“The political lesson of Watergate is this: Never again must America allow an arrogant, elite guard of political adolescents to by-pass the regular party organization and dictate the terms of a national election.”

— Gerald R. Ford

In June 2013, MP Walton Brown tabled a resolution in the House of Assembly to form an election committee with a “mandate of examining and reviewing any matter relating to elections and report its findings and recommendations to Parliament”. 

The majority of OBA MPs voted against the motion, resulting in a deadlock that was decided by the Speaker. MP Dunkley launched the strongest opposition and attempted to replace it with a “Take Note Motion”, which would have limited “the House to debate a situation or a document without coming to any positive decision”.  

So exactly why would MP and now- Premier Dunkley wish to remove the power of this vital committee?

All committee members — three OBA MPs and two PLP MPS — supported the majority report conclusion that, “in the interests of full disclosure, transparency and accountability”, candidates must make full disclosure of any interests in government contracts.

Since 1991, both our election legislation and Constitution require that candidates declare government contracts. Failure to do so renders candidates ineligible. Despite MP Bob Richards and MP Jeff Sousa submitting declarations as UBP candidates in the 2007 election, both failed to do the same for the 2012 election.

The Joint Select Committee, through the Centre for Justice, acquired an independent legal opinion from Queen’s Counsel, Mr James Goudie, who concluded: “These are transparency provisions: what they require is no more, and no less, than disclosure of an interest in any Government contract: the interest itself does not disqualify; the lack of disclosure does.”  

It was subsequently revealed in the House that MP Richards’s company has had government contracts valued at $10m [stretching back many years]  while MP Sousa has a landscaping government contract with Bermuda College.

Both MPs refused to appear before the Committee. On June 6th, 2014, MP Bob Richards attempted to state that any MP holding a contract as a result of an RFP does not need to declare.  

He conveniently opted to ignore QC Goudie’s findings: “I regret that this is fundamentally wrong. The Act lists all the exceptions. There are no others. And they are exceptions. Unless one of the listed exceptions applies, the Constitution mandates disclosure. There is simply no additional or further exception, whether by reference to some concept of ‘outsider’ or otherwise.” 

In response to MP Walton Brown’s invitation for MP Sousa to explain to the House his failure to disclose, Premier Dunkley immediately indicated to MP Sousa not to answer. 

Stay tuned for DisclosureGate Part Two.

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