Bahamas ‘inconsistent’ in anti-corruption battle



Tribune Business Reporters

The US government says The Bahamas’ anti-corruption laws have been “inconsistently applied” amid a decades-old system of political patronage that has “plagued” the country.

The federal government, in its 2020 investment climate report on The Bahamas, said the country’s track record on combating bribery and other forms of corruption leaves something to be desired.

“The government has laws to combat corruption of, and by, public officials, but they have been inconsistently applied,” the report said. “Reports of corruption, including allegations of widespread patronage, the routine directing of contracts to party supporters and benefactors, and wealthy and/or politically connected foreign nationals and permanent residents receiving favourable treatment have plagued the political system for decades.”

While giving, or receiving, a bribe from a public official is a criminal offence under the Prevention of Bribery Act, the US report said the October 2015 conviction of former Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Board member, Freddie Ramsey, was the first such case since the legislation was enforced in 1989.

While there is little in the US report that is new, given that concerns over corruption and procurement transparency have been repeated every year since 2014, this does not make the contents any less damaging or concerning.

Bahamian taxpayers, though, are the biggest losers from such practices as they are consistently denied ‘value for money’ by contracts awarded to parties who may not be the ‘best bidder’.

Such a ‘patronage’ system, which all Bahamians know exists, also undermines the creation of a meritocracy-based society, plus notions of fairness and social equity.

“The US Embassy is aware of cases where the Bahamian government failed to respond to investment applications, and several cases where there have been significant delays in the approvals process. Despite challenges, investment continues to grow in tourism, finance, construction, and quick-serve restaurant franchises,” the US report said, although no names were given.

“The absence of transparent investment procedures and legislation is also problematic. US and Bahamian companies alike report the resolution of business disputes often takes years, and collection of amounts due can be difficult even after court judgments. Companies also describe the approval process for FDI and work permits as cumbersome and time-consuming.

“The Bahamian government does not have modern procurement legislation, and companies have complained the tender process for public contracts is not consistent, and that it is difficult to obtain information on the status of bids. In response, the FNM administration drafted a Public Procurement Bill, 2020 and launched an e-procurement and suppliers registry system to increase levels of accountability and transparency in governance.”

Repeated concerns were also expressed over the judicial system, with the US government report saying: “In theory, contracts are legally enforced through the courts. However, there are many cases where local and foreign investors have civil disputes tied up in the court system for many years.

“Others have lost entire sums ranging from several hundred thousand to several million dollars due to fraud. In these instances, the court system has not been a viable option to recover their investments.”

Quentin Knowles, the Bahamas Society of Engineers (BSE) president, said he has not experienced any issues with corruption in trying to win a government contract but added: “As a contractor, we really haven’t been doing a lot of government work.

“We had no choice but to concentrate on private ones, but on occasion we do get government work. Traditionally we like to stay away from the Government. We are never successful for whatever reason.”

Despite getting government email notifications for pricing work and bids, Mr Knowles said he never sees e-mail notifications on “construction work or capital development work”. He added: “Because we don’t focus on government work we haven’t been paying much attention to it.”

Not wanting to call the US report unfair, Mr Knowles said there could be many reasons why firms could be “frustrated” with getting responses from the government on bids they applied for. He said the “Government needs to work on the inefficiencies”, as many times persons would believe something untoward is happening if they feel the response time is not adequate.


FrustratedBusinessman 2 years, 3 months ago

Pot calling the kettle black.

The United States should be the very last country to talk about corruption and political patronage.


Honestman 2 years, 3 months ago

The message is accurate but we don't accept the messenger! The USA is morally bankrupt at the moment after four years of lies from the commander in tweet and his enablers.


proudloudandfnm 2 years, 3 months ago

Yet another glaring example of US hipocricy and double standards....


ThisIsOurs 2 years, 3 months ago

We only need to ask why Nygards "parties" lasted so long in this country. The answer is money talks. or keeps silent in his case. and money gets contracts granted expeditiously


IslandWarrior 2 years, 3 months ago

After 7 Years of presentations, emails (that went unanswered), meetings that had no conclusion, a Cabinet meeting that was a clown show and an embarrassment; design, consultancy fees, travel and salaries that total over three million dollars. Our company had to close the book on our projects (that would cost the government no capital expense) while the Bahamian People are lied to and have to stand out in the yard for service at a government department that feeds a greedy few who careless about the effects of their corrupt and criminal enterprise because Ministers and officials turn a blind eye on "the ride" that is played on the Bahamian People ...in both administrations.


bogart 2 years, 3 months ago

Yes indeed. You have been there too. Alternating political parties have accused other for Curruption to win elections to govern better, but there is little or no political will to correct egregious wrongs.


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