By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis has questioned the government’s lack of oversight and leadership at the Road Traffic Department in the aftermath of the auditor general’s scathing report over the department’s operations.
The report revealed millions of dollars in losses due to “collusion” and “fraud” among other things.
Dr Minnis criticised the Christie administration yesterday saying in its four years in office, a culture of “lawlessness” and “corruption” has crept into every level of government. This he said leaves the government with an unbelievable amount of “mismanagement, incompetence and ineptitude.”
Meanwhile, former acting FNM Chairman Brensil Rolle castigated Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin for attempting to place blame for the department’s chronic problems on a previous Ingraham administration.
Mr Rolle, who also formerly served as Road Traffic Department controller, said the minister should take responsibility for the problems facing the department.
On Monday, Auditor General Terrance Bastian’s report was tabled in the House of Assembly.
It said that if a forecast was performed based on the total number of licence plates produced and issued, approximately 374,000 plates, to the public as of June 30, 2015, one would estimate that the motor vehicle licence revenue should be at a minimum of $73m (374,000 x $195) instead of the reported average of $26m per annum.
If the approximate number of 374,000 plates was reduced by 50 per cent, the report said there would still be an estimated loss of $10m as compared to the actual recorded revenue noted herein.
The audit of the department covered the period July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2015.
“As the Progressive Liberal Party continues to celebrate its four years in office,” Dr Minnis said in a press statement, “we learn that in four short years under the PLP government more than $10 million of the people’s money is gone. Wasted through stunning endemic mismanagement that this government either chooses to ignore or fails to address.
“The auditor general’s report found systemic problems that went on for years at the Road Traffic Department – inconsistencies in payroll, fraudulent licenses being issued, missing and illegible inspection certifications, missing and fraudulent insurance certificates and customers receipts not being generated.
“All of these problems at one government agency? All of these problems without anyone noticing? Where is the oversight and leadership from this government?”
He continued: “The PLP celebrates as our Bahamas crumbles to the ground around us. In their four years in power they have fostered and grown a culture of lawlessness and corruption that has crept into every level and corner of government, leaving us with an unbelievable amount of mismanagement, incompetence and ineptitude. When will it end?”
“Unfortunately, this has become commonplace to the Bahamian people. Their money continues to be misspent or misused as they struggle to get by on the empty rhetoric and broken promises from this government. The PLP leadership at the top has set a dubious example for all levels of their government – incompetence is tolerable to this government as long as its supporters can enrich themselves.”
Dr Minnis said real leadership means taking concrete steps to fix such problems. He said this would start with holding the management at Road Traffic accountable.
“Have the Attorney General’s Office prosecute the ones involved in the wanton mismanagement of taxpayer dollars and discipline those who had responsibility for the oversight of the Bahamian people’s money.
“Next, we must change the procedures at the department to ensure proper oversight and internal accountability in its procedures – no more absurdly overpaying employees by hundreds of thousands of dollars, or under paying others; receipts should be required for all transactions at all departmental offices; and having the new department leadership ultimately instilling a culture of law and order – following the rules and being accountable to the taxpayers,” Dr Minnis said.
Meanwhile, Mr Rolle said at no time under the previous FNM government was there any indication that the department was losing large sums of money.
“The minister shifts blame on the FNM and the Ingraham administration. What she did not say though was that it was the Ingraham government that started to engage the process of the electronic accountability when we introduced the (new) driver’s licence (system).
“The entire driver’s licence system is done electronically. Certainly during my time at Road Traffic. It was done electronically and every transaction was recorded by the Treasury Department and the Ministry of Finance,” Mr Rolle said.