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Plp Line Up To Attack Turnquest

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Chester Cooper

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

EXUMA & Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper yesterday accused Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest of pushing “partisan rhetoric” instead of answering real questions about the country’s economy.

Mr Cooper questioned the motivation behind Mr Turnquest’s decision to advise the country that the deficit for the 2016/2017 fiscal year was $695 million, and not $500 million as previously reported, without clarifying how the Minnis administration spent a whopping $381m in June alone. The shadow minister of Finance, in a statement circulated by the PLP Sunday, explained that the Opposition has been querying the variances between the Minnis administration’s initial deficit figures and those of the Central Bank of The Bahamas.

Mr Cooper said rather than give clarity on why the government spent $381m and why that data is still not finalised in Central Bank reports, the Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest in his address to Parliament last Thursday sought only to push “partisan rhetoric” and pat himself on the back.

Mr Turnquest claimed the country’s deficit was adjusted because not all the bills incurred under the former PLP government were presented when he spoke on the matter during the 2016-2017 budget debate.

Mr Turnquest added that bills were still coming into the government when he gave a snapshot of the hefty bills with which the Minnis administration is faced.

In June, $381m in taxpayer dollars was spent for commitments dating as far back as January of this year, he said.

Seemingly unconvinced, Mr Cooper said the government hasn’t explained the specific nature of these bills and why the government decided to make these payments in full and not stagger them as is customary and from which ministries these payments originated.

Mr Cooper also contended the Minnis administration had “a lot of questions to answer” when referring to the country’s finances, insisting that in the interest of transparency and accountability, the minister of finance must reconcile and explain his new deficit figures.

He further questioned why the East Grand Bahama MP continues to “change by a wide margin” the country’s deficit and fiscal outlook every time he addresses the issues.

“If the proverbial “cupboard was bare” as he pronounced in May, where did the Minister find $381m during the month of June,” Mr Cooper questioned. “While he is at it, perhaps the minister could indicate when, indeed, the year-end for the last fiscal year will finally be closed, as we are now in the second quarter of the current fiscal year.”

Mr Cooper said the government’s recent actions do not inspire confidence in the country and its economy.

Referring to the Opposition’s request, the Exuma and Ragged Island MP said: “The purpose of the request for information was not to do a political dance with the minister, but to make sure the government is being transparent with the public’s funds — the most basic of public expectations.”

“As shadow minister of finance, I have no time for political football and will make no attempt to explain the minister’s numbers for him as the details are resident in the Ministry of Finance, to which I have not had access at any point,” the statement added.

“It is noteworthy that last month, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House requested, in writing, of the minister, an explanation for these variances; a request to which he has yet to respond.”

“In the interest of transparency, accountability and credibility, I urge him to comply promptly.”

“While he is at it, the minister must explain, in detail, what he means when he says that $42 million of the $150 million the government borrowed and placed in the consolidated fund last year for hurricane relief ‘cannot be found’.”

Mr Cooper said now is not the time for “nonsensical talk,” insisting the minister has a fiduciary duty to reconcile the government’s accounts.

“This is money the people of The Bahamas will have to pay back with interest,” he said.

“It is incredibly irresponsible to say the government cannot locate $42 million of the public’s money. However, to blithely say he has no idea where the money is, is shocking, unacceptable and the innuendo is again language unbecoming of a Minister of Finance.”

“It would be remiss of me not to point out that since the FNM took office, no significant foreign direct investments (FDI) has materialised and the government has presented no plan of any kind to spur life into the economy. I once more urge the government to focus attention on job creation, economic growth, FDI and domestic investment rather than continuing to look backwards. Bahamians are hurting and await the government’s attention to creating opportunities and bringing relief to hurting families”

“I again caution the minister, as I did during the budget exercise, that sensationalising and playing politics with the economy does not serve the national interest,” Mr Cooper said.

“There is an old and timely adage: ‘Loose lips sink ships.’ The elections are over, there is no question that the PLP lost and the people have entrusted the FNM to move the country forward.”

“The government must focus on bringing the country together and inspiring confidence in the economy. The Minnis administration and the honourable minister should not continue to squander the goodwill of the Bahamian people.”

Comments

DDK 2 years, 8 months ago

Have to agree with Mr. Cooper!

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observer2 2 years, 8 months ago

Maybe the reason people are sending in old bills is because the government appears to be paying all of them. I guess the PLP stop paying bills so the people stopped sending bills.

But now that KP is in charge and paying bills then everyone is digging up all kinda old bills and KP ga just keep pay'in dem.

Get the word out KP pay'in old bills...hurry send dem in.

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observer2 2 years, 8 months ago

Did you notice people working on the roads on holidays and weekends but ya can't see dem workin during da week. Das cause during da week dey do'in dey own work.

Now dat da government dem pay'in dey ga just work satday, sunday and holiday.

Government dem borrow $750 million....come and get it....

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bogart 2 years, 8 months ago

Not seeing 195 million dollars more in debt from what you can find and to not be able to find 42 million dollars after months, to have another Minister Mr. D Aguilar in Tourism actively go after the web shops and financial challenges in mattrrs of monetary regulation and taxation,, to have the Central Bank breaching the Govt Bond limits, Central Bank not tò long ago being sued by a govt controlled Bank, to have continuous injections into corporations and Bank of the Bahamas clearly does not instill confidence.

Public servants who have been there for decades and accountants and bankers who cannot find money or balance books on a daily basis in the private sector are usually charged with incompetance and or fraud and jailed.

Running a 10 billion dollar govt business and given the above with noone jailed, fined or fired or accountable reduces us in the eyes of global financial centres as as, as,........failed nation state incapable and needs the IMF and other foreign agencies to assist AND who have to also advise BBmovies depicting third world African nations where there is no infrastructure, and dirt roads, donkey carts, infrequent electricity, currupt officials, families who actually run the country etc

People need to be jailed at this point to instill confidence. There must be swift corrective action investigative committees.

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sangeej 2 years, 8 months ago

Help me out Mr Cooper, you told me you was borrowing $150.00 to do some work for us, now when i finally check out the work, and the money was $42.00 short, now you want me to tell you what you did with $42.00, because you only spend $108.00???

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birdiestrachan 2 years, 8 months ago

PLP line up to attack Turnquest headlines . Tantalizing but not factual.

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TalRussell 2 years, 8 months ago

Comrades! Think about it. Gone missing is $42 million of you the peoples monies and KP has not a clue where go looking?

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TigerB 2 years, 8 months ago

He has a clue, all of us have a clue , he just not saying that the PLP used it! We all know where it gone, just like the VAT money. Copper surprise me, Simple logic, if the FNM didn't used it, the PLP did!, no BJC needed for that, They both were the gov't... end of story!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 years, 8 months ago

Repost: This bozo of a Minister of Finance really needs to think before he speaks, assuming he has sufficient enough grey matter upstairs to do so. He cannot say out of one side of his mouth that he did not accuse the Christie Administration of stealing or misappropriating the hurricane relief money that is unaccounted for, and then immediately turn around and say out the other side of his mouth that the Christie administration diverted $40 million plus for unauthorized expenditure on any number of things in an ultimately vain effort to buy an election win.

It is also astonishing to hear K P Turnquest (supposedly a professional accountant) claim that he cannot trace the $40 million plus that he suspects was paid into the consolidated fund of the Public Treasury. A straight forward forensic accounting exercise (often referred to as 'following the cash') should have quickly revealed whether or not the $40 million plus was paid into the consolidated fund; accordingly, there should have been no need whatsoever for K P to "suspect" that it had or had not been paid into the consolidated fund.

Because the consolidated fund is an homogenous pool of funds, obviously if the $40 million plus had indeed been paid into it then it would have been difficult (if not impossible) to trace the same $40 million plus having been paid out of it. That's just common sense! It is an entirely separate matter (and equally easy forensic accounting exercise) for K P Turnquest to say whether sums totaling $40 million plus were subsequently paid out of the consolidated fund to cronies and wasteful spending aimed at 'buying' votes for PLP candidates in the last general election.

Truth be told, K P Turnquest should not have to suspect anything, unless he is indeed a grossly incompetent professional accountant. The people are interested in knowing the facts of the matter and not his convenient conjecture about what did or did not happen for the purpose of him scoring cheap political points with those less au fait about accounting generally. As Minister of Finance, K P Turnquest is tasked with giving us the facts - we could not care less about his disingenuous conjecturing for the purpose muddling matters to score cheap political points!

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