By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday claimed the company reportedly responsible for the insurance of the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute’s (BAMSI) fire damaged dormitory “does not exist”.
The Killarney MP insisted that Southern Alliance, the company identified by both the government and the contractor responsible for the building, is not in fact a registered company, and therefore would not be able to insure the nearly $2m male dormitory recently destroyed by fire.
When contacted about these claims yesterday, contractor Audley Hanna of Paradigm Construction would not respond to questions.
“The deputy prime minister had said the insurance had lapsed, insured by Southern Alliance,” Dr Minnis said yesterday.
“We have checked Southern Alliance and that is not a registered company in The
Bahamas and therefore there has to be some explanation to the Bahamian people as to what exactly is going on.”
Last week, Mr Hanna told The Nassau Guardian that he thought the dorm was insured by Southern Alliance at the time of the fire. The Nassau Guardian also reported that the company is not listed as a registered firm on the Insurance Commission of the Bahamas’ website.
While on a tour of the 800-acre agricultural site with a delegation from his party, Dr Minnis said the “already heavily taxed” Bahamian people should not be punished for government’s lackadaisical actions.
“This administration was negligent, it was the job of the government to ensure that the insurance was in place. They wrote the contract, the government should have made sure that this was covered in the contract. If a contract needed extension they should have made sure that it was extended, so the government was obviously negligent,” said Dr Minnis.
“The contractor said the insurance company was Southern Alliance, our investigation doesn’t show any identification for this company. It doesn’t exist. So how can an insurance lapse if it doesn’t exist, that needs clarification between the contractor and the government.”
Dr Minnis added: “But the people are already taxed heavily and we cannot be asked to replace a building at our cost, totalling $2m to $3m.”
He explained that the irresponsible nature of the PLP government was to blame for the circumstances at BAMSI. According to Dr Minnis, the proper infrastructure had been put in place on the island to prevent an arson attack.
“What we see here today, the fire destruction of one of the complexes is very disappointing. It goes to show how lackadaisical and irresponsible the PLP government is. You should not have a contract out without insurance in place so that if anything happens to the building it will be covered. Covered by the contractor and not by the people.
“There has to be some explanation by the deputy prime minister as to how something could lapse when it isn’t registered. We need some information and some clarification.
“The deputy prime minister (Philip “Brave” Davis) said that it had lapsed, meaning one was in place and it subsequently, for some reason wasn’t extended,” added Dr Minnis.
Last week, Mr Davis, minister of works, revealed that the dormitory was not insured at the time of the fire due to negligence on the part of the contractor.
Speaking in the House of Assembly, Mr Davis said the contractor, Audley Hanna failed to pay the annual insurance premium that covered the structure.
When contacted by The Tribune, Mr Hanna refused to comment on the matter, referring all question to his lawyer, Whitney Bastian.
Shortly after the January 15 fire, Mr Hanna estimated that it would cost the government around $120,000 to repair the damage. However, he said that projection was expected to increase.
Yesterday Dr Minnis pegged the cost of repair at $2m to $3m.
“You can’t ask the Bahamian people to come up with an additional $2m when the government has been totally irresponsible. In addition to that, when this building is being replaced it must fall at the footstep of the contractor and not the Bahamian people.
“From our estimation and observation the building needs to come down, and you’re talking about an excess of $2m to replace this.”
Dave “Davo” Moxey, 50, of Fresh Creek, Andros was charged with arson on February 16. He is accused of setting fire to the dormitory.