By YOURI KEMP
The contractors registrar yesterday launched an astonishing attack on his minister by accusing him of "procrastination" and "inaction" over implementing the sector's self-regulation.
Omar Archer told Tribune Business that contractors were asking why Desmond Bannister, minister of works, was "procrastinating in establishing the Contractors Board" that will oversee the Construction Contractors Act 2016.
The former controversial social media activist argued that these concerns were shared by members of the Bahamian Contractors' Association (BCA) and the Moving Forward Contractors Association, who both wanted to "know why the Contractors Board has not been appointed and established yet".
"The minister has had ample time to get it done. Why is Desmond Bannister procrastinating on this?" Mr Archer asked. "The Prime Minister gave him a mandate to get it done."
He went further by arguing that, in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, the Contractors Board could lead efforts to rebuild in Abaco and Grand Bahama if it was in place. "They could have led the clean-up efforts, once the Board had been appointed," Mr Archer said. "I am very disappointed by his inaction concerning the matter."
The registrar of contractors' comments drew a terse, dismissive response from Mr Bannister, who told Tribune Business: "I'm focused on addressing matters that are relevant, such as the situation in Abaco and Grand Bahama, not voice notes. Sorry."
Still, Mr Archer persisted by arguing that the current Construction Contractors Act 2016 now has to be amended because the 24-month deadline to appoint the Board following the law's taking effect lapsed in December 2018.
He added that the Board's absence also meant Bahamians were unable to take control of the multi-billion dollar construction industry, and were vulnerable to competition from foreign rivals.
This is the second time in just over a month that Mr Archer has become embroiled in a public bust-up with senior Ministry of Works colleagues, having called for the resignation of Melanie Roach, director of public works, in early August.
Ms Roach, supported by Mr Bannister, swatted away claims by Mr Archer that she gave preferential treatment to unnamed contractors. "I don't pay attention to what's out there on social media," she said.
"I don't want to know what he said, and I'm not interested in what he said. The only response I had is I have been in the Ministry of Works for 28 years and I have never heard such a thing. Never once has my integrity been called into question. I have never had anybody say anything to me like that. I am a busy woman and I have the people's work to do."
Mr Archer's latest outburst further indicates that there is a power struggle behind the scenes at the Ministry of Works, with himself as a central figure. His appointment as registrar of contractors coincided with allegations by Leonard Sands last year that Mr Archer had demanded his resignation as Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) president.
Asked by Tribune Business who had told the BCA Board he needed to be removed, Mr Sands replied: "It is Omar Archer, a political hack. He had no prior idea or knowledge of the BCA beforehand, didn't know anything about the construction industry or the Act at all.
"He's going on the last 30 days of knowledge of being in the job, and determined the BCA president must be removed. It's very dangerous, unprecedented, the way he sought to have a president removed.
"The communication the Board had with him was: Don't call me again until you have his resignation in hand. That's dictating. The last communication he made was: If it's not received by 12pm today [yesterday], he will communicate with the press that the construction industry will move forward without the BCA's contribution.
Mr Archer at the time denied Mr Sands's claims of government/political interference, saying he had no influence over the BCA's internal workings. "That's news to me," he said of the resignation.