FAILURES IN ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY ARE STRANGLING ECONOMIC GROWTH, AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Sep 19, 2023

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hon. Michael Pintard

Leader, Free National Movemen

NEW PROVIDENCE, BAHAMAS – The performance of the Davis administration – and in particular the current sordid scandal involving Keith Bell and his inexplicable actions at the Department of Immigration – brings into the spotlight yet again how utterly unaccountable and non-transparent this PLP government continues to be.

For some time now successive administrations (to varying degrees) have failed to fully embrace the critical tenets of accountable and transparent governance. in some cases, Bills have been brought to Parliament but never debated. Laws have been passed but never fully enacted nor enforced.

The PLP came to office with a documented electoral mandate to improve accountability and transparency. But to them that simply has meant more public relations and staged press events. Yet, this is not what it means to be fully accountable and transparent. We believe it is well beyond time for the government to give full life to the principles of open government.

We recommend a number of measures – some that can commence immediately and others for the medium term. The FNM is committing to the Bahamian people that it will do these things immediately upon coming to office, should the PLP fail to live up to these and other promises it made to improve accountability and transparency.

The PLP government must immediately do the following:

  1. 1)  Cause a full and independent investigation to be undertaken by a competent entity on the Immigration matters in the public domain. The Prime Minister was big on audits and investigations for matters under the former administration. Certainly, he will bring the same energy and zest to the situation at Immigration. The Ministry of Housing and Transport similarly requires independent investigation.
  2. 2)  Set an appointment date for the full enactment of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The first FOIA bill was brought to Parliament more than ten years ago. The current act was passed in 2017. By January 2024, we must have the full enactment of the FOIA.
  3. 3)  Fully empower the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and require public officials to provide requested information and appear before the PAC as requested to answer important questions on government affairs.

 

FAILURES IN ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY ARE STRANGLING ECONOMIC GROWTH, AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

  1. 4)  Follow the Procurement Act and publish the details of all applicable public sector contracts. The former Public Procurement Act (PPA) of 2021 and the current PPA of 2023 both require publication of the summary details of all government contracts awarded. It also requires an annual report on all contracts – the first of which was due October 2022. It is a sign of utter contempt of the Bahamian people to openly break the law on an ongoing basis.
  2. 5)  Establish a firm and imminent time for the debate and passage of the Ombudsman Bill. This bill already laid in Parliament must be debated and passed no later than October of this year and brought into effect immediately thereafter. There must be an Ombudsman office fully staffed and established no later than March 2024.

The government will have the full support of the Opposition to make these things happen within the mentioned time frame – including suspension of the summer recess to fulfil any required legislative requirements that may be necessary. Any funding required can be obtained through the Budget Reserve appropriations already approved by Parliament.

Over the medium term horizon – within the next 18 months – the government must take steps to implement the following:

  1. 1)  Establish Select Parliamentary Committees on Immigration, Crime, Education, FTX Collapse, Economic Empowerment that would have cross party membership and be empowered to engage stakeholders, facilitate research and analysis and make specific recommendations to improve the facilitation and delivery of key strategic improvements.
  2. 2)  Reinstate the administrative and criminal penalties into the Public Finance Management Act 2023 that were inexplicably removed from the previous interation of the Act. This was and remains a brazen action that removed much needed penalties for financial misconduct by public officials.
  3. 3)  Implement the full suite of Anti-Corruption legislation that would include a Public Anti-Corruption Act, a Public Officials Code of Conduct Act, and an Integrity Commissions Act. The Integrity Commission would be an independent body fully empowered to investigate, report on, and – where deemed appropriate – recommend individuals for criminal sanction on matters related to allegations of public corruption.
  4. 4)  Update the Statutory Provisions related to the office of the Auditor General to further expand and entrench the powers of that office. The budgetary and Human Resources of the Auditor General’s department should fall under the remit of the Parliamentary Services Commission as the Office is not accountable to the Executive branch of government. The remit of the Auditor General’s office must be expanded to expressly include Management audits and management process reviews.

    July 30, 2023

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