possibility of forming a captive or other opportunities for cost savings on Government’s $13 million insurance bill. With property assets of over $2.5 billion and revenues of over $900 million, the Bermuda Government is by far the largest risk in Bermuda. Insurance purchased currently includes property, public liability, personal accident, motor fleet insurance, marine fleet insurances and professional indemnity.
‘The Government currently engages an insurance broker with respect to any and all of Bermuda Government’s portfolio of insurances. Some governments choose to self-insure many or all of their asset and liability risks. Aside from most infrastructure assets, at this time the Bermuda Government does not self-insure. But, Mr. Chairman, in order to reduce Government’s insurance costs, the Government sought proposals from qualified insurance professionals for the review of, and advice on, the structure of all its insurance programmes. An RFP was sent out seeking a suitably experienced and qualified team to lead in the request for the insurance review and advice, and a successful service provider has been selected.’
In short, we’ve already acted on this and countless other efficiency plans that have and will save the people of Bermuda millions of dollars. And we will continue with our plans to make the Government more efficient.
Since March, there has been action and demonstrable progress. They say imitation is the most sincerest form of flattery so I guess it is a compliment that the Opposition wishes to take a leaf out of our book to distract from their lack of real solutions for Bermuda. That said, we thank the opposition for their endorsement of our actions.
Last week, Craig Cannonier said that austerity isn't such a bad idea. Austerity means deep and damaging cuts that will mean cuts to programmes like FutureCare, DayCare, the EEZ and much more. Can Bermuda really afford the OBA's austerity?
Today, Neville Tyrrell, PLP Candidate for Constituency #11, Devonshire East, criticized Bob Richards for attacking the EEZ.
Mr. Tyrrell noted that on 3 June 2011, on the floor of the House of Assembly, Mr. Richards called EEZ small business grants "a huge moral hazard" and said, "The whole idea of grants, to me, is unacceptable. It needs to be removed."
"Our small Bermudian owned businesses need our support," noted Mr. Tyrrell. "For Bob Richards to attack the EEZ like that shows where his priorities are. Dozens of businesses in St. George's, NE Hamilton and Somerset benefit from the programme. It's really helped a lot of Bermudian owned businesses that employ Bermudians."
"For Bob Richards to say that the whole idea of grants is unacceptable and needs to be removed is telling. It's no wonder that the OBA has outlined no new ideas and no new solutions. The more Bermudians learn about what their ideas might be, the less they will like the radical change the OBA is offering."
June 3, 2011 - House of Assembly
E.T. Bob Richards, JP, MP when speaking about EEZ grants:
"The whole idea of grants, to me, is unacceptable. It needs to be removed."
"No, no, no. This is a huge moral hazard, Mr. Speaker, the kind of moral hazard that we should not be going down, a road we should not be going down at all."
"This word 'grant' has no business being in this Act-no business."
"It is easy to make the argument that you are not assisting a small business by just giving him a gift. That is no assistance, because that is a false premise altogether."
"I believe somebody has kind of made a mistake here. And it needs to be corrected, because we all want to support this. We all want to support this! ........ But the inclusion of grants makes it unacceptable."
The OBA said they want austerity, but, they released two more statements with attacks, but, not a single idea or a solution for moving Bermuda forward!
The PLP issued this statement in response:
There they go again. The OBA provides absolutely no ideas and no solutions for addressing the deficit.
Mr. Richards told us that he would "cut wasteful spending," but, he hasn't told us what the OBA is going to cut. Mr. Richards previously said that it has to be "all about austerity." Austerity means deep and radical cuts to jobs, education, healthcare, and pensions.
If it has to be all about austerity Mr. Richards, what will you cut? Bermudians deserve for the party of no ideas and no solutions to finally come clean with the people and tell us where they stand.
With all the fluff and none of the ideas, the OBA reminds us of a fishcake that is all potato and no fish.
OBA: No Ideas. No Solutions.
OBA: All Potato. NO FISH!
In today's BDA Sun, PLP Candidate for Constituency #11 wonders if Bob Richards' December 2010 austerity pledge means that the party of no ideas and no solutions may well have a secret agenda.
For weeks, we in the PLP have pointed out that the OBA offers no ideas and no solutions to Bermuda’s most vexing challenges.
Now, I think we know why.
In December 2010, Bob Richards revealed the OBA’s real plan for Bermuda. He said that it “had to be all about austerity.” Austerity means deep and damaging cuts to services that affect people.
In countries where austerity has been implemented, that has meant cuts to education, cuts to pensions, cuts to health care, fired civil servants, slashed salaries and benefits, and a reduction in government services across the board.
And, guess what? It isn’t working! Many of the countries that have implemented austerity are continuing to suffer from the harms of the global economic crisis while their vulnerable populations bear the brunt of the cuts and they have seen increases in unemployment.
Every time we ask the OBA to tell us exactly how they plan to deal with the debt, we get the same evasive answers. They say that they are going to cut taxes, which will only increase the debt. They say that they are going to expand social programmes — again, an increase to the debt. But, they won’t tell us what tough choices they plan on making.
They’re the party of no ideas and no solutions because they don’t want you to know what their real plan is for Bermuda.
Flip! Flop! It was only a few weeks ago that Bob Richards was lauding the Cayman Islands saying how great their economic model is and noting that they were getting everything right. He turned his nose up at Bermuda and Bermudians calling us a banana republic in comparison to how wonderfully strong the governance was in Cayman.
Of course, Mr. Richards conveniently forgot to say that Cayman’s international business was was quietly closing up shop and moving away from the jurisdiction. Over the last several years, in spite of their term limits policies, the number of guest workers in Cayman has dropped precipitously and their economy is struggling mightily.
Now, Bob Richards has changed his tune on Cayman. Bermudians need the real Bob Richards to stand up!
Bob Richards already has stated that the OBA’s main strategy would be to suspend term limits and then figure something out. He and the One Bermuda Alliance have not been able to articulate any concrete strategy for the economy. All that are spoken are criticisms of the current government, and pandering to the Cayman model.
Bermuda needs an advocate for Bermuda, not a Member of Parliament who seems to have an affinity for our competitor jurisdictions. Mr. & Mrs. Bermuda need to know from one day to the other which Bob Richards they will be dealing with.
Premier Paula Cox and the Progressive Labour Party have always stood strong for Bermudians and for the Bermuda model. When Bermuda’s reputation was being impugned by the Cayman Leader, it was Premier Cox who rallied to our defense.
It was Premier Cox who has published her plan for rejuvenating Bermuda’s economy and introducing policies and legislation that makes Bermuda attractive, flexible and the envy of many jurisdictions including Cayman! Conversely, it was Bob Richards who joined the chorus against us
Bob Richards attacked the PLP government for efforts to get placed on the OECD white list while at the same time lauding the Cayman Islands for making the right decisions in spite of a rise in unemployment and a decline in international business on those islands.
Now, it's been announced that the Cayman Islands plan to institute a 10% payroll tax on guest workers.
Does Bob Richards still think, that, as he noted over and over again, that Cayman is "getting it right?"
Premier Paula Cox:
It should also be noted that, in addition to the 10% payroll tax, work permit holders in Cayman must pay an annual work permit fee each year that exceeds the highest work permit paid in Bermuda for the total of 10 years.
The Premier also highlighted her Caymanian colleagues' comments from earlier, noting that now the shoe is on the other foot:
I have also stated that: ‘Provided that we remain focused on our strategies of collaboration with our business partners to enhance our enviable reputation by: strengthening our relationships with the European Union, UK and US jurisdictions; strengthening our regulations to satisfy the global regulatory agencies; and enacting business-friendly legislation, then it is unlikely that Mr. Bush’s comments will represent a serious threat to Bermuda’s existing reinsurance market in the short term’.
As it relates to attracting additional business to our shores, Premier Cox noted:
We don’t necessarily see this latest development with the Cayman Islands alone as an opportunity to attract more business to Bermuda, as we already have our strategy to grow the financial services sector with the establishment of the Ministry of Business Development & Tourism, and the establishment of a section within that Ministry titled the Business Development Unit.
The Premier concluded by reinforcing our commitment to fiscal responsibility:
While Cayman has been forced to consolidate their finances, Bermuda has already taken plans to stabilise our fiscal position over the medium term.
Budget 2012 / 2013 charts a course to bring Bermuda’s finances back to balance over the medium term using its Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). This MTEF that has been adopted by the Ministry of Finance will provide for surpluses on the primary balance through to 2015 - 2016.
This will be achieved by restraining primary current account spending to 2012 -2013 levels over the next several years and enhancing revenue through policies that generate income from government fixed assets and other revenue streams.
The question now is, will Bob Richards stand strong for Bermudians by acknowledging that his country is doing something right? Or, will he continue to sneer and attack Bermuda and long for the day when we can follow the lead of the Cayman Islands and do things like impose a 10% payroll tax on our guest workers?
When some of these issues were first revealed by the auditor report, Paula Cox and the PLP took swift action to address them. She ordered an immediate review of the BLDC’s governance and moved to pass sweeping good governance reforms that have improved the way Bermuda is governed.
When it comes to these good governance reforms, the PLP is making sure and steady progress. While more work needs to be done, it’s clear that when these issues were first brought to our attention, swift action was taken.
On Sunday, Premier Paula Cox noted that action had already been taken to address the problems noted in the PAC Report:
The reality is that very often Government officials or boards of public sector entities – who have the fiduciary responsibility for their own accounts – have taken action already to address apparent weaknesses or to make enhancements to financial systems and controls. Therefore it is important to note the changes and corrective steps taken to address any deficiencies noted in the recent PAC Report.
We already knew about these issues. And, when we found out bout them, we took swift and bold action.
Much has been done to significantly enhance procurement across the Public Sector. The Office of Project Management and Procurement (OPMP) was established in 2011 to act as the Government’s centre of excellence for procurement and project management related matters. From the appointment of the Interim Director in June 2011, the office has undergone a complete restructure, designed to become the Governments center of excellence for all project and procurement related matters.
To ensure transparency, consistency and objectivity in the tendering process all contract awards must be vetted and signed-off by the OPMP before proceeding to Cabinet. Due to this transformation in procurement I can confirm that the provision of all tourism advertising by the Department of Tourism (BDOT) have been procured in line with the standards required by the OPMP and Financial Instructions.
Since the events contained in this PAC Report, the Government has amended the Employment Act 2000 to protect “whistle-blowers.” Accordingly, an employee may now disclose information concerning unlawful activity without the fear of being unfairly dismissal by their employer.
But, there are even more reforms that we've already moved forward with to address the issues raised in the PAC.
Training and briefing of all public authorities and accounting officers will commence once the regulations have gazetted. Interested vendors will also have the opportunity to attend workshops to explain the Procurement Code of Practice and related procedures.
The Premier then went on to address the swift and bold action she took to ensure good governance at the BLDC:
I commissioned the public accounting firm KPMG to conduct a review of BLDC governance and related party services and internal controls, and to make recommendations for improvements. The review included an examination of:
• BLDC bye-laws and other governance polices;
• Procurement policy that was in place in 2010 and the testing of 40 procurement files;
• Payments made to Saunders Maintenance Ltd.;
• Whether the payments were in compliance with relevant BLDC policies and leading practice;
• The workings of the Contract and Tender Committee; and
• Internal financial systems and related procedures.
The findings and recommendations of the KPMG review were accepted by the Ministry of Finance. As a consequence, a Special Meeting of BLDC was convened in May 2011 where the old directors were replaced by a new Board of Directors. Also in May 2011, the responsibility for BLDC was moved from the then Minister of Public Works to the Minister of Environment, Planning and Infrastructure Strategy.
The outstanding items relating to BLDC were flagged for action an aggressive agenda for action and a new direction was committed to by the new Board.
The Premier cleaned house. Because she is committed to good government. When these issues came to the forefront, we took swift and bold action.
While we've acted and instituted reforms, the OBA, Bob Richards and Craig Cannonier have offered no new ideas for improving governance in Bermuda. They complain and complain, but, when it comes to offering real solutions, they’re missing in action.
The PLP moved swiftly, instituting good governance reforms that show, once again, how we’re standing strong for Bermudians during these difficult economic times.