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Bahamians Must 'Raise Hell' Over Govt Waste

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Robert Myers

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Bahamians must "start raising hell" over recent revelations of government waste, fraud and questionable contracts, a governance reformer urging: "We've got to move past this horrible era."

Robert Myers, the Organisation for Responsible Governance's (ORG) principal, told Tribune Business that The Bahamas desperately needed "to turn the corner" on practices that had caused "so many third world countries to go down in flames".

He warned that Bahamian society "cannot survive" unless it halts "the blatant waste of taxpayer dollars", which is threatening "to drag all of us down with it" through ever-increasing taxes, inferior public services and the undermining of a meritocracy.

Mr Myers' comments came after the Auditor General's report for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, tabled in the House of Assembly last week, revealed multiple incidents of fraud, corruption, waste of taxpayer funds and public sector mismanagement resulting from the absence of weak controls and inadequate supervision.

The report disclosed that the shredding of documents to cover up fraudulent activities was "a matter of routine" at the Department of Social Services, while the Post Office Savings Bank was possibly the world's only financial institution not to know how much money it holds on behalf of depositors.

The Auditor-General also cited missing funds that could not be accounted for at the Road Traffic Department, along with instances of licensing fee evasion, duplicated licence slips and fraudulent insurance certificates.

That report's release followed the tabling of two assessments in the House of Assembly that questioned whether the Ministry of Finance obtained "value for money" on a computer supply contract and deal to rent three apartments to house foreign consultants. (see story HERE)

FTI Consulting, the Bahamian accounting and advisory firm that investigated the Ministry's procurement processes and contract awards on the Auditor General's behalf, said neither deal was put out to competitive bidding with the Government's Tenders Board is routinely bypassed in the awarding of contracts that should go before it.

While not commenting on the specifics of all these findings and the Auditor General's report, Mr Myers said successive governments - as well as the public service generally - needed to be held accountable for the way in which they have used taxpayer monies.

He also called on the Ministry of Finance to "answer" why the contracts analysed by FTI Consulting had not been put out to competitive tender via public bidding, and why it had seemingly failed to follow its own rules over the awards.

"It's the people's money. Where's the accountability and responsibility of the public sector to the people and the people's money?," Mr Myers asked. "It's our money they're spending. If you didn't do your job back then you should be held accountable.

"We've got to move past this horrible era of governance. It's our money that they're spending and throwing away. It's sickening. The only way we're going to return to the equitable enforcement of the rule of law is if this is done. There has to be a line in the sand that can't be crossed. They should be held to task. It's just ridiculous."

Mr Myers said Bahamians must demand accountability from present and former governments, regardless of political leanings and whether they were FNM or PLP administrations.

He emphasised that it was in every citizen's interest to demand higher standards from politicians and the public service, otherwise their financial well-being will be directly impacted - as it already has been - through higher taxes to pay for excessive and wasteful government spending.

"We've got to get this out of the system," Mr Myers told Tribune Business last week. "It's just killing us. This is why so many third world countries go down in flames: The blatant waste of taxpayers' dollars. It drags countries down.

"Bahamians need to be starting to raise hell. We've got to turn the corner. The country cannot survive. It will drag us all down with it. Those benefiting from it don't care."

Mr Myers agreed that the reports exposed the need to strengthen, and "beef up", proposed legal reforms to overhaul public procurement processes throughout the Government. It also, he added, highlighted why the Government needed to push forward with other legislation to protect so-called "whistleblowers", and create an Integrity Commission and Ombudsman's office.

"These matters highlight the need for greater transparency in the public procurement process, as well as the even greater need for a State Sectors Act that would prohibit ministers meddling in the affairs of the public sector process," the ORG principal said.

"The management and administration of each government ministry must be the business of the executives of the ministries, and they are to be held accountable to run these ministries in accordance with establish budgets and specific protocols. It is the job of the Minister to establish the overall objectives to be carried out and then see to it that they are done. This being similar to a Board and the management team within the private sector."

Comments

DDK 3 weeks ago

While in complete agreement with Mr. Myers' comments, as would be any sane thinking person, I believe most of us have come to the sad conclusion that neither the FNM nor the PLP politicians give a good damn about what happens to The Bahamas or how far it can still fall. As for The People, many of them are complicit in the rampant corruption and exceedingly poor service in our Government institutions. It seems that the great majority in our country are even too lazy and unfazed to be motivated to protest. As long as they can play the numbers they dreamed last night, all will be well. We March Bahamas is sitting comfortably in the Senate. It has gone on for too long Mr. Myers. We are getting to the 'beyond help point, if not there already.

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TalRussell 3 weeks ago

Funny how letting the business elite talk away might be only transparency thing since 10 May 2017. We sure learns lights about them.
The same comrades from business elite who lead the fight unseat the former governing politicians - ain't seen shi@ wrong this new set Imperial red shirts governing politicians. { Even my preparedness stretching some facts is no match such suddenly gone all blind so many new Imperial red facts maybe even dirtier than PLP, and of which seem be exposed faster than hourglass can keep up with |.

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birdiestrachan 3 weeks ago

Yea like the PMH contract, The post office farce , and the trips with every body who wants to go, The our Lucaya crap and Oban. land give away

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bogart 3 weeks ago

Mr Myers....how astute of you to want da people to "start raising hell" over ....fraud....corruption....wastage of taxpayrs dollars.... some time time now.....Da pore people done knows dis decades now......people done been seeing what going on.....people take Democratic means....voting one party wid majoroty ......then voted almost both sides equal MPs members.......then they now last go round......HISTORIC EVER.... 35 MPs on ruling side....to 4 MPs ...an an an historic unprecendented....even PM..losing seat.....to have....unfettered....ability to start genuine changes....bringing out corruption......investigations into massive wrongdoings....almost right cross the board..............Good of you to realise time is of essence to let out the steam pressure...calling fer people to move........but...democratic means first before the "raise hell"....afterwards....

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John 3 weeks ago

This FNM government came to office slapping handcuffs on politicians and dismissing or firing civil servants and threatening to take others to court over fraud, corruption, mismanagement, and abuse of office. For the first time in a long time, Bahamians had thought that Minnis and his FNM government had come to "drain the swamp", in the words of President Donald Trump, and clean up politicians and the political arena, and the civil services as well as persons who sell goods and services to the government and do not deliver value for money, or, in some cases, no value at all. But, for some reason, Minnis may seem to have fallen on his face in these efforts. At least no substantial progress has been made. Maybe the culture of corruption, kickbacks, mismanagement, nepotism, cronyism is so entrenched in the government and in public service, it is mind-blowing and untouchable. And so those who pander to this government will seek to get 'dey tings', until the government changes and another bunch of money grabbers come clawing at the public's purse.

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BahamaPundit 3 weeks ago

Re John I believe it goes something like seeing your bedroom so dirty that it's easier to go study in Starbucks. They come in with huge intentions but then reality sets in (these are not very intelligent people to begin with). They try a few things, a few court cases, and those fail. Life at the top becomes boring -- being good is tedious. You start to nibble, to glance at ways you could enrich yourself. The disease of corruption slowly fills your body, so sweet, so easy. Then BAM. It has you. You're The Best. You're Number One. Nobody, not even the Police, can stop you. You get your cabinet together and start scheming. You start finding loopholes. Foreign investors offer you bribes and "finders fees" in Swiss Bank Accounts. The Chinese offer you five apartments in Miami. Yes! Yes! Yes! This is how the world ends. This is how the best intended Bahamian leaders end up completely corrupt and stinking.

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MonkeeDoo 3 weeks ago

We are doomed. We raised Hell with the last set but the Auditor General remarks are now yesterdays news and will be forgotten by Friday. No penalty for corruption in the Bahamas !

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BahamaPundit 3 weeks ago

I will say this about Minnis and his FNM: I have never seen a more ineffective and "sit around and wait" administration. What have they done since the election? At least pass laws! At least come up with ideas! Silence. Tax. Silence. Buy hotel. Silence. No plan. No vision (even the PLP Carnival was somewhat inventive). Completely passive. A functioning government could do everything they've done in a year and a half in one week.

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TheMadHatter 2 weeks, 6 days ago

No marches No boycotts Just talk

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