Accountability

Government Must Now Answer on Corruption

*  Court of Appeal verdict shifts focus back to government

*  Judicially condemned Cabinet Ministers must resign or be terminated

*  FNM found wanting on transparency and anti-corruption pledge

*  Government must account to taxpayers on legal and forensic costs

*  Scandal cannot be swept under the proverbial rug

*  DNA stands by call for Vote of No Confidence in Prime Minister

 

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has reviewed the recent ruling by the Court of Appeal in the Frank Smith matter. According to court documents, the appellate court dismissed the argument made by the prosecution that Chief Magistrate Joyanne Ferguson-Pratt erred in her ruling that Ms. Barbara Hanna was not a reliable witness and therefore, there was no case to answer. While the Court of Appeal acknowledged that the Chief Magistrate made some procedural missteps, they concluded that there was an 'abundance of examples of doubtful testimony' from Ms. Hanna.

It is the DNA's position that we will not speak to the truth or falsity of the allegations made by Ms. Hanna against the former Public Health Authority (PHA) Chairman, Mr. Frank Smith, considering that based on her testimony during cross-examination she was considered by the Chief Magistrate to be an unreliable witness. This is also against the backdrop that the prosecution provided no further substantial evidence to make a determination for a case to answer.

In a previous release issued by our Spokesperson for Good Governance – Mr. Geoffrey Deleveaux on 3 February 2019, we highlighted the 'gross incompetence and clumsiness displayed by the entities involved in making and arguing the case on behalf of the Crown'. The unethical conduct and political interference of the executive arm of government has cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in this case and other cases before the courts. While we in the DNA support the prosecution of public officials who appear to have abused their authority or broken the law, we do not support phishing expeditions and the wastage of taxpayers’ funds. The government must now fully disclose how much this exercise, other legal matters involving external counsel and all forensic audits have cost taxpayers to date.

It was abundantly clear throughout the trial and recorded in transcripts that Ms. Hanna was an unwilling witness who did not initiate these proceedings of her own will and was coerced to testify in this case. In her words, she was ‘being used’. Furthermore, the subsequent granting of a contract to Ms. Hanna without Board and Cabinet approval as well as inconsistencies in phone records used, demand that answers be provided by the government.

Now that the Court of Appeal has ruled on this matter, we renew our demand for Prime Minister Minnis to have his Ministers, Marvin Dames and Dr. Duane Sands do the honorable thing and resign or be terminated for their participation and behavior in this matter. It is disheartening that an administration that postulates commitment to transparency and accountability with a promise to 'weed out corruption' has been found wanting in an embarrassing predicament. This scandal must not be swept under the proverbial rug.

The DNA stands by its demand during our call for action and 10 days of activism that a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister should be moved in the Parliament.  We note that after much persuasion, the Leader of the Official Opposition has followed our lead and has finally committed to move this motion at the next sitting of Parliament.  The Bahamian people deserve better governance.

Arinthia S. Komolafe

Leader
Democratic National Alliance

BPL Saga Continues to Cost Taxpayers

  • Taxpayers continue to foot BPL saga costs

  • Dark cloud over BPL thickens

  • Our taxes are funding these missteps

  • Public still awaiting reports on forensics, legal and travel

 

Following the unceremonious termination of the previous Board of Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) amid allegations of political interference and unethical behavior, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) called for a swift and independent investigation into these matters in August 2018. Nine months later, it remains unclear if and when the probe promised by the Prime Minister will be completed and a report issued to the Bahamian people.

The DNA notes the recent confirmation by the Attorney General (AG) that the government has retained a local firm of private lawyers to defend the $1.1 million lawsuit against the Minister of Public Works filed by former directors of BPL. This follows the signing of a contract with an international firm to probe the serious allegations against the Minister responsible for BPL.  

We note that our system of government provides public officials and offices with protections as corporate soles or legal entities. However, it is simply unacceptable for hardworking Bahamians and residents to be called upon time after time to bear the costs for the actions of Cabinet Ministers who may have erred in the discharge of their duties and/or exercised poor judgment in the performance of their functions.

Taxpayers will once again have to foot the bill for the legal fees incurred for this BPL lawsuit in addition to the fees to be paid to the international investigation firm engaged by the government. It is an understatement to say that the dark cloud of cronyism, nepotism, contradictions and mismanagement continues to thicken over BPL.

We are concerned that having significantly increased taxes and fees on the backs of the Bahamian people, the government continues to waste our hard-earned money without any form of transparency or accountability. The provision of statistics and charts by the Ministry of Finance will not substitute for the specific questions and proper accounting for how this administration is spending the people’s money.

The public is still awaiting the total cost of the forensic audits or reports commissioned by the current administration when they assumed office and the promised report on travel expenses due by December 2018 remains outstanding. The total legal fees paid to English counsel engaged by the government in the Frank Smith trial also remains shrouded in secrecy.

The mismanagement of BPL continues under an administration that governs on an ad-hoc basis. The Bahamian people will recall that BPL has invested $95 million of our taxpayers’ funds to generate 132 of the 220 megawatts required of Shell without a commitment or undertaking by Shell that we will be reimbursed or given an equity stake in the new power plant. It therefore remains unclear how our investment will be recouped from Shell.

The Bahamian people deserve better and the DNA remains the only vehicle for the delivery of good governance to the Bahamian people.

Arinthia S. Komolafe

Leader

Democratic National Alliance