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THIS WEEK CONTINUED…

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discount cialis times;”>Mitchell on the APIS 2016 Bill:

viagra buy times;”>Mitchell introduced and tabled the Advanced Passenger Information System Bill 2016. This piece of legislation is intended to cause for the sharing of passenger and crew information on commercial airlines and sea vessels entering and departing The Bahamas.

 

The objects and reasons for the bill is to allow CARICOM countries like The Bahamas to have “access to the APIS and data” which can be shared with INTERPOL (the International Criminal Police Organization) and other national, regional and international intelligence, enforcement or security agencies or centers approved by the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement, or CONSOLE.

 

Debate on the APIS bill is not expected until after the 2016/2017 budget debate and passage of the said budget. Prime Minister Christie is expected to deliver his government’s budget statement on Wednesday, 25th May 2016 to kick off the debate.    

 

 

Mitchell on the question of Parliamentary privilege:

Characterizing the Save the Bays email injunction as “foolishness,” Foreign Affairs Minister the Hon. Fred Mitchell quoted extensively from the constitution in support of the freedom of expression and independence of the Parliament.

 

Quoting from article IX of the Bill of Rights 1689 which states “the freedom of speech and debate or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament,” Mitchell reiterated his position on the court matter as he stood to his feet in the House on the question of privilege.

 

“Mr. Speaker, I adopt those words as if they were my own” said Mitchell.

 

“I go further, I want to make this clear, I do not consider myself bound by any injunction issued by any court in so far as it applies to any attempt to stifle what I say and do in this place. I will act accordingly.”

 

He also had some choice words for parliamentarians who expressed support for the injunction either through silence or who opposed the revelation of the email contents purported to be the personal property of members of Save the Bays.   

 

“I want to say also that those who for political convenience now find this uncomfortable cannot have their cake and eat it too.  You cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time.”

 

Hanna-Martin on the RTD audit:

Minister of Transport and Aviation the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin commented again on the recent audit of the Road Traffic Department by the Office of the Auditor General that revealed that the department sustained financial losses amounting to some $10 million during the fiscal year ending June 2015 and some $47 million between July 2012 and June 2015. The Minister told House members that the Controller of Road Traffic delivers estimates and a dollar amount on the number of license plates to be issued for example, but there must be an accurate accounting of the exact number of functional and active motor vehicles on the roads of New Providence to be able to determine the exact revenue to be collected from motor vehicle registration.

 

“What the Auditor General does he makes an estimate of what he says is the total amount of license plates issued – he says 374,000. Now we have to determine whether we think that is the case in New Providence. And he says in that forecast the revenue should be $73 million but if you cut it in half – it is a speculative figure, he says that the amount – the loss would be during that period to June 2015, $10 million. This has been a continuing reality in the Road Traffic Department, including the previous administration. And I think you know we have to make an analysis of the amount of vehicles licensed during that period and the average amount of revenue made and to see what the continuing loss was based on the forecast” said the Minister.

 

She assured House members however that come October 2016, vehicle license automation will roll out and in December 2016, automated drivers’ license will roll out, custom made as the automation process will be completed.            

 

 

Prime Minister Christie: Liberty acquisition makes BTC “hugely valuable”

While addressing the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), Prime Minister Christie opined that the $7.4 billion acquisition of Cable and Wireless (CWC) by Liberty Global makes the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) hugely valuable. He was hopeful of a new competitor entering the market but was doubtful that this increased competition would result in lower market prices. He also clarified that the Bahamas government still owns 51% of BTC and CWC owns 49%.

 

“…that takeover company turns BTC into a hugely valuable entity. We (the Bahamas government) still have 49% plus 2% which we negotiated, and that remains.

 

“But, hopefully the market will have a competitor coming, and logically when competition comes in even though I have my own doubts about, prices should go down. I am not sure that is going to happen” said the Prime Minister.

 

The Prime Minister confirmed that the Bahamas government is yet to approve the multi-billion dollar merger, even though URCA has.    

 

 

Dorsett and Storr demand Tribune retraction

The Tribune reported in its Wednesday edition this week that their investigation into the tabling of audit reports of government corporations, departments and agencies revealed that it has been years since audit reports were tabled. The investigation period covered was several years. The list includes the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA), the Hotel Corporation, the College of The Bahamas, the Water and Sewerage Corporation, ZNS and the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC). It is the responsibility of the substantive cabinet minister to bring the audit results to parliament.

 

Well the Housing Minister, the Hon. Kenred Dorsett, and BMC chairman Sen. Alex Storr were quick to respond, stating that contrary to the Tribune’s story, they were compliant with the law and that it was the FNM administration that failed to audit public accounts and tabled the same in a timely manner as the article reported.  

 

“Contrary to reports in the Tribune morning daily, the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC) has been conducting audits as required by law since the Christie Administration took office. In 2012, when I took the helm, as Chairman, at BMC it was discovered that there had not be an audit carried out since 2008. To remedy this, we contracted the firm of Beneby & Co. which produced audited financial reports for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.  This of course was a herculean task given the amount of transactions and clients that BMC has. These audited financials were turned over to Minister of the Environment and Housing, Hon. Kenred Dorsett. They were approved for tabling by Cabinet and tabled in the House of Assembly on May 27th, 2015 by Minister Dorsett.  The audit report for 2013 has been completed and was sent to the Cabinet office to be approved for tabling.”

 

The statement said that given the above facts, “we ask that the Tribune correct the front page article which incorrectly states, “Records show that financials were consistently tabled under the former Ingraham Administration, but have not been tabled since.”    

 

 

In passing…

After winning their 2015 court case against the government regarding overtime pay, the Police Staff Association (PSA) won the appeal on the ruling on Wednesday of this week. The PSA charged that on separate occasions during 2013 and 2014, junior police officers worked overtime and were entitled to millions in compensation. The court agrees.

 

During his address at the 2016 Annual General Meeting of the BCCEC, Prime Minister Christie announced the renovation of the Exuma International Airport at a cost of $15 – $20 million with construction scheduled to commence later this year. This includes a new terminal building and taxiway that will support economic development there such as the Sandals Emerald Bay Great Exuma Resort. Stantec Consultant Services have advised the government that the price tag to upgrade the 28 Family airports stood at around $150 million. Christie also indicated that similar renovations are planned for the North Eleuthera airport and the airport at Rock Sound in support of the Four Seasons Resort. Rock Sound is subject to advice from the consultants as this airport is prone to flooding just as the Deadman’s Cay airport in Long Island is.    

 

Speaking with the media following his address at the BCCEC’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday at Palm Cay, Prime Minister Christie revealed that very little if any financial benefit was gained by the country from the sale of BTC to CWC in 2011. “The sales price, when one took into consideration all of the expenses associated therewith, including an amount that had no limit – no ceiling put to it for the contribution for pension that was agreed to be paid – that (figure) went from $39 million to over $90 million and I heard the Minister of Labour say today $99 million which has to be paid so when you start to net whatever the balance is, it will be a negative balance that BTC has cost more than it has given us” said Mr. Christie.  

 

“I am one of them too” on tee-shirts at Haitian Flag Day sends a message of “inclusiveness” was the interpretation of Prime Minister Christie when he delivered an unscheduled greeting to the Haitian community on Flag Day last weekend. The Prime Minister said he attended as other political leaders did as a show of respect to the community and what they were doing with Flag Day. Secondly, he told the crowd that he is “one of them too” – meaning that within the context of The Bahamas, we are all to be seen as one people. Some on social media have used the words of the Prime Minister to suggest that he was saying he was Haitian-Bahamian.

 

Tragedy struck a Nassau Village family overnight on Wednesday when Brady and Princess Simms are believed to have succumbed to injuries sustained from carbon monoxide poisoning or asphyxiation from a portable generator used to supply temporary power to their home. Their 8 month old grandchild survived but is listed in critical condition at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

 

“As a result of these court cases that have taken place up in Freeport, where they have challenged the right of the Immigration to exclude non nationals from this country…we are going to amend the law to make that clearer and to make it possible to certainly reinforce our view which is that Immigration has the absolute discretion on who comes into The Bahamas and who has to go out.” This is the intent of the Bahamas government when it comes to the enforcement of the country’s immigration laws said Immigration Minister the Hon. Fred Mitchell to reporters this week. This comes nearly two years after a new immigration policy and law were implemented in November 2014 and the months following; the new law require all non Nationals to have documented evidence of their right to live and work in The Bahamas. “As uncomfortable as it makes people feel, they have to get registered in order to remain in The Bahamas” said Mitchell.

 

Foreign Affairs Minister the Hon. Fred Mitchell revealed on Wednesday that Bahamians will need a new passport come 2017. “A new passport has been designed – new systems have been put in place and the system is being ginned up to roll out in January (2017). So the old system is breaking down and the vendors don’t support it anymore so there are lots of challenges at the moment” said Mitchell. The public campaign for this new passport will begin in January 2017. Bahamians were required to secure machine readable passports by November 2015 as mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The government plans to reveal the new security features of this new passport as early as next week. The new passport corresponds with the new $18 million border control system being installed. The roll out date is January 2017.  

 

The rain did not stop the 2016 Frank “Pancho” Rahming Primary School track and field championships. Students, teachers, coaches and government officials braved the rain on Wednesday morning as Youth and Sports Minister Dr. Daniel Johnson officially opened the event. The closing ceremonies were held on Friday after a three-day successful event.

 

Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson confirmed on Thursday of this week that the police are in fact investigating claims of fraud at the Department of Social Services in the wake of an Auditor General’s report. The Auditor General’s report revealed that staff members at the department were helping themselves to food coupons allocated to assist the poor. It was reported earlier in the week that the department had failed to call in the police to investigate these claims of fraud and the opposition slammed the government over its “failure” to do so.    

 

The Progressive Liberal Party ratified incumbent MP’s the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald (Marathon) and the Hon. Michael Halkitis (Golden Isles) at the party’s monthly meeting on Thursday night. Fitzgerald is the Minister of Education, Science and Technology and Halkitis is the State Minister for Finance. This brings the number of ratified candidates to four.

— 

Elcott Coleby

Deputy Director

Bahamas Information Services

326-5833

477-7006