During a recent visit to the CELAC conference in Costa Rica, PM Perry Christie in his role as head of CARICOM spoke ad nauseam about the need for transparency in governance, and the introduction of greater anti-corruption mechanisms as part of a strategy to move the region forward.
As an organization, the Democratic National Alliance has long agitated for increased accountability in governance and have been advocates for the introduction of a viable Freedom of Information Act. The time has certainly come for governments to be held more accountable for the decisions made on behalf of the people of this country. As an electorate, Bahamians are no longer prepared to simply accept the word of politicians but require so much more. In that context, the PM’s comments are indeed accurate. Unfortunately, his words wreak of hypocrisy, duplicity and an insincerity which has become the MO of this Christie administration.
Since taking office in 2012, scores of government officials have found themselves at the center of any number of controversies. For example, what changes have been implemented at the National Insurance Board to prevent the reported impropriety which led to the dismissal of its director back in 2012? After spending thousands of dollars on the investigations and audit, the government has failed to report to the public on the matter and have given no indication of how it is working to prevent a similar situation.
More recently, the scandal surrounding Renward Wells and his signing of that letter of intent valued at 650 million dollars has been spun by this administration as a mere misunderstanding rather than the blatant conflict of interest it actually was. After taking months to even decide Wells’ fate, neither the PM nor Wells’ immediate superior the DPM have offered a succinct and thorough public statement on the matter, leaving Wells to take the fall for what appeared to be a decision and instructions made at, and handed down from the top levels of cabinet. Instead the nation’s leaders sidestepped questions from the media, and deflected before finally leaving Wells to offer his own shallow explanation of the events in question.
And what of the millions of dollars in prescription drugs which simply disappeared from the public healthcare system. Following 3 separate investigations and reports, the government has allowed this issue to simply fade from public consciousness. To date, no one has been held accountable and again there has been no mention from government officials on how such infractions will be prevented in the future. Such realities exist in an environment where the government is proposing a National Health Care system. Who, if anyone will be policing the system to ensure that tax payers do not become even more OVERBURDENED by the already failing systems in place. This is also particularly crucial to the efficient running and maintenance of the recently opened critical care block at the Princess Margaret Hospital. If left unchecked, the instances of impropriety within the public service could negate the millions invested in the hospital’s upgrades.
Even now, as Mr. Christie extolls the virtues of anti-corruption mechanisms and transparency in governance to CARICOM, his administration has been slow to action about the recent ALSTOM revelation which has confirmed that at least one government official accepted a bribe to secure a lucrative government contract for the company. These latest allegations further shed light on concerns raised by the US government months ago regarding a lack of transparency in the government bidding and procurement process as well.
With such a blatant disregard for accountability and transparency occurring within his own government, the PM’s comments to CARICOM personify the outright hypocrisy of his administration. Time and time again, the PM and his cohorts have proven that they can talk a good game, unfortunately, this government is slow to act when it counts most.
It is the hope of the DNA that the PM will finally heed his own advice and implement the many anti-corruption strategies which he so eloquently discussed in Costa Rica.
The time has come for this government to move away from words only but be moved to ACTION. Then and only then can we move forward as a country and a region.