(CNS): The newly revised deal between government and the Dart Group has not been reviewed by the auditor general, despite his criticisms and concerns about the so-called NRA Agreement in a scathing report published last July, which was discussed during the Public Accounts Committee hearings in March. “To date, the Office of the Auditor General has not been provided a copy of the draft or final agreement with Dart,” an OAG spokesperson told CNS, adding that they were therefore not in a position to comment on it.
However, the spokesperson pointed out that in its 2015 performance audit report National Land Development and Government Real Property, the office raised concerns about the process used to negotiate and approve the original NRA Agreement and the subsequent amendments.
“Specifically, we informed the Legislative Assembly on the lack of compliance with the PMFL (Public Management and Finance Law) with regard to ensuring value for money. We also reported on the circumvention of Legislative Assembly scrutiny and authority for the spending and revenue concession arrangements. We would expect that the report’s recommendations were implemented when finalising the 3rd amendment,” he added.
Government sources confirmed yesterday that the new deal will be made public after Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts presents this final deal to the LA, which he is expected to do when he makes his contribution to the budget debate in the next few days. However, the deal was not discussed before the government signed the agreement, which it has been negotiating for more than three years.
The PPM administration has made a point throughout this term that it has followed the process laid down in law and international best practice in regard to all its capital projects and public-private partnerships. But although the agreement with Dart is the largest government deal with any investor or developer, the entire process has taken place behind closed doors.
The problems of this approach were well document in the OAG’s report and emphasised again in March after Martin Ruben, Performance Audit Principal at the OAG, told PAC that the ongoing talks were not following the law.
The deal, which was signed on Monday, removes the original 50% accommodate tax reduction given to Dart in the original agreement and instead increases the amount of duty waivers the developer can have on the forthcoming planning projects. That figure has not been revealed.
It is also not clear if the land swaps in relation to the closure of the West Bay Road have been enhanced as there has been no mention of previous beachfront land donations for another public beach.