By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
MEMBERS of the Progressive Liberal Party railed against the government’s handling of Grand Lucayan employees and the execution of the plan to sell the resort, calling for greater accountability in the spending of tax dollars.
Progressive Liberal Party deputy leader Chester Cooper questioned how much money has been spent so far on what he called a “frolic”, adding the lack of transparency presented a myriad of questions surrounding the deal. This, he said, was a breach of trust by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
These concerns were further amplified by Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin, who also criticised the government’s treatment of Grand Lucayan employees.
The senior PLPs slammed the Minnis administration the day after it was revealed that there was an ongoing impasse between officials and Lucayan managers.
The managers have demanded $5m for voluntary separation packages for those who have decided to leave the hotel. However, Michael Scott, chairman of Lucayan Renewal Holdings Ltd, the state-owned vehicle that owns the hotel, said only $3.1m can be offered.
Unable to reach an agreement, the union has sought intervention from the Industrial Tribunal in Grand Bahama.
“The government’s handling of the Grand Lucayan sale and the myriad of issues involved would be laughable were the stakes not so high,” Mr Cooper, the Exuma and Ragged Island MP, said in a statement yesterday.
“We are now learning that a settlement for managers who wish to depart the resort is being arbitrated by the Industrial Tribunal in Grand Bahama, and the voluntary separation involved in this tranche of layoffs will cost taxpayers $3m-$5m.
“This is in addition to the more than $3m already paid to separated line staff, plus a reported $3.5m for renovations. We can add to that amount the $30 million in cash paid to (former owner) Hutchison upfront for the hotel before the sale was completed.
“Added to that amount is the reported $35 million mortgage the government has executed with Hutchison, and the associated closing costs of the sale.
“On top of that is the running total of government subsidised operating costs for the hotel, at last an estimation by the government to be just shy of $2 million per month.”
Mr Cooper questioned whether the combined total would rest at around $14m.
“The minister must say whether this is accurately reflected in government expenditure in a mid-year budget on which the government has suppressed debate.
“Perhaps now would be a pertinent time to ask the minister of finance to disclose to the Bahamian people just how much of their tax dollars have been spent to date on this frolic. What exactly is the cost so far? How many tax dollars, exactly, are we projected to spend before the sale closes?
“While the minister of finance is at it, we also ask that he states how many bidders for the purchase of the hotel have signed non-disclosure agreements versus the number of bidders who have actually submitted proposals.”
He said this is not what transparency looks like.
Meanwhile, Mrs Hanna Martin said the government was inconsistent in that it had no issues bowing to the demands of Hutchinson Whampoa, but is playing hardball with Lucayan employees.
She said: “They say it’s the people’s time. That’s what the language was and the implication was that it was the time for the Bahamian people, but when we look at the facts on the ground and in this case with Grand Lucayan they are taking a dogmatic line in the sand approach to Bahamian workers who as I understand are requiring what they are entitled to under our law but on the other hand they are being so soft (with the former owners of the hotel).
“The issue has arisen as to whether we were ripped of with Grand Lucayan and there was no transparency with that either, no transparency and no clearly.
“This administration is duplicitous. They are not consistent. This is not the people’s time, actually it’s the people’s time to wake up very quickly because we do not know what is going on with this administration.”
“It’s a very dangerous situation where they are doing things and we are catching up at the end of the day and frankly we don’t even know what it means,” she continued.
“What is happening is it seems this country has no rhythm or logic. You just seem to be one day just hearing suddenly about something. It’s very disconcerting, the nature of governance of this administration.
“It appears to me that they are taking a hardline.
“They make these superman moves, but they’re not consistent. They aren’t philosophically rooted and it’s just populism and it’s really paper thin,” she said yesterday.