FOR a long time, there has been talk of the economic effects of COVID-19. For many Bahamians, it’s far more than just talk – it’s the reality today.
A new report from the Inter-American Development Bank has highlighted the financial problems facing households, and more horrifyingly the increase in domestic violence.
We are not surprised by the increase, though still shocked that people turn to harming the ones they live with. While this latest report confirms an increase of more than 11 percent compared with before the pandemic, the warning signs have been sounding ever since the lockdowns began.
Back in March, women’s rights advocate Alicia Wallace warned that the curfew and restrictions on movement increased the risk of domestic violence, saying “Now being in a position where you are trapped in the house with the person who is abusing you, you have less ability to seek refuge.”
She called for a domestic violence hotline, among other ways forward. By June, Social Services Minister Frankie Campbell confirmed his ministry was receiving increased reports of domestic and child abuse. His action plan was collaboration, with non-governmental organisations and the police.
By July, it was on the radar of the Prime Minister’s wife, Patricia Minnis, who was taking part in a Caribbean-wide plan to tackle domestic violence with men and boys. Mrs Minnis said: “Women get the picture so we now have to look at who may be perpetrators of domestic violence.”
She wanted to reach out to young girls to ensure they had necessary items during lockdown, while care packages were also to be delivered.
All of these were steps on the way. We knew this rise in domestic violence was coming. Did we do enough about it?
For those who are victims, how can they reach out when they need help most? More, for those at risk – and someone who has been a victim once will often be a victim again – what is being done to keep in touch and find ways of reducing the risk for victims?
The report goes on to show how close to the financial edge many Bahamian homes were even before the pandemic. The added stress of wondering where your next meal is coming from – with five percent reportedly going to bed hungry – only exacerbates the risk of violence.
We must look again at the support network we provide for those in need. This pandemic isn’t letting up any time soon. Whatever we say about dates for opening up the country, tourism will not be back to full strength until a vaccine has been found.
The dangers inside our four walls will not go away either – even after that vaccine. At a time when the problem is more prevalent than ever, now is the time to find a way to help. Women, particularly, find themselves facing the brunt of this violence. So let’s find a way to help our sisters in need. To help everyone in need.
Audit’s questions still unanswered
An audit from years gone by is still posing questions today.
The audit has resurfaced after Dr Marvin Smith filed a lawsuit for defamation against the auditor’s findings. Dr Smith is in charge of the Public Hospital Authority’s Supplies Management Agency these days, but the audit by John Bain and his accounting firm goes back years, all the way to 2014.
Mr Bain and his firm reported that Dr Smith “circumvented the tendering process” at the PHA by ordering “urgent” pharmaceutical supplies from what appeared to be a “shell company” that received its Pharmacy Council registration just three days before the deal occurred.
Mr Bain characterised this as an “abuse of the tendering system”. Dr Smith, then deputy director of the Bahamas National Drug Agency, said this claim had damaged his reputation, and filed a lawsuit.
That lawsuit has now been dismissed as “frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of process”.
So, where does that leave us now? An audit identified a concern, and the court case challenging the findings has now been thrown out. In the meantime, Dr Smith has been promoted to a position managing medical and surgical supplies. The company involved in the case seems to have had no physical address.
Fuller details of the case can be found in today’s Tribune Business section, but in our own efforts to discover if any action was taken by officials over the report’s findings, it seems that the report was effectively shelved.
The report also detailed fraud, wastage, inefficiency, a lack of accountability, employees accepting gifts from suppliers and more.
Time has moved on – and many of the findings might no longer apply to sections of the health network, but might we suggest that the report is taken off the shelf. Dust it down. Find out what still applies, and hire a new auditor for where it no longer applies.
We shouldn’t let time diminish findings of alleged fraud and waste that undermine our national institutions. Indeed, we should be eager to root out such problems. If we instead choose to leave it gathering dust on the shelf, can we really believe officials when they say they are determined to tackle such issues?