FRIDAY, MAY 25: Premier Paula Cox said her administration is going to be known for having “clean hands”.
She made the statement after tabling the second phase of the Good Governance legislation today.
She said: “Good governance is really about clean hands. If I had to add anything else it would be about fair administration, fair access and fair deal.
“We’re talking about rules of law… the framework is supposed to represent integrity and ethical government.”
The Premier said there should be a level playing field with no one getting preferential treatment on contracts “because they know someone within the ministry or has supervision over a ministry”.
She added: “I want there to be clean hands when you have issues dealing with the public purse and those who work in the civil service.”
She said it’s a part of life in Bermuda that there are conflicts of interest but there needs to be disclosure and transparency.
“Bermuda is so small it is almost unusual to say there is no conflict of interest, but how you rebut, how you debunk that people are acting out of a conflict of interest is that you disclose it.
“That’s why there is a lot of rigour, a lot of emphasis placed on disclosing it. Once you disclose it, you remove the idea that there is something covert and unseemly being done.”
She said in this economic climate where everyone “is seeking to get a piece of the pie, everybody should have equal access without any fear of presumption of bias or special treatment or preferred treatment because of who you know.”
A recent court case saw Kyril Burrows, a former Government buildings manager, and his wife Delcina Bean-Burrows convicted of 34 counts of raiding the public purse to the tune of $543,000.
Premier Cox speech in full:
I am pleased to announce that I have today tabled the second phase of the Good Governance legislation.
You will remember that in January 2012, I announced that I would table the second phase of the Good Governance legislation in the next session of Parliament. This bill includes the following amendments:
The Bill makes provision for a mechanism whereby a Minister can be appointed to hear an application or appeal on behalf of another Minister who has a conflict of interest.
To extend “whistle blower protection” to persons, e.g. vendors and contractors that are not covered currently in the Employment Act;
To create an offence of collusion whereby parties seek to improperly exert influence in order to obtain a contract;
To increase the period within which offences can be prosecuted.
In addition, we have strengthened the Financial Instructions Regulations and the Procurement Code of Practice, which will soon be gazetted, by including additional provisions, such as:
Extending and expanding on the description of conflict of interest when awarding contracts;
Enhancing the processes to ensure that money paid to vendors, contractors and organisations receiving grants is being used for the purpose for which the money was authorised.
Our work in this area continues and has yielded positive rewards. As I disclosed in my Ministerial Statement on progress on public sector reform, the Governance and Service Delivery Unit which will drive forward my good governance agenda and, with the help of Management Services, the Office of Project Management and Procurement and Internal Audit, hold line Ministries to account more closely for the delivery of their policy and service objectives. Working together, these groups will ensure that the principles of good governance are being adhered to and strengthen procedures to ensure that any abuses will be a thing of the past.
I must also remind you that the principles of good governance apply to all public authorities. This means that both the Office of Project Management and Procurement and Internal Audit have oversight of procurement in all quangos to ensure that best practice is consistently adhered to.
It should also be noted that the Financial Instruction internal procedures and the Civil Service Code of Conduct is also being updated to reflect both the legislation and the penalties for non-adherence to good governance.
This Bill will further enhance good governance and transparency and will further underscore the message that this Government adheres to the high standards of ethical behaviour - transparency and accountability; fairness and equity; efficiency and effectiveness; respect for the rule of law.