Attempt to crush the corporations a shameful waste of money
Wednesday, January 27, 2010 9:44 AM
The Bermuda Government hasn't done too well with its reform projects.
It has stumbled badly in the reform of healthcare for seniors, dropped the ball in the reform of Parish Councils, stalled in its reform of the Rules of Parliament, gone to sleep in reforming anti-corruption legislation, completely screwed up its reform of race relations and very nearly botched the reform of education. Need I go on?
With all these poorly handled reforms crying out for disciplined attention, it is astonishing that the government is gung ho to reform the Corporations of Hamilton and St George.
And at a time when government funds are so short that they are cutting back on services, contemplating closing down schools, cutting funds to the Salvation Army and other high value-for-money social services, cutting off ferry service to St George, admonishing civil servants to cut back on expenses, especially consultants, they are announcing an outlay of $800,000 to consultants to engineer the shutdown of the Corporations of Hamilton and St George and the absorption of their functions into the central government.
The proposal is so shameful that Government Ministers are finding it impossible to tell the truth about it.
It's bad enough having the Premier's penchant for having to mislead the public hanging over us. When I read that Minister Roban has said that the process would be "open and transparent" but that the consultants' report would not necessarily be made public, I am convinced that we have been transported to Alice's Wonderland.
How can the process be open and transparent if the report on which the process is to be based is kept secret?
Minister Roban has also stressed, according to reports, that the Government has no "preconceived notions" and is waiting until the report is complete before making any decisions.
This flies in the face of the government's statement in its Request for Proposal last year that, "Cabinet determined that the most practical, efficient and effective reform would be to repeal the Municipalities Act 1923 and transition the operations of the municipalities into the relevant Government departments."
If the contract offered to the consultants has predetermined that the Corporations of Hamilton and St George are to be absorbed into the central government, then it is clear that a decision HAS already been made, and Minister Roban's statement is either a nonsense or a blatant attempt to mislead the public.
A takeover strategy
If one looks at the list of what the consultants will be asked to do, it is clear that their mandate is not to examine whether or not the corporations should be shut down, but how to shut them down.
The consultants are being asked to plan for how the corporations' functions can be seamlessly absorbed by the government, to develop timelines and schedules for that absorption, and oversee and manage the transition.
There is no doubt in my mind that the treatment of Hamilton and St. George' these past few years (denial of cruise ships, withdrawal of ferry service, destruction of assets and so on) are part of Dr. Brown's takeover strategy to first bring the corporations to their knees.
Dr. Brown obviously prefers the WEDCO arrangement versus the Municipal Corporations. The Wild West of WEDCO allows for situations like the takeover of the Bermuda Cement Company and government-led or government-sanctioned illegal development on the cruise ship piers.
The WEDCO arrangement allows Cabinet Ministers to call the shots, hand out contracts and other patronage without interference or sanction - no one makes them follow the rules.
And once the Corporations of Hamilton and St. George are dismantled, tourism and golf course construction in those areas can follow the examples at Dockyard and Port Royal: cost overruns, poor quality control, inadequate oversight, and more grist for the mill of suspicions of corruption.
As they stand, the Corporations provide a system of checks and balances, which is sorely needed to forestall potential abuses from a central government controlling everything.
It is certainly in the best interest of the island that these corporations be an efficient and effective as possible.
If the Bermuda Government is to be involved at all, it should be to assist the corporations in this effort, not to dismantle them.