By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
DISASTER Reconstruction Authority Managing Director Katherine Smith yesterday maintained the agency received $109,000 in cash from the Hurricane Dorian pledge conference back in January.
Mrs Smith said it is true that cash pledges amounted to more than $300,000, but only a portion of that money has been received to date.
She clarified the issue yesterday after Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis told reporters earlier this week that cash donations received by the DRA amounted to $364,000.
However, this conflicted with what Mrs Smith told The Tribune last week. At the time she said officials still viewed the pledge conference as a success despite only $109,000 in actual cash donations.
The conference saw 49 donors pledge $1.77bn in cash and services.
“When the minister spoke about this $300,000 in cash that was pledged that was so, but what happened is we received $109,000 of that cash that day,” Mrs Smith explained yesterday. “The other $200,000 or so we have not gotten that cash yet and that was pledged by a local donor in The Bahamas.
“I think a lot of what’s going on with some of the monies not coming in has a lot to do with the COVID-19 (pandemic) and where companies find themselves.”
She added: “Now having said that, the other thing I wanted to also indicate, the pledge conference may not have turned out to be a pledge conference where we got millions and millions of dollars, but I’ll tell you what has happened as a result of the pledge conference.
“We have been able to engage a lot of local and international donors now that we’re fully into this reconstruction process and so what is happening is we have the ability to seemingly engage more donors because they’re now in tune with what the needs of The Bahamas are.”
Speaking of the conference’s successes, Mrs Smith said there have been promising results.
Chief among these has been money donated for the two permanent storm shelters on Grand Bahama and Abaco. Mrs Forbes has previously told The Tribune officials hope to begin construction on these structures in October.
“For example we have a donor who I’m working with to donate about 2,000 laptops for virtual learning for the schools in the disaster zones in Grand Bahama and in Abaco.
“We have a donor who has given $200,000 toward the construction of a community centre/hurricane shelter. We have another donor who’s given us $400,000 for the same project and we have a couple of other donors that are working with us on very specific projects and one of the things that we need to understand as well and we accept it as an authority (is) a lot of these donors will match their money with a particular project. So what we’ve done in the DRA we have structured gift agreements and concept notes so the concept notes would speak to a specific project. We send the concept note to the donor.”
The lion’s share of the amount pledged at the January conference came from the P3 group.
“The total value of what was pledged is $1.77bn. Out of that $1.77bn, $109,000 was pledged in cash. So what you saw happening was we had a group that everybody knows, P3, a US-based firm who had pledged $1.675bn. That was for equity financing,” she said.
“Then you had another maybe $92m in grants and another $34m.”
Mrs Smith continued: “But what is key is $109,000 was cash. Of that cash was a $60,000 cheque that was written by a local Bahamian who wanted to help with the debris.
“The other $58,000 were cheques that are on the UNDP’s (United Nations Development Programme) account because they were the persons that basically served as sponsors for the event and had booths and that was the income and revenue that was received from those booths. Probably that doesn’t add up to $109,000 but there may have been one or two other small cash donations that would have taken you up to $109,000.
“So the majority of the money that had been pledged was either equity financing, people had some grants and that’s really the long and the short of it.”
To date, there remains no decision on whether the government will tap into P3’s proposal.