By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
DEMOCRATIC National Alliance (DNA) leader Branville McCartney has raised concerns with operations at the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS), suggesting that "political corruption" had "stymied" proposed landfill developments around the country.
Mr McCartney criticised the Christie administration over the "millions wasted" on failed waste management plans.
His comments on Friday followed Renew Bahamas' confirmation on Wednesday that it is in “active” talks with the Government to alter the terms of its five-year landfill management contract after “substantial” losses showed its original financial projections were invalid.
The financial issues came to light after the Free National Movement revealed an e-mail sent by Renew Bahamas to one of its vendors, informing them that it was unable to make payment in full for services rendered until there was a “resolution” to the discussions with the Christie administration.
Mr McCartney on Friday detailed four separate grants totalling $23.5m that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) made to the Bahamas over a five-year period, for plans to build two waste facilities in New Providence and up to 18 sites throughout the family islands.
The former Bamboo Town MP said the plans, if carried out, would have provided "real and sustained" relief to scores of Bahamian families.
"The question is why weren’t they," Mr McCartney said in a statement. "Why, with the clear backing and financial support provided by the IDB and monies the government previously invested, were these plans never executed?And where have the millions invested disappeared? We are informed that the Bahamas has repaid to date a significant amount of those funds.
"Sadly, the answer is yet another example of the endemic political corruption which has stymied development in this country for more than four decades."
According to the former junior cabinet minister, a report tabled by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) detailed possible fraud and overpayments in connection with the proposed projects.
He said the report detailed the alleged "breakdown of internal control" at DEHS and disparity in payments.
"The waste and inefficiencies, which resulted from the obvious mismanagement of this program, is again no surprise. The Democratic National Alliance since its inception (has called) for the government to implement more stringent controls to curb wastage as part of its efforts to relieve the overall tax burdens on hard-working Bahamians."
"Even in the face of such overwhelming evidence however, no government officials or any other individuals or entities have been made to answer for the failed execution of those plans and once again the government has remained silent."
Mr McCartney demanded that the government "come clean.
Gerhard Beukes, Renew Bahamas’ chief executive and president, in an interview with Tribune Business pn Wednesday said that change was essential if the New Providence landfill manager was to have a viable business going forward, as it had “lost millions of dollars” to-date.
Mr Beukes also revealed to this newspaper that the company could lose up to $750,000 in revenue as a result of the latest landfill fire, which had damaged a key component of its materials recycling operation.
Predicting that this facility could be out of action for six to eight weeks, the Renew Bahamas chief said it now had “a better understanding” of what a viable landfill management operation requires.
The leaked e-mail, sent by Sarah Beukes of Renew Bahamas on Tuesday to James McPhee, of EJ’s Trucking and Heavy Duty Equipment, said: “We can make an interim payment today on this invoice, with another one to follow as soon as we get resolution from the Government.
“Please know that we are not in a position to settle in full today; this is the case across all our suppliers, while we wait for the Government.”
The FNM described the e-mail as “extremely troubling”, given the landfill’s frequent fires and other problems, and urged the Government to “come clean” and fully disclose the original contract with Renew Bahamas.
The company said it hired Mr McPhee following the most recent round of fires to carry out trucking services at the New Providence landfill.
Mr McPhee presented the email to The Tribune in full, along with the two outstanding invoices between his company and Renew. According to the documents, EJ’s Trucking and Heavy Duty Equipment are owed a total of $26,675.
On Tuesday, Mr McPhee was given a $3,000 cheque, with the outstanding amounts being owed once ongoing discussions with the Christie administration ended.
“I have never signed a deal with the government. My deal was with Renew. Whatever is going on between them should not affect the contractual obligations Renew Bahamas has with me,” Mr McPhee said.