Both the governor and the auditor general have denied Premier McKeeva Bush’s suggestion there is a conspiracy between them to thwart efforts to build a cruise berthing facility.
Governor Stuart Jack’s office issued a press release last Thursday supporting Auditor General Dan Duguay, who has faced criticism from the elected government.
‘The governor firmly believes that one of the fundamental checks and balances in our system of government is an independent auditor general,’ stated the press release from the governor’s office.
Mr. Duguay announced two weeks ago his office would conduct an audit of the tendering process and contract for the new cruise berthing facility.
Mr. Bush suggested Mr. Duguay was not acting alone in his decision to audit the proposed port project, something the governor refuted in his statement.
‘The new constitution makes it clear: ‘In the exercise of his or her functions the auditor general… shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority…’ That applies to the elected government, the governor or anyone else,’ the press release stated. ‘The auditor general is accordingly entitled to look into the tendering arrangements of the port development project.’
The governor said it was particularly applicable for the auditor general to look into the port project because of its size and potentially significant economic, environmental and other implications; the non-traditional process that has been adopted for the development of the project; and the continuing lack of information.
Last week, Mr. Bush announced Cabinet had approved Dart Enterprises Construction Company Ltd. – known as DECCO – as a potential partner to finance, design and build the cruise-berthing facility. Under the proposed arrangement, the government would not have to pay for construction costs. Instead, the developer would finance the project and be repaid through the cruise lines with a fee payable by passengers on visiting cruise ships.
The government has taken issue with Mr. Duguay’s early announcement that he would audit the project’s tendering process, partially because the auditor general did not do or say anything about a similar announcement – and signing of a memorandum of understanding – concerning the berthing facilities that occurred under the previous government administration.
Mr. Duguay said Saturday he was under the impression from some media reports that the current government was planning to sign a contract rather than a memorandum of understanding and that he would have probably audited the tendering process of the previous government had the project progressed to a contract.
At the Cabinet press briefing last week, Mr. Bush said the government was only signing a memorandum of understanding with DECCO at this point. Cabinet Minister Rolston Anglin chastised Mr. Duguay, saying he ‘acted recklessly’.
‘He should have come to [the government] first to find out… before creating a media circus,’ he said, adding that Mr. Duguay had a pattern of behaviour of ‘shooting from the hip’ before confirming his statements.
Mr. Bush spoke specifically about the auditor general’s report on the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal, which he said incorrectly stated the on-land building portion of the project was 9,000 square feet when it was actually double that. Mr. Bush said Mr. Duguay also failed to take into consideration 1.5 acres of land reclaimed from the sea and worth some $4.5 million when he came to the conclusion government did not get value for money on the project.
With regard to the perceived lack of transparency on the cruise berthing project, Mr. Bush said there had been a well-publicised process, which included advertising for expressions of interest and public statements from the government.
‘What lack of transparency has there been?’ he asked, noting that none of his government’s process was used by the previous government when it suddenly announced it had signed an agreement with developers Atlantic Star.
‘When did anyone know about Atlantic Star?’ Mr. Bush asked, suggesting that Port Authority did not even know former cabinet minister with responsibility for the Port Authority, Charles Clifford, had signed an MOU with Atlantic Star.
Mr. Bush said under the proposed agreement with Atlantic Star, the developer would have had control of the cruise terminal, something that would not happen under the current proposal.
‘We will never give up control of the airport or the port in any way, shape or form,’ he said.
Mr. Bush said Mr. Duguay was ‘some kind of cowboy’ and that he believed the auditor general was in an effort with someone to ‘throw cold water on the project’.
‘He’s hell bent on stopping us from getting revenue in the country,’ he said.
The governor’s office refuted the claim the auditor general was trying to frustrate the project.
‘The governor is sure that the auditor general wishes only to check that it has been done in a proper way,’ the press release stated. ‘Nor does it mean that the auditor general is conspiring with anyone else to stop the project.
‘As far as the governor is aware, the auditor general decided to examine the tendering process for the port independently and on his own initiative and with no other motive but to ensure a fair and accountable process and thereby, value for money for the Cayman Islands.’
Mr. Duguay has also said he acted on his own accord and that his only agenda is to make sure the Cayman Islands Government gets value for money. He also said he does not necessarily think the port development will be a bad deal.
‘At the end of the day, if it turns out the Cayman Islands gets a new port facility that brings in new revenue and doesn’t cost anything, I’ll be the first to say this is a good deal,’ he said.
However, Mr. Duguay said he still thinks he has to look into the matter, partially because of the lack of information as to how the port will be paid for.
‘I’m not sure what risk, if anything, we’re taking with the new [cruise-berthing facility],’ he said, noting there could be other infrastructure costs as a result of the project.
‘There are a lot of things to look at. My goal would be to help people understand all of this and see what risks there might be.’
Mr. Duguay said he did not mind getting called names for doing his job, but he did not like that Mr. Bush had said at the press briefing that the auditor general had been forced out of Bermuda.
‘That’s the part that bothered me,’ he said. ‘[Mr. Bush] certainly insinuated that I had to leave there and I hadn’t done my job. That’s the part I resent because it’s simply not true.’