By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Philip “Brave” Davis yesterday doubled down on his assertions about the former government’s food assistance programme, saying his administration still has no record of how money was spent by the food task force despite reports saying otherwise.
“I am not attacking NGOs. If anyone looked at what I had to say or if anyone understood what I had to say, it was not an attack. It was an effort to understand what went on,” Mr Davis said during a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.
“There is a statement that suggests that the facts are as clear as day. Well, show us the fact and we too may come to the conclusion, but it is as clear as day. As I speak, as I stand here, we still don’t have a full picture of what went on.
“I’m not criticising the NGOS and as I said when I spoke about NGOs, you (would) not be talking about this if the former government had done their job. Their job as was required by the law was to account for the funds that were being expended.
“And I also warned them that the Transparency International and other international agencies were concerned with this perception, indicated that we have to be careful of what they call pandemic spending, because it could be used in a way that is abusive.”
Last month, Social Services Minister Obie Wilchcombe claimed the country has not been able to provide information to the World Bank on how its $100m loan was used to provide pandemic relief to hurting Bahamians among other things.
This is one of several concerns and allegations raised by government officials about the Minnis administration’s National Food Distribution Task Force.
However, Mrs Susan Larson, who headed the now disbanded task force, disclosed detailed records on the committee’s spending habits since the initiative’s start, inclusive of food purchases, trucking, shipping, stipends and other overhead costs with The Tribune.
Still, government officials say they do not have the information it seeks about the programme.
According to Mrs Larson, the COVID-19 feeding programme, which began in 2020, distributed 474,420 food vouchers and 972,191 food parcels during its 70 weeks for a total of 1.447m units.
Mrs Larson said an initial 54,107 households were being assisted at the pandemic’s height, but was later reduced to 18,000 towards the end of 2021.