SUNDAY, JULY 22: Directors of quangos like the Bermuda Land Development Company (BLDC) should be briefed by Government on their legal duties, a report by the Public Accounts Committee said on Friday.
And the report said that Government Ministers in charge of similar operations should know “the conditions and limits under which the law grants him power.”
The report looked at controversy over payments for consultancy work to directors of the BLDC and the role of then-Minister in charge Derrick Burgess.
The cross-party committee report said: “The Minister must also know his role is not to micro-manage assets or enterprises under his charge.
“In this case, it is clear his power to direct was meant to be used strategically as opposed to casually or routinely.
“The Minister did not appear to know his appropriate role nor the constraints of his power to direct. He used his power routinely and orally.”
Auditor General Heather Jacobs Matthews accused former BLDC chairman Edward Saunders and ex-deputy chairman Pastor Leroy Bean of a “fundamental conflict of interest” in an earlier report into the misuse of funds.
Ms Jacobs Matthews said that $160,000 in consultancy fees paid to the two men for preparing a report into the management of the BLDC should not have been sanctioned and was a breach of the Companies Act because the two had failed to declare an interest.
She added that some of the payments to the two, which were made on a rolling basis, had not been properly approved by the BLDC board.
She also called for the consultancy cash to be paid back – a move backed by Premier and Finance Minister Paula Cox, who also called for the pair to be removed from the board in late 2010.
The two, however, did not quit the board until it was dissolved and a new one appointed in May last year.
The report by the Public Accounts Committee, tabled in the House of Assembly on Friday, said: “A Minister of the Government cannot decide which laws to abide by and which ones to flout, at his discretion.
“As members of Cabinet, Ministers, more so than ordinary citizens, must abide by the law.”
The report added: “The behaviour of the chairman and deputy in this matter appears to be derived from their perception that they had been given a valid directive by the Minister to address a real problem.
“It was their duty to know that the rules under which that Minister was empowered to give those directions and that he did not adhere to those rules.
“Given that the Minister’s directives were invalid, it was their duty to know that.”