Government must own its failures in Frank Smith case

SUMMARY

  • Case marred by gross incompetence

  • Perception of corruption fed by unethical conduct

  • All eyes on the Prime Minister’s response

  • Taxpayers funding inefficiencies and recklessness


Our democracy was deepened but a dangerous precedent was set in a case involving former Senator Frank Smith. The DNA had followed this matter since inception but reserved comment on the same due to the confidence we have in our judicial system. It is our view that the independence of the judiciary as demonstrated in this matter further deepened Bahamian democracy. However, the involvement and implication of two sitting Cabinet members and Members of Parliament has cast a dark cloud over the executive and legislature.

There could not have been a better description of the actions of both the Minister of Health and the Minister of National Security than that offered by the learned Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt who found their conduct to be egregious and unorthodox. On the heels of the recent lower ranking of The Bahamas on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), this comes as an embarrassment and disgrace to our commonwealth. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet must respond to these serious actions or risk tainting their administration and facing permanent condemnation before the Bahamian people.

Observers of the recently concluded legal matter would have been shocked by what appeared to be gross incompetence and clumsiness displayed by the entities involved in making and arguing the case on behalf of the Crown. It is our view that this is not an indictment on the hardworking professionals of our government departments/agencies; rather, it is testament to the unethical conduct and political interference of the executive arm of government.

Regrettably, the hard-earned funds of taxpayers have been and continues to be expended on the inefficiencies and reckless habits of an administration that is alien to good governance, transparency and accountability. We submit that it is high time that the FNM administration took ownership of its failures. They must acknowledge the error of their ways, apologize to the Bahamian people and make a true commitment to adopting the DNA’s good governance platform. The Bahamian people deserve nothing less from an administration that seems determined to tarnish our good reputation.

All eyes are on the Ministers cited in this matter as honorable men, to do the honorable thing by resigning in accordance with the conventions of the Westminster system of government. The Bahamian people and the international community are waiting and watching.

Geoffrey Deleveaux, Spokesperson for Good Governance

Democratic National Alliance

International report confirms FNM has failed in anti-corruption

Summary:

  • Administration marred by scandals and conflicts of interest

  • Minnis administration no different from predecessors

  • Corruption perception ranking comes as no surprise

  • Cease political rhetoric and demonstrate true commitment to good governance

  • Government should embrace DNA good governance platform


After the nation’s Prime Minister embarked upon a world anti-corruption crusade and promised to stamp out corruption at its core, recent reports that The Bahamas has moved down to 29th on Transparency International’s corruption ranking is an indictment on the Minnis administration. The Bahamas’ recent ranking on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) shows a lack of true commitment by the Minnis Administration to transparent and accountable governance.  Even though the current administration had campaigned on transparency and accountability in governance on the 2017 campaign trail, their governance to date has been marred by scandals, conflicts of interest and inaction; proving that they are no different from their predecessors in government.

Bahamians will recall the tragic case of the OBAN deal and the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement of ineptitude and fraud as well as the subsequent admission by the Minister of Education that the government breached the law in the handling of the matter.

The Minister of Health also publicly acknowledged approving a contract without the requisite Cabinet approval while two senior Cabinet Ministers were also implicated in matters before the court. The conflict of interest and lack of transparency that plagued the relocation of the main Post Office remains fresh in the minds of the Bahamian people.  We are still awaiting the probe into the BPL ordeal as promised by the Prime Minister and when one considers the ineffectiveness and political stifling of the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament as a check and balance to government spending, The Bahamas’ ranking on the CPI comes as no surprise. The government should be aware that its actions are being monitored by both domestic and international observers.

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) implores the government to fulfil their campaign promise of good governance, transparency and accountability.  They should go beyond the political rhetoric and wage war on corruption and the perception of corruption in our nation. On behalf of the Bahamian people, we demand the full implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and the Integrity Commission Act. We encourage the government to fully embrace the DNA’s platform for good governance by enacting and enforcing Whistle-blower and Campaign Finance legislation among others without delay.


Geoffrey Deleveaux, Spokesperson for Good Governance

Democratic National Alliance

 


PM Address Falls Flat for Bahamians

Summary:


  • Speech was uninspiring and underwhelming

  • No new ideas or information for economy

  • Government fails to articulate economic or financial services growth plan

  • Address failed to demonstrate strategy to return Bahamas to investment grade

  • Silence on WTO and OBAN deafening


In the immediate aftermath of the release of labor statistics which show that unemployment is on the rise, many Bahamians looked forward to the Prime Minister’s address to the nation. The widely publicized address was supposed to focus on the government’s plan for the economy and outline plans for its revitalization.

Regrettably, the speech fell flat as it failed to inspire hope among the Bahamian people or offer innovative ideas for the resurgence of an economy with stunted growth. The PM sought to spin the unemployment narrative by touting a reported fall in joblessness in Grand Bahama and Abaco but glossed over the approximately one percent rise in New Providence. This is despite the reported record increase in tourism numbers for 2018 and announcements of multiple foreign direct investments.

It was disappointing to watch the nation’s leader make a feeble effort at justifying his recent visit to Europe with a delegation. The PM could only report that the bilateral talks were constructive, and the objective was to ensure that the European Union (EU) understands the government efforts in meeting the EU’s demands. There was no communication of a Financial Services Growth Action Plan (FSGAP); rather, the government has maintained its reactive and myopic approach to this vital sector of our economy. The government seems to have resorted to presiding over the demise of our financial services sectors through the proverbial thousand cuts.

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) welcomes any initiative that is aimed at improving the ease of doing business in The Bahamas. In this regard, improvements in the operations at the Department of Inland Revenue (DIR) come as a relief to businesses. We submit that while the creation of a promotional arm of the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) could provide some gains, there are operational inefficiencies plaguing the BIA and modernization is long overdue.

Bahamians anticipated a report on the economy that included an update on the economic impact of the austerity measures imposed via the budget of hardship for 2018/19. Unfortunately, no accountability or report on stewardship of the people’s money was provided; consequently, an opportunity to distinguish the FNM Government from its predecessor was squandered.

The PM spent a considerable portion of his address on listing several intended or proposed projects and investments. The challenge here is that we’ve seen this script before with successive administrations outlining multiple projects across our archipelago of islands with a vast amount never coming to fruition for the foreseeable future. The simple response of the Bahamian people to these grandiose announcements is that the proof is in the pudding and we will not count our proverbial eggs before they hatch.

Commentaries on the Commercial Enterprise Act (CEA) have become monotonous to the populace. We call on the government to provide the Bahamian people with a report on the economic impact of the CEA including the capital injection or inflow to date, local and permanent jobs created, work permits issued, and government revenue derived from the increase in economic activity following the enactment of the legislation.

Public utterances and lamentation on the ease of doing business in The Bahamas vis-à-vis opening of bank accounts and the blue economy by the government constitute nothing more than grandstanding. We implore the PM and his government to simply get the job done rather than communicating with his ministers and stakeholders via a national broadcast.

In his national address, the PM failed to inform the Bahamian people how he and his cabinet will position The Bahamas’ credit rating from a junk bond status to investment grade.  Further, the PM was silent on the topic of The Bahamas’ accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the OBAN deal which has resurfaced in recent times. This deliberate silence was deafening and telling for a government that campaigned on transparency and accountability. Has the government concluded that the WTO and OBAN are not priority areas and will not positively impact the Bahamian economy in the manner that they’ve been touting? The nation’s leader missed a rare chance to address the concerns of the Bahamian people. While many had minimal expectations for the PM’s address to the nation, we are saddened that he proved them right and delivered yet another underwhelming speech.

Arinthia S. Komolafe, Deputy Leader

Democratic National Alliance



Government disconnected from reality of Bahamian youth

Summary:

  • Government silence on C.V. Bethel incident deafening,

  • Youth violence and rebellion merely symptoms,

  • Marginalization of young people must end,

  • Administration is disconnected from Bahamian youth reality,

  • Comprehensive and collaborative approach is needed


According to recent media reports, a teacher was allegedly assaulted by two male students on CV Bethel’s grounds resulting in the educator having to be rushed to the hospital.


We the Young Democrats Alliance (YDA), despise and condemn the use of violence in any matter by any segment of our society; particularly, we condemn the recent violent act at C.V. Bethel. It is our belief that any and all disputes should be resolved peacefully and amicably. In the days following the alleged attack, the government’s silence on this matter has been deafening.

This is disappointing and perpetuates the practice of ignoring matters impacting the youth of our nation. We submit that the C.V. Bethel incident is merely a symptom of a much larger and systemic issue crossing sectors and institutions in the Bahamian society. Violence and aggression are tools of those who lack the proper communicative and interpersonal skills to resolve conflict and differences. Violence and aggression are also the resources of the disenfranchised and those who feel they have no other recourse to difficult situations at hand.

Our educational system is in desperate need of a major overhaul. We require new and innovative ideas to advance not only learning but also how we socialize and develop students as holistic and productive members of society. In order to achieve this, we must cultivate an educational system that is safe, productive and innovative which translates into safer communities.


The alleged C.V. Bethel attack should serve as a wake-up call to our political leaders and the Bahamian people. The trend of rebellion and violence among our young people must be treated with the utmost urgency and importance lest we lose a generation.

It is time for the government to place specific focus on the plight of the Bahamian youth. The actions of the present administration suggest that priority is not being placed on the empowerment and inclusion of young people from an economic and governance perspective. This is reflected in the high youth unemployment rate of 23.1% and policies enacted to date which fail to address challenges that confront young people. These are clearly the evidence of disconnection from the reality and real struggles we face in our own country.


We need a collaborative and non-partisan approach which embraces input from educators, social workers, religious leaders, healthcare professionals, civil society and the public to address this menace. We must consider whether there is a need for more training for teachers on the psycho-social realities facing our youth and make the requisite resources available to young people facing trauma at home. Law enforcement agencies must also be sensitive to the needs of our young people rather than marginalizing and profiling them. The youth are the future of our Bahamaland, and we can no longer afford to ignore them.


The YDA stands ready as capable facilitators of the urgent change that needs to happen regarding the youth of our country. There is an undercurrent of disease and ambivalence towards an appropriate solution, our country’s leaders have stuck their heads in the sand and have yet to issue a release on this matter. How much longer would you have our students, our children, our future suffer in silence and only be noticed by tragic, immoral disingenuous cries of attention when they are so full of life, hope, potential and opportunity for a truly better and brighter Bahamas?

Laron G Moxey, President

Young Democrats Alliance



DNA applauds Reece Chipman for taking ethical stance

Summary

  • FNM Government is a disappointment,

  • PAC dilemma shows FNM & PLP are one and the same,

  • Lacklustre PAC performance by FNM foreshadowed incompetent governance,

  • PLP PAC leader demonstrates same script different cast,

  • PAC must be strengthened to provide checks and balance.


The reported and intended resignation of the Hon. Reece Chipman, Member of Parliament for Centreville speaks volumes to the sub-standard level of governance that we the Bahamian people have unfortunately grown accustomed to and accepted to date.  

Chipman’s letter to the House Speaker warning of his anticipated resignation from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) highlights the inactivity and lack of productivity of House Committees within the Parliament of The Bahamas.  Even more glaring is the fact that the PAC is chaired by the Official Opposition and most of its members constitute the Committee.

The Bahamian people have seen this script before with a different cast.  The now Minnis-led Free National Movement (FNM) chaired the PAC during its time as the Official Opposition from 2012 to 2017.  Their dismal performance during that 5-year period is well documented and evidenced by the fact that under their watch, no report was produced by the PAC.  In hindsight, the then FNM-constituted Official Opposition’s lack of leadership at the PAC was a precursor and harrowing foreshadow of their lacklustre governance to come. Sadly, the Bahamian people continue to be subjected to this subpar leadership as the current administration is taking our nation backwards.

It has been reported that the current FNM administration has conveniently refused requests for information made by the PAC based on an interpretation made by the House Speaker under the ousted Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration. This comes as a shock and disappointment to Bahamians who voted for the FNM in 2017 expecting good governance, transparency and accountability in relation to the use of taxpayer funds. Regrettably, both the PLP and FNM are one and the same as their actions demonstrate. They are two sides of the same coin. The level of incompetence and corrupt practices that we have been subjected to under their leadership has caused a regression in the good quality and standard of life that we as Bahamians have grown accustomed to.

As a qualified accountant and former President of the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA), Mr. Chipman understands what it means to subscribe to a code of ethics. We applaud Mr. Chipman for his strong ethical stance and for not turning a blind eye to wrongdoing.  History will be kind to him, and future generations of Bahamians will salute him for his courage.

We implore the Minnis-led administration to move forward with the adoption of sound rules for our nation’s Parliament and to get on with the business of governing our nation in the transparent and accountable manner that they promised. The PAC must be immediately strengthened as a vital tool in a parliamentary democracy to serve as a much-needed check and balance on the financial activities of the government.

The DNA looks forward to the day when we shall bring good governance and prosperity to the people of this beloved Commonwealth that we call The Bahamas.



Geoffrey Deleveaux, Spokesperson for Good Governance

Democratic National Alliance


DNA: Government has failed to make case for WTO accession

DNA: Government has failed to make case for WTO accession

It is our official position that The Bahamas should not move forward with its accession to the WTO. We propose that as an alternative, The Bahamas should explore bilateral, plurilateral and sector-specific trade agreements with its main trade partners with the sole criterion being the best interest of the Bahamian people.