By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A CABINET Minister yesterday blamed the Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) for the sector's delayed regulation, saying he "detests" how its president is talking to him through the media.
Desmond Bannister, minister of works, said the failure to implement the Construction Contractors Act was due to the BCA's seeming inability to nominate private sector members of the Board that will oversee its enforcement.
The Association is supposed to nominate six members from various disciplines within the Bahamian construction industry, but Mr Bannister said the only submission it made lacked the necessary variety.
He told Tribune Business that the BCA had yet to submit revised nominees since the rejection of that first list four to five months ago, and emphasised that no progress could be made on finalising the regulations accompanying the Act until the Board was completed.
Mr Bannister hit out at BCA president, Leonard Sands, after the latter warned that implementation of the Act was "critical to our survival" when the Bahamas became a full member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
With the Government planning to accede by 2019, Mr Sands expressed concern that the Bahamian construction industry was in danger of being overwhelmed by foreign competitors without enactment of regulation that would certify/license local firms according to their ability and size of jobs they can complete.
Mr Bannister, though, said the WTO was "not a concern" for Mr Sands, and argued that he should instead focus on submitting names for the Construction Contractors Board rather than act as "a one-man band".
While Mr Sands told this newspaper he had sent a letter to Mr Bannister yesterday, outlining the BCA's WTO concerns and requesting a meeting, the Minister said no such document had been received.
"I detest how certain people, every time they want something, go running to the media instead of communicating," Mr Bannister told Tribune Business. "There should be some trust in communication.
"When I here from the media before I actually receive correspondence, and it continues to happen, there cannot be trust in communication. I haven't received the letter. When I do get it, it will get an appropriate response as it always does."
Mr Bannister said the BCA, rather than the Government, was to blame for the delayed implementation and enforcement of the Construction Contractors Act. "The Ministry has been trying to get the Contractors Association to recommend members to the Board that they have to recommend for months now," he told Tribune Business.
"They have to come from different disciplines within the profession. They did initially send us one [list], which was restricted to a particular discipline. That must have been four to five months ago and we have not got a response from them yet.
"This is one of the sad things about communicating in the media. Mr Sands can communicate with me. There is no difficulty doing that. I get amazed when people conduct themselves in this manner."
Mr Bannister acknowledged that the Act's regulations have yet to be finalised, but said this could only happen when a Board is in place.
"We are trying to take one step at a time," he told this newspaper. "The first step was a Board so we could communicate on the composition of the regulations, and it has taken months now to try and get the Board.
"We still don't have it, and we may go into the next Budget period before we get it. It would be good if the president sat down and did what he has to do in terms of communicating with us. Once the Board is in place we can communicate with anybody in a professional manner and move ahead."
As for the BCA president's WTO concerns, Mr Bannister added: "This is not a concern Mr Sands should have. It has nothing to do with anything he's doing as president of the Contractors Association.
"When the country becomes a full WTO member then all the relevant and necessary legislation required will be put in place. It's not a concern for Mr Sands. Mr Sands, his membership should be represented, and part of that requires he has honest and frank dialogue with his partners, one of which is the Ministry."
Mr Bannister said the necessary dialogue between the Government and construction industry over the Bahamas' WTO accession terms, and to what extent the industry will be opened up to foreign competitors, "will come at some stage".
Yet, in relation to Mr Sands, he added: "He can't have that dialogue, be a one-man band and not give us the Board members."