By MATT MAURA
Bahamas Information Services
THE government will inject almost $20m into the capital development of the country's 39 constituencies over the next five years through its Constituency Capital Grant Programme.
The Constituency Capital Grant Bill 2017 came into force on July 1 and provides for the allocation of constituency capital grants in the amount of $100,000 per annum for each of the 39 constituencies to facilitate development and for connected purposes.
That amounts to $3.9m annually and $19.5m over a five-year period.
Administration officials say all grants payable under the act will be paid out of the Consolidated Fund.
Grants allocated under the programme must be used for authorised capital development projects approved by the minister of finance only, and includes any works carried out for the overall or partial development of a constituency; the maintenance of any roads, parks or other public facility within a constituency; the beautification of the environment within a constituency or any other work as the member of Parliament considers appropriate for the development, educational or cultural endeavou0rs of his constituency, as approved by the minister of finance.
No member of Parliament shall utilise any portion or part thereof of a grant for any political meeting or forum; any fundraising activity for any political party or the payment, maintenance, upkeep, salaries and other expenses in respect of the constituency office.
Constituency capital grants are not to be confused with the constituency allowances members of Parliament currently receive for the payment, maintenance, upkeep, salaries and other expenses in respect of their constituency offices.
Additionally, no MP shall award a contract for a capital development project to a member of his family or to any business or company for which the beneficial owners of that company are family members of the MP.
Anthony Newbold, press secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, said in order to obtain authorisation for payment for any project, the MP must submit a proposal for the capital development project to be carried out to the minister of finance who bears sole responsibility for authorisation of payments.
"Such proposal shall contain a declaration by the member of Parliament stating his intention to have such project carried out as specified therein," Mr Newbold said. "For each development, a proposal must be advanced with quotations, any required approvals and permits and of course a tax compliance certificate for the person carrying out the project.
"The minister of finance is the only person who can authorise such a payment. This is not the end though, proper accounts must be kept and a report prepared for the auditor general at the end of each fiscal year," Mr Newbold added.