FNM leader Dr Hubert Minnis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday that the government should stop using bureaucracy as a shield against enforcing laws.
Dr Minnis has called for Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson to take action against officials who have not filed their declarations in accordance with the Public Disclosure Act.
His statement yesterday came in response to Mrs Maynard-Gibson’s reaction last week when she told reporters there is a process for determining how to prosecute people under the Act.
She said despite current calls from Dr Minnis for prosecution to be initiated, “this process has not commenced from the proper people from whom it should commence”.
It’s unclear to whom she was referring.
Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) Chairman Myles Laroda has said that the decision to prosecute for non-disclosure rests with the Office of the Attorney General.
According to the Public Disclosure Act, “a prosecution for an offence under section…13,” which concerns public officials making declarations as required under the law, “shall not be instituted without the written consent of the attorney general”.
The Act says that when someone fails to make a declaration or the PDC is not satisfied with a declaration that is made, the commission should report the matter to the prime minister and the leader of the opposition.
Then, either the prime minister or the opposition leader could, under the Act, publish the commission’s communication in Parliament.
Either one could also provide the information to the attorney general or the commissioner of police.
The penalty for not disclosing information as required under the Act is a $10,000 fine and/or two years in prison.
It is unclear if Dr Minnis has received a report from the commission or whether he will formally exercise his legal power to provide that information to the attorney general and the commissioner of police.
Nonetheless, Dr Minnis reiterated his call for an independent PDC that is “properly staffed and funded.”
“This will allow them to demand true transparency from members of Parliament,” he said in a statement. “We also need to create an independent public prosecutor with no oversight by the attorney general to ensure that politics is taken out and that all cases are properly investigated.”
“The attorney general and the PLP government now want to try and hide behind toothless red-tape that requires no action. These same special interests have failed to pay attention as the Bank of The Bahamas gave out unsecured loans while at the same time the government gave many contracts to their friends and family and kept them hidden from the Bahamian people.
“Bahamians deserve full disclosure and accountability from their government. Instead they get a government that continues to (flout) rules and ignore the law as they focus on enriching themselves, rather than serving the people.”