Public Accounts Committee member Cline Glidden Jr. issued a statement Friday disagreeing with the way Cayman Net News reported on the PAC’s report on the Hurricane Ivan debris removal contract awarded to MC Restoration.
The PAC’s report, which was tabled in the Legislative Assembly last week, concerned the Special Report of the Auditor General titled the Review of the Tendering and Awarding of the Debris Removal Contract in the Aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.
Mr. Glidden said he did not disagree with the PAC’s report, only the way in which Cayman Net News reported on it in a 16 November story under the headline ‘Debris contract criticised’.
‘Reading the newspaper report, it sounds like the Public Accounts Committee found reason to be very critical of the previous administrations handling of the contract, when, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I feel that the report really clarifies and clears up several misconceptions that were especially prevalent during the last election campaign.’
Mr. Glidden said the PAC’s review dealt with all the issues that had caused prevalent speculation and innuendo leading up to the elections in May 2005.
‘If you then look at the Executive findings of the Auditor General, you will see that just about all of these were found to be unfounded,’ he said.
Mr. Glidden also addressed the issue of why the government of the day did not accept a bid almost US$2 million lower than MC Restoration’s bid.
‘The issue about there being a lower bid is one which is based strictly on opinions,’ he said. ‘The facts are that out of five bids, the MC one was the lowest besides one.’
Mr. Glidden said that just before the awarding of the contract to a company called DRC – which submitted the lowest bid – the government found out that one of the principals of James Lee Witt Associations – which had already been awarded the overall disaster recovery management contract – was also a principal of MC Restoration.
‘The Government felt that this was grounds to disallow any bid from that company because of the real or perceived conflict of interest,’ he said.
Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush, who was Leader of Government Business and a Cabinet Minister at the time the debris removal contract was awarded, said Thursday that Governor Bruce Dinwiddy brought the conflict of interest to the attention of Cabinet.
‘When we heard that, Cabinet decided to go elsewhere,’ he said.
Mr. Bush also said that part of the reason Cabinet felt it had award the contract to someone other than DRC was because it had not disclosed the conflict beforehand.
Mr. Glidden also pointed out that there would have been a lot of criticism toward government if it had given the contract to a foreign company despite having learned about an undisclosed conflict of interest beforehand.
PAC Chairman Osborne Bodden acknowledged last week that the Government ‘had its reasons’ for not accepting the DRC bid, but still felt it should have tried to establish adequate controls to mitigate the conflict because of the possible savings of nearly $2 million.
Mr. Glidden pointed out that those controls would have cost something.
‘The Auditor General and the Committee have determined that it is their opinion that if the Government had chosen to ignore the fact that this conflict was not disclosed and had given this contract to DRC, that there could have been savings even after putting in place the controls necessary to mitigate the conflict of interest,” he said.
‘How much those controls would have cost and how effective they would have been is questionable.
‘To save the $2 million alluded to would have meant that these controls would have cost nothing which I am sure we can agree is pretty unrealistic. A more realistic cost would be 10-15% of the contract which would equate to $1-1.5 million and the question is whether the criticisms and appearance of conflict would be worth $500,000.00.’
The Auditor General’s report also mentions, however, that another part of the consideration for a contractor was the lack of past experience in debris removal by MC Restoration, while DRC had significant experience.
Mr. Glidden referred to the part of the PAC report that mentioned the opinion of the public and local contractors that the government did not get good value for money with their contract with MC Restoration.
‘While this was an opinion of the public and local contractors, there is nothing to support this in the findings of the report,’ he said.
‘All the items in the Executive Summary highlighted that the decision was a good one and not the terrible thing that rumours and detractors made it out to be.’
Mr. Glidden said of the Auditor General’s report found that MC Restoration had satisfied the provision in the contract to ensure local contractors got every opportunity to get the subcontract work associated with the contract.
‘The majority of the work and therefore the money for this contract was given to local contractors,’ he said.