Government Crime Scenes and Unsolved Mysteries
Wasteful; Corrupt; Dishonest; these are just some of the words which can be used to describe the governance of the Progressive Liberal Party since taking office in 2012. While in opposition this administration led by Perry Christie, promised Bahamian voters transparent, accountable, governance. The now PM promised to Believe in Bahamians, provide jobs and improve the quality of life for the entire citizenry. The PLP even promised to lower electricity rates. What the PLP has delivered however, is slack governance, a blatant mismanagement of the country’s resources, cronyism, increased government wastage, higher taxes and a system of corruption which continues to cost taxpayers some 200 million dollars annually.
Despite the near destitute state of the country’s finances, this Christie led administration has exercised little restraint in spending over the last two years. With 100 million dollars in cost overruns for local road works as a result of the last administration, there is today 30 million dollars spent for a still incomplete government building at Blake Road and the apparent 27 million dollar discrepancy over monies spent on BAMSI in Andros are just a few examples of this government’s inability to reign in reckless spending. Even worse, elected officials have failed to give a proper account of where and how public funds are being used. This lack of accountability has led to numerous cases of “missing money”. Unfortunately for concerned Bahamians, these “government crime scenes” remain unsolved mysteries.
Last year, some 10 million dollars in donations accepted by Urban Renewal could not be accounted for with some centers associated with the body decrying what they described as a lack of structure within the organization. Similarly, the 2013 investigation into the misappropriation of millions in public funds at the National Insurance Board and the millions more spent on a forensic audit of the operations, have resulted in no criminal charges for those allegedly involved. And what of the thousands of dollars which reportedly vanished into thin air at the Department of Road Traffic back in March of 2013? Most recently, Bahamians were shocked to hear about the “loss” of some 10 million dollars from the Public Hospital’s Authority, the result of years of system abuse and ineffective management controls. Recently, it has been revealed that there are hundreds of thousands of dollars missing from the Customs Department where large number of Bills of Lading was released without evidence to suggest that duties were paid. In these and countless other cases, the government has failed to bring the culprits of such blatant acts of illegality to justice. At the same time, Ministers of the government themselves have failed to account for hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on lavish trips abroad, nor have they properly dealt with reports of missing supplies and weak internal controls within their respective ministries. Moreover, these government officials have to date failed to disclose pursuant to the Public Disclosures Act.
The last two years of PLP governance have indeed been a sobering indicator of the level of corruption that exists in this country. In fact one need only thumb through the archives of the local dailies to find countless examples of this government’s widespread mismanagement, cronyism and collusion.
While average Bahamians have been forced to relinquish their properties for failure to pay Real Property Taxes, friends, lovers and family members of government officials have apparently been made exempt from paying their Real Property Taxes or have had special arrangements on their behalf. This, even as the government continues to allow up to 500 Million dollars in unpaid Real Property Taxes to go uncollected. While thousands of Bahamians are without electricity, there are “special persons” who don’t have to pay their electricity bill or indeed pay when it’s convenient to them. Even as the government prepares to increase taxes on the backs of struggling Bahamian families, friends of this PLP administration are allowed to owe the public purse millions. Among them, Phil Ruffin a close friend of the Prime Minister who is alleged to still owe 5 million in casino taxes, which, when added to the estimated 51 million dollars currently outstanding in casino taxes, could be a significant boost to the Public Treasury.
While scores of qualified contractors continue to bid for major government contracts, those jobs continue to go to well-known PLP supporters, a practice which even caught the attention of US government officials who, in a report released a few months ago, lamented the lack of transparency and accountability associated with the awarding of government contracts. Earlier this year, the government rehired Holiday Industrial Builders to complete work to the Paul Adderley building. According to published reports this same company failed to complete similar work on a previous government contract despite being paid millions from the Public Treasury. In the face of such damning allegations the government attempted to defend its decision by becoming defensive and some have even described it as arrogant when probed for answers.
The lack of transparency in PLP governance has been amplified by the culture of silence being perpetuated by the party’s leadership. In the face of consecutive scandals within his government PM Perry Christie has failed to adequately address any of them! Public outcry over the Letter of Intent signed by Parliamentary Secretary Renward Wells has yielded no answers from the government despite repeated promises from the Prime Minister to finally address the issue before the Parliamentary recess. The Bahamian people still don’t know the circumstances surrounding the signing of the 650 million dollar Letter of Intent.
Unfortunately for the thousands of Bahamians who supported the PLP in the 2012 election the, Prime Minister has obviously checked out which, in the face of a major change to the country’s tax system could spell DISASTER for this country. This band of political leaders led by Mr. Christie has proven untrustworthy and incapable of Good Governance. For example, this government recently announced that the BEC overhaul will cost the Bahaman people between 50 million dollars to 500 million dollars? This type of governance is unimaginable! They CANNOT and MUST NOT be trusted to oversee the successful implementation of VAT!
In the face of such overwhelming ineptitude, The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) calls on the government to scrap its current legislative agenda in favor of one which will bring resolution to the systemic corruption which continues to cripple our system of governance; chief among them should be the implementation of a proper Freedom of Information Act, coupled with a Whistle Blowers Act and a Code of Conduct for Public Officials; these statues will raise the level of accountability within the government. The DNA also calls for the establishment of a National Procurement Agency to ensure full transparency and fairness in the awarding of government contracts. A Fiscal Responsibility Act and Balance Budget Act will help eliminate wasteful spending and streamline the government’s finances. Last but not least, the government must move to introduce an Office of the Ombudsman whose responsibilities will include the prosecution of any and all persons found guilty of corruption and/or stealing from the public purse.
The Development of a truly first world nation, which we as a country ought to be headed, will depend heavily on these types of legislation to push the country forward. Good Governance and the Rule of Law can no longer be ignored but must be EMBRACED for the betterment of the country.
We need law, order and discipline in our Bahamaland.