Former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
DR Hubert Minnis has accused Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis of irresponsibly impugning a non-profit organisation affiliated with the former administration’s food programme, warning his comments could make it difficult to attract private sector assistance in the future.
“It’s a stupid and immature statement, an irresponsible statement to be made by any Prime Minister and I can’t wait to get in Parliament to buss his a-- and their a-- for talking stupidness,” Dr Minnis said yesterday.
On Wednesday, Mr Davis said an NGO attached to the Minnis administration’s national food programme had close to $2m sitting in its bank account that was not used to help Bahamians. He said the money has since been returned to the government as demanded by his administration.
However, Dr Minnis said the matter was a result of a quoting error that the NGO was working to resolve.
“An unfortunate event had happened and some of the monies were misquoted by NGOs in their financial systems,” Dr Minnis said. “They were misquoted and as a result of that requests would have been made for money to keep the food running to feed Bahamians who were in need, which was an emergency. They subsequently with time realised that some monies were misquoted. Government was contacted as to how to return the monies since they were misquoted, but not at one time was any of the money used by NGOs for any personal use or misappropriation.
“The monies were subsequently returned to government, but you know and I know that the hardest thing in the world to do is to return monies to government. Davis and his government need to be very careful when they are trying to impugn the reputation of the NGOs who have done so much for this country. He should not be playing political mischief when the integrity of the disbursement of the monies was preserved. Not one red cent was mismanaged by the NGOs,” Dr Minnis said.
Mr Davis said a review of the food programme under his predecessor is ongoing. He said record keeping with the programme was poor and claimed public officers in the Ministry of Social Services who created the food programme were isolated from the operations of the initiative.
Dr Minnis said: “The Davis administration will force NGOs in the future not to become involved in doing the good work that they are doing with government and not to become involved in assisting government because of political mischief and the impugning of their reputation. They must be very, very careful because should another disaster happen in The Bahamas, because of what the PLP government is attempting to do and lest the NGOs come forth and private sector come forth to assist, the Bahamas would be in serious problems.”
Susan Larson, who headed the feeding programme, voiced similar fears to Tribune Business on Wednesday. She said participants in the programme may be “unnecessarily damaged” by Mr Davis’ continuing attacks on its work.
“I think that you will find each of the NGOs that participated in the task force stands by their record and their service to the Bahamian people,” Mrs Larson said.
“The funds that the Prime Minister is referring to were miscoded, and not misappropriated, so they were not holding on to these funds as if they knew they had them and refused to spend them. This was an accounting error which, when discovered, the funds were put into escrow and the NGO awaited instructions on returning them to the Public Treasury.
“If you know how account numbers are applied to monies going in and going out, it was miscoded and not tallied in accounts attached to the task force. It was not spent, it was not tallied. As soon as the error was realised it was held in escrow and immediate steps were taken to return it to the Public Treasury,” she said.
The Minnis administration created the National Food Distribution Task Force, a public/private partnership, in 2020 to provide emergency food assistance for vulnerable Bahamians and residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The programme has since come to an end.