❖ PM keen on creating top heavy government
❖ Political cronies appointed to jobs already assigned to individuals and agencies
❖ Minister of GB & Parliamentary Secretary for Abaco roles appear redundant
❖ PM & NEMA fell short of fulfilling their mandates
❖ Despite talks of reducing red tape, PM deepens bureaucracy
❖ Transparency and accountability to Bahamian people is essential
The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) listened carefully to the Prime Minister's press conference earlier today for much anticipated updates on a comprehensive plan following Hurricane Dorian. We will address various aspects of the statements made by the Prime Minister in multiple releases. However, we are concerned about the proposed expansion of government and increased layer of bureaucracy created by the establishment of a new Ministry and the appointment of a new State Minister.
There has been much criticism of the government’s level of preparedness and response to the recent natural disaster. One of the main concerns raised has been the level of bureaucracy and red tape, the questionable appointments of individuals and the overlapping responsibilities. The Prime Minister's recent announcement shows that he is keen on creating a top-heavy government which appoints political cronies to do jobs that have already been assigned (in some cases statutorily) to other individuals or agencies.
Bahamians are left to wonder who is advising the Prime Minister in this critical time in our nation’s history. Why do we need a new Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction? In a time of national crisis, who is at the helm and what is the Prime Minister's role in this entire effort? Why appoint Iram Lewis as State Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister when James Albury already serves as Parliamentary Secretary for Abaco and Kwasi Thompson serves as Minister of State for Grand Bahama? What does this mean for the recent appointments of the Senate President - Kay Forbes-Smith for Grand Bahama and former NIB Director – Algernon Cargill and Permanent Secretary - Jack Thompson for Abaco rebuilding efforts? How does this new Ministry and Authority interact with the newly created Disaster Relief and Reconstruction Committee chaired by John Michael Clarke and Nicole Campbell- PS in the OPM?
This appointment seems to be a reactive measure intended to create the impression that this Minnis-led administration is responding to the national crisis that we find ourselves in. Prime Minister Minnis and his administration must own their failures to their response in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Upon review of the legislation establishing the National Emergency Management Agency(NEMA), it is clear that both NEMA and the Office of the Prime Minister (to which NEMA reports) fell short in fulfilling their mandates.
The practice of making impromptu decisions and adhoc pronouncements seems evident in this latest decision. What will be NEMA’s role post the establishment of a new Ministry? What will be the role of the new entity, its Board and Managing Director in the face of the NEMA Act? Will NEMA be dismantled or allowed to exist alongside another bureaucratic entity at taxpayers' expense? Will this new entity be established by an Act of Parliament? In the absence of answers to these questions, the Prime Minister is merely pontificating and perpetuating a cycle of years of politicians failing to follow the laws on the books by creating parallel systems to cover their ineffectiveness.
This recent press conference by the PM is cause for concern considering the magnitude of this disaster. In the face of what transpired in Ragged Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, we have yet to see a plan for Ragged Island two years later while residents await the promised solarization and restoration of the island. The Bahamian people have not been adequately updated on the state of affairs or progress in Ragged Island. If history is anything to go by, our concerns regarding Northern Bahamas are justified.
All Bahamians agree that this is the worse tragedy to have visited our Commonwealth; nevertheless, the absence of a clear plan has worsened the impact of this natural disaster. The Prime Minister claimed that he will remove red tape, yet the relief and recovery efforts have been saddled with red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy.
Prime Minister Minnis was also unclear as to where the $10m apportioned for lending would be taken from. We need to hear from the Minister of Finance on the financial implications of the numerous announcements made by the PM.
It is important that we begin the rebuilding process and aim to bring normalcy to the lives of those impacted by this disaster as soon as possible. However, this disaster must not be used as a reason to be non-transparent with the Bahamian people and taxpaying residents. The priority must be recovery and restoration of the Abacos and Grand Bahama for the benefit of all Bahamians without political favor.
We continue to pray for wisdom and strength for the Prime Minister and his colleagues. More importantly, we pray for the comfort, healing, strength and restoration of those that have suffered loss due to the devastation of Hurricane Dorian.
Arinthia S. Komolafe
Democratic National Alliance