By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
AT least eight government ministers have not filed their public disclosures for this year as mandated by law, according to their own admissions.
Only nine out of 38 members of Parliament have confirmed to The Tribune that their financial disclosures are up to date. According to the Public Disclosures Act, the disclosures must be turned into the Public Disclosure Commission by March each year, documenting assets and liabilities of the previous year.
According to the Public Disclosures Act, a summary of the declarations shall be published in a gazette and any person who does not comply with the law is liable to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than two years.
WHAT THEY SAID
Dr Perry Gomez: “No, I’m about to get it done. It’s just for this year .”
Hope Strachan: “Yes, I am up to date 100 per cent.”
Cleola Hamilton: “Very much yes.”
Damien Gomez: “If my accountant honours his promise, it will be done by Wednesday. For this year and last year, because it was filed incorrectly last year.”
Edison Key: “I’m up to date as far as I know. I filed 2013 from long time.”
Dr Danny Johnson: “As of this Wednesday, I should be completely up to date.”
Jerome Fitzgerald: “I’m pretty sure I’m up to date. I filed for this year.”
Shane Gibson: “I haven’t filed for 2013 yet, but I’m current.”
Greg Moss: “My personal position is that in the same way that disclosure of personal information on your car decal on your windshield opens persons up to being stalked, I think that’s dangerous information. I’m totally for disclosure, but to a central agency on application showing a reasonable cause. I’ve done it but I don’t think it’s wise.”
Dion Smith: “I’ll have to check my accountant, and get back to you.”
If a Parliamentarian deliberately does not disclose property owned in the Bahamas, the land can be seized and forfeited to the government.
Members of Parliament were polled by The Tribune on the status of their annual reports outside the House of Assembly yesterday.
Prime Minister Perry Christie did not take questions from the media. However, the following parliamentarians had no comment when asked about the status of their disclosures: Bain and Grants Town MP Dr Bernard Nottage, minister of national security; Gaming Board Chairman and Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins; and FNM MPs Neko Grant and Richard Lightbourn, who represent Central Grand Bahama and Montagu, respectively.
Deputy Prime Minister Brave Davis was unsure about the status of his disclosures and told The Tribune the papers should be filed this week - if it had not already been done.
Mr Davis was joined by Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez, Central & South Eleuthera MP, and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr Daniel Johnson, Carmichael MP, who also said they hoped to bring their disclosures up to date in a matter of days.
Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis, MP for Golden Isles, admitted that he had missed the deadline for disclosure, but said the documents will be filed “any day now”.
Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle said he did not know if his disclosures were filed, adding that it was a “matter of public record”.
Yesterday, Yamacraw MP Melanie Griffin, minister of social services, said she was also working on her disclosures as a matter of priority, but had still not completed her annual reports.
Golden Gates MP Shane Gibson, minister of labour; North Andros and Berry Islands MP Perry Gomez, minister of health; Pineridge MP Dr Michael Darville, minister of Grand Bahama and Marco City MP Gregory Moss all said that they were up to date for 2012’s filing as far as they could recall - but had not filed yet for 2013.
FNM MP for St Anne’s Hubert Chipman said he will be up to date after he files his disclosures today.
The following MPs said that they were up to date with their disclosures: House Speaker Dr Kendal Major, Garden Hills; Jerome Fitzgerald, Marathon; Renward Wells, Bamboo Town; Hope Strachan, Sea Breeze; Cleola Hamilton, South Beach MP; and FNM MPs Theo Neilly, North Eleuthera; and Edison Key, Central and South Abaco.
Nassau Village MP Dion Smith; and Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Transport, said they were unsure over their status, and could not confirm yesterday.
Mr Smith, deputy House speaker, said: “I’ll have to check my accountant and get back to you.”
Although the disclosures are meant to be published in a national gazette, Mr Moss told The Tribune the information should only be accessible to the media and wider public by request to a central agency. He said that it was unwise to release the information indiscriminately without reasonable cause, but noted that he was compliance with the law.
Mr Moss said: “My personal position is that in the same way that disclosure of personal information on your car decal on your windshield lets someone look up your name and address (which) opens persons up to being stalked, I think that’s dangerous information. I’m totally for disclosure, but to a central agency on application showing a reasonable cause. I’ve done it but I don’t think it’s wise (to release it widely to the public).”
Last week, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr Hubert Minnis renewed calls for the government to publish the financial disclosures of parliamentarians. He said that he has complied with the law.
At that time, FNM MP for East Grand Bahama Peter Turnquest confirmed that he was up to date on his disclosures.
Dr Minnis told The Tribune that he had yet to see a single report from the PDC this term. Dr Minnis, as leader of the Opposition, is entitled to the PDC’s report before it is publicly gazetted.
FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner admitted that she had not filed her annual financial disclosures since 2012.
Members of Parliament and Senators are required by law to file annual disclosures of their assets and liabilities.
The Tribune was unable to reach the following parliamentarians yesterday: Fred Mitchell, Fox Hill; Kenred Dorsett, Southern Shores; V Alfred Gray, MICAL; Obie Wilchcombe, West End and Bimini; Ryan Pinder, Elizabeth; Picewell Forbes, South Andros; Leslie Miller, Tall Pines; and Anthony Moss, Exuma and Ragged Island.
When contacted on the lack of disclosures, former PLP Cabinet Minister George Smith criticised what he described as a “relaxing” of Parliamentary laws and standards.
He added that the House of Assembly picked up “bad habits” after 1992, which have led to widespread tardiness of members, and the colloquialisation of established institutions.
Mr Smith said: “I cannot understand why politicians could so easily ignore the law when the genesis of that Act came about in a time when there was great heartache and people needed the sense that politicians had to disclose their finances - as the case in most responsible countries.”
“It is required by law but I think one of the tragedies after 1992 was this sense of relaxing things, and politicians just decided well I’m not going to bother with it. But they criticise the public and encourage the police to pick up criminals for theft,” he added.