Where is the money?

EDITOR, The Tribune. THE Nassau Guardian reported as its headline on November 23, 2011, that NEMA can't account for 20 million relief dollars that came in during Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances. What is even more disturbing is that this incident took seven years to be publicized. Seven years. The Director of NEMA at the time was Carl Smith. He is now the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security. The former Prime Minister's statement on the missing $20m was puzzling at best. The Nassau Guardian quoted the Rt Hon Perry Christie as saying that "he was not briefed on the matter and expressed surprise over the amount of money involved". He said that he presumes that a police investigation is going on. The Tribune reported that some people have gone to court and that proceedings are continuing. In my opinion, this is unacceptable. The National Emergency Management Administration is a public entity and when funds are unaccounted for the public needs to be informed in detail as to what is going on and in a reasonable time period. Seven years in my view is not a reasonable time period. What is the Bahamas Information Services role in this? Aren't they mandated to issue press releases on government business? $20m is a lot of money. The apparent complicity in alleged illegal and/or unauthorised activities at the highest levels in government must cease. Is it a case of I can't prosecute you because my name might be called? Our parliamentarians have yet to disclose their assets which are a requirement by law each year. Last year there was a big fuss over the constituency funding in which parliamentarians could not account for monies spent on their constituency. Good public policy mandates a paper trail. Additionally, why haven't we heard from the Ministry of Education on the finalised audit report of the Loan Scholarship Programme? Back in August of this year, the dailies were reporting alleged improprieties with the accounting practices of certain employees. Millions of dollars have gone missing and/or are unaccounted for. The public should be made aware of these findings. These items should not be kept for the privileged few sitting at the round table. Let me reiterate. All public matters should be publicly disclosed. The Bahamas Mortgage Corporation is another government entity where public funds allegedly have been mishandled. The jury is still out on this, but I must give credit to the candid updates by Dr Duane Sands and his staff on the state of affairs at the corporation. I believe that his honesty thus far can serve as a model that government officials present and future can use to ensure that public activity is made public and that all improprieties in government entities are publicly disclosed. A trend has developed in the Bahamas. Accountability seems to be a foreign word in some of our government ministries. As a citizen of this country, I just want what's best for Bahamians. The current economic climate that we are in does not allow us any room for error with the public purse. Tighter measures need to be enforced and those charged with this responsibility need to know that if they fail to carry out this mandate, they will face severe consequences. Where is the money? I think all right thinking Bahamians would like to know. DEHAVILLAND MOSS Nassau, December 7, 2011.


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