By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Progressive Liberal Party emphasised yesterday that no one from the party has been connected to a Netherlands’ probe examining the acquisition of nine Royal Bahamas Defence Force vessels in 2014.
Dutch investigators are investigating whether the Damen Shipyard Group used foreign agents to bribe foreign officials in multiple jurisdictions.
Damen’s Caribbean work involving an intermediary, NSG Management & Technical Services Ltd, is at the centre of the probe because Damen is said to have paid unusually high commissions to NSG from its contracts with The Bahamas and Trinidad & Tobago governments.
Yesterday, the opposition party said “there is nothing to hide” in relation to the matter, adding officials in the Minnis administration have all the files related to the project and should provide the “full information” to the public.
In a statement yesterday, the PLP said: “…There is no evidence of which we are aware that any PLP official has been involved in these allegations. We expect that the relevant authority at the Ministry of Finance and at the head of the government at that time will in due course make some statement on the entirety as the one au fait with all the facts. The party has been briefed on the matter by that relevant official.
“When the government was elected in 2012, it met in place a recommendation from our predecessors - the FNM government - that Damen Shipyard Group be awarded the contract in question. The recommendation made to the government supported the recommendation previously made to the FNM, and was made by the same officials. Our advice is that the only payments by the PLP government were made directly to Damen Shipyards. The process involved tendering and negotiations. The Attorney General’s Office and the government’s law firm in Washington, Hogan and Lovell advised the government. The FNM government which is now in possession of the files should provide full information to the Bahamian public and they should do so without delay. They should also cooperate fully in that regard with any investigation by Dutch authorities. There is nothing to hide.”
The Christie administration made “material changes” to the contract when it came to office to facilitate the repair of vessels that were not functioning and for dredging the harbour at Gun Point in Ragged Island and in Coral Harbour in New Providence, the PLP’s statement said.
“The FNM had bought boats that could not dock in their home port in Coral Harbour. The PLP government also ordered a roll on roll off vessel with emergency equipment to prepare meals, water production and a mini-hospital to deal with hurricane relief capability. Those were were properly and transparency approved,” the opposition party noted.
“The Progressive Liberal Party suggests that the public officials involved in this matter be called upon to publicly confirm whether they are aware of any influence-peddling or politically-driven lobbying or other improper or irregular conduct involved in or connected to the contract awarded to Damen Shipyard Group.”