DAMIEN GOMEZ Q C ON THE FNM’S CORRUPT COVID SPENDING | 29 January 2021
A new report by anti-corruption non-profit Transparency International reveals that a major challenge facing countries today is ensuring that funds for COVID treatment and relief are “not lost to corruption and reach the intended recipients”.
These concerns are likely to resonate with Bahamians, who see the Minnis government boasting about millions spent and wonder how so little of it seems to reach their families.
In the group’s Corruption Perceptions Index, The Bahamas dropped one spot in the rankings from last year.
It’s important to remember that a country’s standing is based in part on an evaluation of existing legislation, which can’t tell the full story. It doesn’t mean much to have the right rules in place if those rules aren’t enforced. For example, although in The Bahamas our Emergency Measures regulations feature a requirement that expenditures and suppliers be reported to Parliament, the Prime Minister has openly disregarded that requirement, preferring to keep that information hidden from the people’s representatives and the public.
In their report’s section featuring recommendations, Transparency International states that it is essential for countries to ensure open and transparent contracting: “Many governments have drastically relaxed procurement processes. These rushed and opaque procedures provide ample opportunity for corruption and the diversion of public resources. Contracting processes must remain open and transparent to combat wrongdoing, identify conflicts of interest and ensure fair pricing.”
In The Bahamas, every day it becomes harder and harder to reconcile the government’s bragging about millions spent with the hunger, anguish and suffering that are widespread across the country.