Attorney General Carl Bethel. (File photo)
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel was adamant yesterday that government has followed the law regarding how contracts are to be awarded.
He was responding to Senator Dr Michael Darville who accused the Minnis administration of using Emergency Powers Orders to “keep secrets” on how public funds are being spent.
“I listened carefully to the Minister of State (Kwasi Thompson) trying to defend the government’s poor performance and much was said about the millions of dollars spent in the last six months,” Dr Darville said in the Senate.
“The truth of the matter is we have little alternative but to take his word for what it is because after spending millions of dollars, we on this side have no way of knowing many of the details because they have used the emergency orders to keep secrets on what they are spending, what they are borrowing and more importantly who have benefitted from many of the contracts signed during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mr Bethel interjected, explaining what is laid out in the Emergency Powers Regulations.
He said: “The emergency regulations signed by the Governor General only require the publication of the details of procurement if an order has been made suspending procurement.
“Presently all government procurement is governed by law. It’s called the Financial Administration and Audit Act. The Public Finance Management Act will in effect repeal and replace the Financial Administration and Audit Act.
“So, the point is that notwithstanding whatever the members opposite may say, all procurement that has occurred throughout the pandemic has occurred in the ordinary course of business following the existing law.
“The pandemic regulations by the Governor General only require enhanced disclosure if the law governing procurement has been waived or pushed aside by order signed by the competent authority. That has not happened.
“I want to assure members opposite and the Bahamian people that so far as the Cabinet is aware all procurement has been carried out in compliance with the Financial Administration and Audit Act.”