By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
FORMER Assistant Commissioner Paul Thompson yesterday raised concerns over the findings of an audit conducted into the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF), telling The Tribune he felt assurances offered by National Security Minister Marvin Dames were “premature”.
Mr Thompson insisted concerns raised by Auditor General Terrence Bastian over weapons procurement were legitimate and could not be brushed off until a full audit of inventory is conducted and cross referenced with illegal guns found in the country.
Mr Bastian’s audit report covers the period July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015, and found that a 2014 procurement exercise posed a threat to the safety and security of Bahamian borders by awarding a $1.3m contract to a home-based company that did not have the necessary approvals to import weapons from the commissioner of police.
The audit, tabled in the House of Assembly last week, also noted the “online purchasing/courier service” had been inactive for more than four years before it renewed its business licence just four months before receiving Cabinet approval on its bid; and the Customs Department could not locate two shipment entries in December 2014, and June 2015.
In response to the report, Mr Dames told The Tribune he was not concerned about the procurement exercise as there were multiple layers of scrutiny surrounding weapons shipment. He said he was convinced there was no cause for alarm over the report after speaking with Commodore Tellis Bethel and Ministry of National Security Permanent Secretary Carl Smith. Mr Dames stressed despite the reported missing customs entries - there were no missing weapons.
While there were no concerns over the integrity of the 2014 procurement process, Mr Dames said he has ordered a full review of all companies currently engaged with his ministry to ensure full compliance will all laws and policies.
Yesterday, Mr Thompson said he found both the report’s findings and Mr Dames’ response “bothersome”.
“The police are responsible for the licencing of firearms dealers and I cannot imagine why the police were not involved in this person and why the name or business is being kept so secret, I don’t see why that is,” the former police officer said.
“How the person got a licence to deal with firearms without the knowledge of the police, I can’t understand.”
Mr Thompson continued: “I’m also a bit set back, with all due respect to him, that the minister would try to make it seem that everything is all right. I don’t think everything is alright, we need to check to see if everything is all right.
“First, we should determine how the dealer got the licence without due diligence from police. The next thing is what weapons, the entire list of weapons the company imported from suppliers overseas, we should identify those suppliers and check with them to find out what weapons they supplied since [company] has been nominated as the dealer for the country.
“When we have done that, we should compare it with the inventory of weapons in possession of defence force and if there are weapons missing we could find out. The dealer can tell us what was sent here, if the RBDF don’t have it then they were sent elsewhere. We should also see if the weapons on the streets being brought in, whether they match.
“When we do that investigation,” Mr Thompson said, “we can then satisfy ourselves that there is nothing to worry about.”