NASSAU, BAHAMAS- Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis today doubled down on his assertion that several initiatives under the former administration had little to no checks and balances, adding that these were in violation of a number of laws, regulations and sensible good practice.
Dozens of Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) supporters gathered outside Parliament in response to a clarion call by PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell.
Tensions heightened when former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis arrived with a small FNM delegation of his own, which then led to an exchange of words between the two groups after Minnis went into the House of Assembly.
Davis, who opened the debate on the mid-year budget, noted that there are several ongoing investigations into those initiatives and programs, adding, We intend to make those answers public, whatever they may reveal.
Pointing to the food assistance program, the Parks and Beaches Authority, and the Travel Health Visa, Davis said that in each case, the decision was made to set up a structure outside of the public service or outside of this system of accountability.
Worse still, these structures were staffed by people who had no particular competence to run those structures, and there were little to no checks and balances, Davis said.
These were in violation of a number of laws, regulations and sensible good practice. Vast sums of public money were run through these structures, together totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.
He added: And each of these structures had abysmally poor record-keeping concerning what monies were taken in, and how that money was spent.
The prime minister stated: I noted that the administration had handed over some of the basic functions of government to their wealthy friends and asked why?
Why did they pay a private company to handle National Insurance funds, when we have a public service whose job it is to do just that?
Why was the government paying a private company to receive customs payments, when we have a public service whose job it is to do just that?
Time and again, public officials in critical positions were replaced by individuals with no real administrative experience.
Davis further noted that there are also examples where political appointees on Boards replaced a number of executives or were put in leadership positions without the necessary qualifications.
Speaking to the food assistance program, Davis noted that former Chairperson of the National Food Security Task Force Susan Holowesko Larson was paid $1,750 per week.
Davis said that Larson was given some $53 million for the task force to spend but it appears that she was not required to report to anyone on how that money was spent.
According to Davis, Larson had indicated that $4.7 million was spent to cover administrative fees.
Davis doubled down on his comments that the Bahamas Public Parks and Public Beaches Authority operated as a slush fund under the Minnis administration.
He told parliament that the finance officer appointed by the former administration came without any previous experience, and was made the sole signatory on bank accounts.
He also noted that the managing director had no history of senior management experience.
Large-value contracts issued by the Authority contain three distinct signatures, all purporting to be that of the Chairman. Simple logic dictates that at least two of them must be fraudulent, the prime minister said.
Davis also noted that the question remains as to what the connection was between digital payments provider Kanoo and the Ministry of Tourism that made them the beneficiaries of such a large contract.
The prime minister also stated that since the change of government, many of the individuals and entities involved in these inquiries have sought to delay or frustrate our investigations. He added, There are many, many questions that need to be answered.
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