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Still No Financial Declarations

By TANEKA THOMPSON

Tribune News Editor

tthompson@tribunemedia.net

WHILE a group of parliamentarians last week suggested their salaries be subject to an independent review with a view to increasing how much they are paid, the government has not made public the annual financial disclosures of elected officials since 2012.

The disclosures were published in April 2012, weeks before the May 7 general election, and detailed the finances of the 133 candidates who vied for seats. At the time, there were 56 millionaires on that list.

In the absence of the public disclosures, it is unclear how many members of Parliament are obeying the law which requires them to disclose annually. Nor can Bahamians ascertain how much each MP is worth and how their assets have grown or diminished since assuming office. When contacted for comment Allan Benjamin, chairman of the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), would not say if members of Parliament and senators have complied with the Public Disclosure Act.

Last week Mr Benjamin said he could not give details on the issue and told this newspaper to read the laws governing public disclosures.

“We can only submit our report to Cabinet,” he said. “We send our reports to Cabinet and they decide if they are (printed in a gazette).”

When pressed about why the information has not been made public since 2012 Mr Benjamin said: “We can only send them in, that’s all we can do, we can’t go down to the gazette and say print it.”

When asked if the report has been submitted to Cabinet he said: “We have done what we are supposed to do.”

MPs are required by law to turn in their disclosures to the PDC by March each year. A summary of the declarations shall be published in a gazette, the law says.

The Act states that 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.

According to the law, if a Parliamentarian deliberately does not disclose property owned in the Bahamas, the land can be seized and forfeited to the government.

Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr Hubert Minnis urged the government to publish the financial disclosures so they can be scrutinised by the public. He added that elected officials are not above the law and must comply with the Act.

“You can’t have laws enforced for one group and not for another,” Dr Minnis said on Friday.

“Until we have a law-abiding nation we will have the problems we face today compounded. We need that shift where the public knows what’s going on in government and in the country so that if the MPs are doing wrong it can be dealt with.”

The Killarney MP told The Tribune that he has submitted his disclosures to the Commission. He said he instructed his FNM parliamentarians to do the same, but could not confirm up to press time if they had complied.

Dr Minnis said his party will continue to push the government to enforce the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which was passed in 2012 by the Ingraham administration, so that people will have greater access to information that should be of public record.

He also said if the government fails to enforce the FOIA, the FNM will make the legislation a priority if it wins the next general election.

Dr Minnis added that passing an anti-corruption bill to deal with “corrupt officials” also will be top on the agenda for the FNM if the party returns to government.

On Friday State Minister for Finance Michael Halkitis said he was unaware of the status of the disclosures and could not say if they had been presented to Cabinet.

The issue of MPs’ incomes came into focus last week after a House of Assembly select committee recommended that the salaries of members of Parliament be reviewed.

The group noted that MPs have not received a salary increase in 25 years. The committee also recommended that the salaries of the deputy speaker of the House, the leader of government business and the leader of opposition business be reviewed.

Currently the Speaker of the House has a salary of $80,000 a year while his deputy receives $32,000. An MP’s salary is $28,000 a year.

Comments

sheeprunner12 4 years, 11 months ago

It all starts and ends with the Prime Minister and Cabinet . theres no Ombudsman, no independent Commissions or other bodies that can compel the Government (PM & cabinet) to comply or disclose what isnot in their (PM/Cabinet) best interest....... It is all about their self preservation, not about "WE THE PEOPLE".................... SMH

Now Minnis ............... a multi-millionnaire says the FNM is not supporting the pay raise!!!!!! But his members on the Committee supported the position taken by the majority.

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ThisIsOurs 4 years, 11 months ago

FNM is in disarray. Duane Sands is putting forward very sensible ideas, and it doesn't appear that he is reading from a prepared script as Bran is. If they care about the party and indeed the future of the country they should put him forward in a big way. Big as in, he's the next PM.

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SP 4 years, 11 months ago

"The Act states that 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."

Carry out the dam law! This same group of PIRATES will send their police henchmen for any one of us in breach of the law!

Throw them all OUT!

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 11 months ago

Its a Catch 22................ we need a government and special interest clliques run the parties that put forward candidates at elections........... thats the reality

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 11 months ago

Status Quo situation ............. we elect MPs, winning party leader becomes PM (dictator).......... who controls Cabinet, public service, Commissions, law enforcement, Courts, elections, etc.

Which Bahamian Prime Minister would give up that power???????????????????

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PastorTroy 4 years, 11 months ago

Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas.

READ ABOUT IT HERE!

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/ar...">https://firstlook.org/theintercept/ar...

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 11 months ago

According to the Official Gazette............ Hon. Hubert Minnis seems to be the only MP who is in regular compliance with this Act. At least we know that he is worth $10 million more or less. For the others, its a guessing game............................................................. we are left to speculate

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ArtOvation 4 years, 11 months ago

We have to make sure they ALL declare before any more business goes on. Mr. Benjamin says he is doing his job, now The Bahamian people need to do ours and make elected officials ACCOUNTABLE:
http://laws.bahamas.gov.bs/cms/images...">http://laws.bahamas.gov.bs/cms/images...

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 11 months ago

HOW???????????? VOTE???????????? REVOLT??????????

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 11 months ago

It is time that the Chief Justice or Governor general step in and make a statement about the State of our Legislature. It is becoming almost a national embarrassment.

Regardless of their political appointment (both by Hubert Ingraham), they owe the country this intervention............. based on their positions in the hierarchy of government.

Otherwise, we are going to become a laughing stock in our region............. world

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242orgetslu 4 years, 11 months ago

                 PLEASE READ AND PASS ON!

This is the link where the full story is: http://si.com/vault/article/magazine/...">http://si.com/vault/article/magazine/...

Across the inky-blue Gulf Stream from Florida, near the sheer edge of the Great Bahama Bank, a new island is emerging from the sea. Although it bears the appealing name Ocean Cay, this new island is not, and never will be, a palm-fringed paradise of the sort the Bahamian government promotes in travel ads. No brace of love doves would ever choose Ocean Cay for a honeymoon; no beauty in a brief bikini would waste her sweetness on such desert air. Of all the 3,000 islands and islets and cays in the Bahamas, Ocean Cay is the least lovely. It is a flat, roughly rectangular island which, when completed, will be 200 acres and will resemble a barren swatch of the Sahara. Ocean Cay does not need allure. It is being dredged up from the seabed by the Dillingham Corporation of Hawaii for an explicit purpose that will surely repel more tourists than it will attract. In simplest terms, Ocean Cay is a big sandpile on which the Dillingham Corporation will pile more sand that it will subsequently sell on the U.S. mainland. The sand that Dillingham is dredging is a specific form of calcium carbonate called aragonite, which is used primarily in the manufacture of cement and as a soil neutralizer. For the past 5,000 years or so, with the flood of the tide, waters from the deep have moved over the Bahamian shallows, usually warming them in the process so that some of the calcium carbonate in solution precipitated out. As a consequence, today along edges of the Great Bahama Bank there are broad drifts, long bars and curving barchans of pure aragonite. Limestone, the prime source of calcium carbonate, must be quarried, crushed and recrushed, and in some instances refined before it can be utilized. By contrast, the aragonite of the Bahamian shallows is loose and shifty stuff, easily sucked up by a hydraulic dredge from a depth of one or two fathoms. The largest granules in the Bahamian drifts are little more than a millimeter in diameter. Because of its fineness and purity, the Bahamian aragonite can be used, agriculturally or industrially, without much fuss and bother. It is a unique endowment. There are similar aragonite drifts scattered here and there in the warm shallows of the world, but nowhere as abundantly as in the Bahamas. In exchange for royalties, the Dillingham Corporation has exclusive rights in four Bahamian areas totaling 8,235 square miles. In these areas there are about four billion cubic yards—roughly 7.5 billion long tons—of aragonite. At rock-bottom price the whole deposit is worth more than $15 billion. An experienced dredging company like Dillingham should be able to suck up 10 million tons a year, which will net the Bahamian government an annual royalty of about $600,000.

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