By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
BISHOP Simeon Hall has called for both Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin and Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin to “identify and seek the prosecution” of the culprits allegedly responsible for theft from departments they oversee.
Bishop Hall, pastor emeritus of New Covenant Baptist Church, said in a statement that both Cabinet ministers should within the next 30 days “tell the Bahamian public what took place in their ministries and place the culprits involved before the courts.”
Bishop Hall said all government ministers must bear “more responsibility” for “these egregious, unpatriotic acts which occur on their watch,” adding that the country cannot effectively fight crime as petty criminals are jailed and those involved in “systemic theft” go free.
Bishop Hall also called for “more public outcry” from the Bahamas Christian Council on such “social inequities.”
Bishop Hall’s statement comes amid startling revelations about the internal operations of both the Department of Social Services (DOSS) and the Road Traffic Department (RTD) that were outlined in two reports completed by Auditor General Terrence Bastian.
Almost a month ago, it was revealed that staff members at the DOSS participated in a scheme in which they used $1,034 worth of food coupons intended for Bahamians on welfare to purchase groceries. In his report, Mr Bastian and his team also criticised the DOSS for “gross negligence” in allowing $4.237m to be paid to suppliers without proper authorisation, exposing it to potential fraud and corruption.
More recently, an audit of the RTD for the period July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2015 estimated $47m in vehicle license revenue was lost due to “a severe lack of order and control around the safeguarding of assets, collection of revenue and reporting of the same.”
At minimum, it is believed that there is an under recording of vehicle license revenue of $10m due to management not having control over the licensing inventory.
And, in probing operations of the department, Mr Bastian’s report further highlighted several other instances of apparent fraud and “collusion” involving inspectors, writers and cashiers as they carried out daily tasks. The report was tabled in the House of Assembly last week.
“Both Minister Glenys Hanna Martin and Minister Melanie Griffin owe it to the sacred trust they both swore to uphold to identify and seek the prosecution of those responsible for the theft of millions from their respective ministries,” Bishop Hall said in his statement. “Government ministers – all of them – must bear responsibility for these egregious, unpatriotic acts which occur on their watch.
“Within the next 30 days, both ministers should tell the Bahamian public what took place in their ministries and place the culprits involved before the courts. We cannot effectively fight crime while some go to jail for stealing a bicycle and others involved in a systematic theft go free.”
Bishop Hall’s statement also went on to lament the findings of Mr Bastian’s reports.
“It is unthinkable that persons employed to serve the public, blatantly rip off said public, and on such large scales,” Bishop Hall added. “Unfortunately, when these kinds of events occur they are soon forgotten and no one is prosecuted.”
Last week, Mrs Griffin said the “fraudulent” scheme at the DOSS has been forwarded to the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF). She said the matter “is something that is all in the hands of the police now, so they will have the opportunity to do their jobs.”
Also last week, RTD Controller Ross Smith said officials are prepared to prosecute the relevant individuals if further investigations into the operations of the department uncover anything of a criminal nature.
Similarly, Mrs Hanna Martin said any persons “found to be allegedly associated with such activity will be immediately removed from their department in accordance with procedures of the public service.”