The BAMSI blaze in January 2015.
By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
MONTAGU MP Richard Lightbourn yesterday demanded that the government “come clean” over the fire damaged dorm at the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Sciences Institute (BAMSI) amid lingering concerns over the building’s insurance policy.
He told the House of Assembly that the Christie administration “did not understand the meaning of transparency”, stressing that questions about the policy should not be left unanswered nearly two months after the fire.
Mr Lightbourn alleged that the government negligently allowed BAMSI to be constructed in the absence of insurance.
It has been more than six weeks since fire destroyed one of the male dorms at BAMSI in Andros on January 15. The government has still not made clear who will pay for the dorm’s damage and whether it will be demolished due to the severity of that damage.
Mr Lightbourn spoke in the aftermath of a report in The Nassau Guardian, which revealed that according to a Ministry of Works file, a quote for insurance coverage was provided to the government, but there was never any certificate as proof to validate the existence of a policy. The quote was not from Southern Alliance, the company named by the building’s contractor as the insurer, the newspaper reported.
“We have members opposite some six weeks or more after the incident (who) are still fluttering around and trying to find out whether the property was actually insured,” Mr Lightbourn said.
“Because the information received at this point seems to suggest that there was never any insurance in place. That is a very serious concern to the county when they realise that this government has been negligent to allow this to happen.
“Now the member for Cat Island (Works Minister Philip “Brave” Davis) did indicate that he was led to understand that the policy had lapsed. Well if it lapsed it would suggest that there was a policy in place at some point. I would have expected the government at this point to produce proof of this to us in parliament and to the country.”
Mr Lightbourn added: “We still seek, after six weeks, to find out whether or not the property was insured – that is a simple matter. Anybody has damage to their property the first thing they do is find out the position with regard to security and insurance. Why would it be such a problem for this government to discover what the factual position is? Come clean and tell us what the position is (but) we believe we know it by virtue of their silence.”
Standing on a point of order, Mr Davis responded saying he would provide a comprehensive update to the House when he was afforded an opportunity to do so. He went on to tell parliamentarians that “he did not march to the drum of anyone”.
Following the session, Mr Davis told The Tribune he would speak on the matter tomorrow.
Last week Wednesday, he told The Tribune that he too had doubts about the company, which the building’s contractor, Audley Hanna, said had insured the building.
Last month, Mr Davis told the House of Assembly that the dorm was not insured at the time of the incident due to negligence on the part of the contractor. He explained to parliamentarians that the contractor failed to pay the annual insurance premium that covered the structure.
Mr Hanna, of Paradigm Construction, later told a reporter that he thought the building was insured and named Southern Alliance as the company responsible.
However, that company is not listed in the telephone book nor is it registered with the Insurance Commission of The Bahamas (ICB). Sources at the ICB have suggested that if the company was in fact responsible for insuring the BAMSI dormitory it would have had to have been done without the ICB’s knowledge.