By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
INTERIM Progressive Liberal Party Leader Phillip "Brave" Davis yesterday called the Minnis administration's inability to pinpoint $42m of $150m borrowed under the former Christie administration for hurricane repairs "the height of incompetence".
"Money doesn't just walk out of the treasury," the Cat Island, San Salvador and Rum Cay MP told the Tribune on Monday.
Mr Davis was one of several PLP members to take issue with Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest claims that Minnis administration has been unable to track down the $42m.
Mr Turnquest last Thursday told parliamentarians just because the government has been unable to locate the money, it doesn't mean the it was unaccounted for.
He stated in remarks: "I have often gotten the question from the media lately 'What did Hurricane Irma cost?' as if we can just automatically drop this number. It's not that easy, unfortunately. But we do have a team of experts doing the assessments and hope to have a justifiable estimate very soon."
In response yesterday, Mr Davis accused the East Grand Bahama MP of intentionally misrepresenting circumstances surrounding the money to "cast aspersions" on the former government.
"What is he saying? It's totally disingenuous and it must be due to not wanting to listen to their technical advisors that they have around them or just in an attempt to find ways to cast aspersions (on PLP)," Mr Davis told The Tribune.
"He's throwing it out there so people can latch on to it and cast aspersions on the former government," he added.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, former Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell speaking during a recent party conclave accused the Deputy Prime Minister of trying to further a "narrative" of "everyone in the PLP is a thief."
Mr Mitchell, who also queried the Minnis administration's latest 2016-2017 deficit projections, scoffed at what he called innuendoes offered up by Mr Turnquest.
He added that there is no place in the Public Treasury where a government employee or politician could "take a wheel-barrel" and "take the money out."
Mr Mitchell said if he needed to, Mr Turnquest himself or employees of the Public Treasury and Ministry of Finance could clarify exactly where the $42m went.
He said: "I was saying to the Leader this morning, that it is remarkable to me that a man that is trained as a certified public accountant can come to government and can be a member of Parliament for five years and tell you he can't find $42m what you set aside for hurricane relief. Now, the interesting thing is in the way he said it. He said, 'I'm not saying it's missing, I'm just saying I can't find it.'"
He added: "So, if you say it is not missing, then what are you telling it to us for? You are only telling us because you want to say that everyone in the PLP is a thief. That is why you are telling it to us, it is part of the narrative."
Mr Mitchell claimed money borrowed under the guise of a hurricane relief fund never actually went into a separate fund, but rather was pooled into the country's consolidated fund to aid with the expenses of the country following the passage of Hurricane Matthew last year.
He continued: "It goes into the consolidated fund. One fund."
"And all the money is spent. All of it is accounted for. So don't be so dumb and stupid that you say, let me go and see where the hurricane fund relief money is. There is no hurricane fund relief money, there is money for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas."
When the resolution was brought to Parliament last October, the former prime minister said the combined cost of the damage from both hurricanes was about $600m for Matthew and $200m for Joaquin. This equated 40 per cent of the national budget or nine per cent of GDP.
Because of the huge cost associated with restoration and recovery in the wake of both hurricanes, then State Finance Minister Michael Halkitis stressed it was essential the government accessed the funds as it was not possible to finance the recovery efforts from the existing budget.
Mr Christie further explained officials from the Ministry of Finance had designed a two-tranche approach to dealing with the funds.
He said the funds were exclusively for the reconstruction effort.