It has been reported by Bernews that the costs estimate (or budget) for Bermuda’s Commission of Inquiry has increased by nearly 250 percent from the original figure of $480,000 to $1.168 million.
By coincidence of timing, the Commission of Inquiry has also published a revised set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions on its website. The revisions include a new answer to the following Frequently Asked Question:
“How was the law firm of Conyers Dill & Pearman chosen as the Commission’s Counsel and why wasn’t there a tendering process in this regard?”
The new answer (which is a little bit ironic, given the subject matter of the Inquiry) is that
“The firm of Conyers Dill & Pearman [CD&P] was recommended to Chairman Sir Anthony Evans by the Attorney General’s Chambers as one that could be relied upon to meet the Commission’s needs thoroughly and with the required expertise. Following a meeting between Sir Anthony and the firm’s principals, the Commission retained CD&P on terms that include a discounted fee structure. The Cabinet Office has advised that as an independent entity under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1935, the Commission is entitled to retain counsel without the requirement to account for the expenditure as if the Commission were part of Government, or to comply with Financial Instructions.”
There are, however, a number of other law firms in Bermuda that are reliable, and which could potentially have offered the Commission the necessary services and an equivalent standard of expertise, potentially at a lower cost than Conyers Dill & Pearman – had they been approached or been offered the opportunity to pitch for the work.
But this is all speculation – all that we know at present is that the original budget estimate has increased …
It is worth noting that there are a number of developed jurisdictions (New South Wales is an example) which publish guidelines on the best practice to follow when outsourcing government or public sector legal work.
This is not just a question of transparency and accountability, but a question of getting value for money. Even commercial clients tend to shop around when selecting service providers – perhaps more so than public sector clients, given the fact that they are spending their own money, rather than the taxpayers’!