EXACTLY a week ago The Tribune revealed that Dutch authorities were investigating possible corruption involving the purchase of $150 million worth of ships for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
That contract was arranged during the tenure of the last PLP government. It raised questions at the time of signing with former FNM deputy leader Loretta Butler Turner pointedly asking why the administration was buying nine ships at a higher cost than the previous FNM government had sought to buy 11 ships from the same supplier for a lower price?
Something just didn’t add up.
Former Prime Minister Christie, in today’s Tribune, seeks to defend the deal, insisting everything was above board and nothing unsavoury happened.
We presume at some point he’ll be saying something similar about our revelation today about another contract created during the Christie administration for which things just don’t add up.
Health Minister Duane Sands has confirmed to us The Bahamas wasted millions of dollars paying for maintenance and support on an electronic health medical records system that has never been installed for the Public Hospitals Authority which would, among other things, have allowed the authority to charge patients for services provided.
As Dr Sands has repeatedly pointed out since coming to office, Princess Margaret Hospital - and other facilities - have not been issuing patients with any bills for decades and is now running with a debt of more than $750 million.
A large proportion of those funds is monies owed by thousands of tourists who have received emergency treatment at PMH - even just travelling in an ambulance from the site of an accident incurs a bill which should have - but never has - been sent.
The new digital health records system would have resolved that overnight, bringing the hospitals into the 21st Century.
The story sounds so familiar.
For some reason Christie’s cabinet awarded the contract to suppliers who missed the deadline to submit their bid by 19 days. Anyone with commonsense would have thought immediately, “If they can’t get into gear on bidding for work, what are they going to be like when they get here?”
Incredibly the deal was done with the PHA signing a contract which required them to pay an annual maintenance fee on equipment which seems never to have been delivered. Exactly like ordering a car and paying for the service of the vehicle without ever seeing it.
Former PMH managing director Herbert Brown voiced the hospital’s deep concerns about the stalled project but got nowhere before his retirement soon after the Minnis administration took office.
The full scale of the fiasco only truly came to light when the new PHA board instructed its Strategic Planning, Infrastructure and Redevelopment Sub-Committee to try and make sense of what had gone on.
Truth is, very little made sense other than the fact here was another project they’d inherited which asked more questions than we’ll probably never get answers to.
Where are we left today?
Millions of dollars have been wasted, the PMH is still a long way off generating the bills it desperately needs to send out so that it can raise the funds to help run patient services.
Dr Sands suggests it will all end up in the courts – that’s more money of the Treasury’s resources which will likely end up being tied up for years.
So ships last week, a dodgy looking computer deal this week. A week’s a long time in politics, they say. Who knows what’s coming next?
Dr Sands, we understand, is currently studying a forensic audit into the entire health service passed on to him by the PLP government. We wonder how many other surprises have come to light?
No more delays over marijuana
If the much-delayed report of the National Commission on Marijuana needed a signal to get on with it and published their findings, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis gave it to them yesterday.
In a few short sentences Dr Minnis stated his desire to see possession of small amounts of marijuana and its medicinal usage decriminalised by the end of this first term of his administration.
Congratulations, Dr Minnis, a position we wholeheartedly support and we suspect so does the vast majority of the population.
Now let’s see this ambition realised.
If the Commission comes back with the same recommendation then it should be fast-tracked through the assembly and be on the statute books as quickly as possible.
Every minute of delay extends the agony of countless patients for whom medical marijuana provides a relief from their suffering. Lives will also no longer be blighted for those who have attracted criminal records for having small amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes.
You’ve a huge majority in parliament, prime minister, just use it and put this issue to bed once and for all. There’s far more serious matters we can be getting to grips with.