THE long wait for answers over what has been going on at the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Sciences Institute (BAMSI) goes on.
Readers would be forgiven for sighing in frustration whenever the name BAMSI is mentioned.
First, there was the saga over the fire that destroyed a building at the site – with the contractor building the dormitory having no insurance.
Then the promised audit of the institute rumbles on and on. Calls for audits into BAMSI go back as far as 2014, while Minister of Agriculture Renward Wells was saying it would be done by June of last year. Summer came, summer went, no sign of the audit.
At the start of this year, BAMSI chairman was talking about the “ridiculously favourable” contracts handed out ahead of the 2017 election and warned ominously of documents having been lost or destroyed.
Mr Wells told of contracts being handed out worth $50,000 to $80,000 with increases built in every year and an extra year’s salary if the contract was not renewed.
Now, in today’s Tribune, we hear the auditors are still hunting for information on hundreds of disbursements.
Mr Wells says documentation for 300 cheques is still missing – showing little progress in that regard since January.
Regardless of who is or is not in government, one thing should be a constant: good bookkeeping. This is the people’s money. Not the FNM’s, not the PLP’s, but the people’s – and anyone who has purposefully destroyed documentation to cover up payments that should not have been made is undermining the country itself and should be held to account.
It is disturbing that the audit team has reportedly had trouble over a lack of cooperation from banks too. If this money was paid out through proper channels, then those authorities should be able to get confirmation from the banks of the cheques paid out. That’s not an area where privacy should be an issue – this is simply asking did you clear a cheque from us to an account?
That step should not be needed, of course, that information should be readily at hand in any organisation – but in the absence of such good bookkeeping, it’s a step we hope the banks will assist with swiftly.
Between the circumstances surrounding the fire and the lackadaisical checking of insurance for the contractor, and the claims of bumper contracts being handed out, it’s hard not to think that BAMSI has been regarded as a money tree for some.
Members of the previous administration have spoken of BAMSI as a good part of the PLP legacy – we’ll see if that’s still the case when – if ever - the audit finally reports.
When that time comes, we hope names will be named for anyone who destroyed documents or approved excessive payments. And it would benefit us all for procedures to be put in place to prevent such things ever happening again.