By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE Disaster Reconstruction Authority is in the process of investigating several contracts that were issued to manage debris management sites in Abaco and Grand Bahama after “red flags” were detected from comparisons between the large sums of money paid out and the work that was actually done.
This is according to DRA executive chairman Alex Storr yesterday, who told The Tribune that a request would also be made of the government to conduct a forensic audit of the programme, which was launched in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian that destroyed portions of both islands.
In recent days, two contractors have come into question. One of them was contracted for work in Grand Bahama, while the other for work in Abaco.
Among the contractors, Mr Storr confirmed, was a former Free National Movement senator and their spouse.
In an interview yesterday, Mr Storr said the DRA’s board was left with questions after conducting surprise visits at certain sites.
“Those contracts we are looking at the $400,000 was in reference to a contract on Grand Bahama and the story with the $300,000 is Abaco,” Mr Storr said when contacted. “But what it actually is is they have contracts to manage the debris management sites.
“Now the contracts are not for a set amount. What they do is they bill monthly for the work and I have to be careful how I say this. They bill monthly for work that is supposedly done and so sometimes the amounts for different sites could be around $150,000 and sometimes, as in the case of Grand Bahama, the amount skyrocketed to $400,000 or even $500,000.”
Asked if these contracts raised red flags, Mr Storr said: “There were numerous red flags.
“For instance, there is a site on Abaco. That contractor, when he billed monthly, he would provide a shared drive that we could upload and see pictures of each truck that came into the site, licence plate numbers the quantity of the load and such.
“On some of these other sites that we are concerned about they provided no such documentation. They just sent in the bill and were paid or in some cases expecting to be paid.”
He also said: “And let me say that we paid a surprise visit as well as we made an official visit to these sites and, in particular one of the sites, when we compared what we saw on the site to what was being billed, it didn’t line up.”
He said the sites in Grand Bahama have been discontinued, but what was billed did not, in his opinion, coincide with what officials saw at one of the sites.
“The sites on Grand Bahama have been discontinued, but when we look at the history of billing, it’s not in line with what we see at the site and for example on the properly managed site on Abaco you can see active work going on.
“You can see where the debris is being sorted, we would have organic debris metal, plastics and such, but on these sites that were abandoned on Grand Bahama the debris has not been sorted and it’s simply as if trucks just pulled up and dumped debris and left it.”
This is the second revelation to come out of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) this week.
On Monday it was revealed that former DRA managing director Katherine Forbes-Smith is suing the authority for $408,333.16 for breaching her contract after she was fired from her position last year.
According to a writ, the DRA agreed to pay Mrs Forbes-Smith an annual salary of $110,000 in monthly instalments of $9,166.66 and an annual housing allowance of $30,000 in monthly instalments of $2,500.
The contract also stipulated an annual duty allowance of $15,000 in monthly instalments of $1,250 and a monthly fuel allowance of $250.
At the end of that contract, Mrs Forbes-Smith was entitled to receive a gratuity of 15 percent of the sum received under the contract.
It is something that Central and South Abaco MP John Pinder claims is “shameful” because he suggests that certain duties are unfulfilled in storm ravaged Abaco while the former managing director of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority allegedly took home an “extravagant” salary.
Mr Storr has also claimed that in his opinion Mrs Forbes-Smith’s salary was not a good use of taxpayers’ money.