COMMENTARY BY BAHAMAS SCOOP

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COMMENTARY BY BAHAMAS SCOOP

SOME UNSOLITICTED ADVICE FOR PM MINNIS: THE NEW POLICE ANTI-CORRUPTION UNIT

I thought the Royal Bahamas Police Force already had an anti-corruption squad that investigated what is commonly referred to as ‘white collar crime’ but Prime Minister Minnis ordered the establishment of another unit to investigate fraud and corruption. Let us see how their mandate and investigative work manifest itself in the months and years to come.

There is an inside joke among certain PLP’s that this is new unit is nothing more than the PLP PERSECUTION UNIT (PLPPU) – an act by the political directorate of the government to use official institutions of the state to intimidate and persecute their political opponents. How else can one explain police officers armed with semi-automatic weapons and masks descending on the headquarters of the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC), arresting and detaining 9 employees in addition to the board chairman because they received a complaint that employees of that corporation, believed to be PLP supporters, may have stolen a television set, two speakers and a hard drive. THIS WAS NOT ARMED ROBBERY, NOT ATTEMPTED MURDER AND NOT MURDER – just a report of suspected theft by reason of employment. Bradley Roberts pointed out in a recent Fox Hill address that 40 days have passed since the police began their investigation and have found no evidence of wrong doing. Senator Mitchell told the gathering that when Prime Minister Minnis was questioned about this highly unusual procedure, PM Minnis pleaded ignorance.

I suspect the police did not and will not find evidence of wrongdoing because that stunt the FNM government pulled had absolutely nothing to do with investigating a crime – it had everything to do with instilling fear through political intimidation. The political intent is to cultivate a toxic atmosphere of fear that Bahamians are too afraid to be publicly associated with the PLP. It is also intended to demonize the PLP, tarnish its brand and destroy the legacy of its leadership.

This is an old and failed FNM political tactic. Bahamians saw and experienced the two highly expensive commissions of inquiry during the 1990’s involving former Prime Minister Pindling and the operations of the then Batelco, the Hotel Corporation and Bahamasair and nothing was found. We saw the persecution of two former PLP members of Parliament for five years from 2007 to 2012 and the police found nothing. It was harassment, intimidation and a waste of public resources, all driven by politics.

It is illegal and corrupt for a government to use the institutions and instruments of the state to persecute its political opponents. Further, the police understand the letter of the Police Act and Force Orders and know when they are being used as political pawns; they must resist this.

Since PM Minnis claims a commitment to eradicating corruption in government, he must direct his newly established anti-corruption unit to investigate the following:

The FNM inspired $70 million Airport Gateway road project was subcontracted for a reported $22 million so why was the contract just not awarded for $22 million. The change out of the underground water mains and the erection of the overhead high-tension power lines cost taxpayers an estimated $18 million, bringing the total to about $40 million. But $70 million? This new unit should investigate the whereabouts of the balance of that money.

The actions of the FNM government in 2007 to change the agreement the PLP government negotiated with Baha Mar for the financing of less than two miles of road along the resort’s property. The changes to this PPP agreement took away the government’s right to seek value for money if it disagreed with the charges Baha Mar apportioned to the government. Apparently Baha Mar issued to the government a bill that the Christie government found unreasonable and sought value for money; $42 million per mile seemed excessive. Both Ingraham and Minnis publicly intervened and demanded the Christie government immediately pay Baha Mar with tax payer’s money with no questions asked.

My personal favourite is the $113 million NPRIP contracted to Jose Cartilone that ended up costing the Bahamian taxpayers over $200 million. Hey FNM government, the hike in international oil prices increased the project’s cost by only 30%, not 100%. The FNM conveniently swept this one under the carpet and never accounted for their stewardship. Peter Turnquest is on record justifying the cost overrun.

Let’s leave out the sale – no – the giveaway of BTC to Cable and Wireless Communications.

I like throwing these egregious sins in the face of the FNM just to hear them defend the indefensible or quickly change the subject. The FNM is a joke. They have absolutely no moral authority to fix their mouths to talk about accountability, transparency and honest government. Bahamians do not even know that the FNM government changed the agreement with Baha Mar, giving Sarkis Izmirlian card blanche on what he could charge the Bahamas government for the construction of less of less than 2 miles of road with no questions asked.

Ah well, so much for transparency in government and protecting the public’s interest.

We have seen this movie before; the script has not changed.

The constitution provides for a statute office of the Auditor General to audit all public accounts and report the findings to the House. The standing public accounts committee is empowered to send for persons and papers and the country has a RBPF to investigate and act on malfeasance where the empirical evidence warrants such action. The Police Act allows for the Commissioner of Police to prosecute without the knowledge or permission of the Attorney General.

These institutions and instruments of the state must be allowed to perform the intended constitutional functions and duties without the interference of the political directorate polluting the process for selfish and corrupt political gain through lies, half-truths, political bluster and political posturing.

EDITOR
BAHAMAS SCOOP