Myles Laroda, the state minister with responsibility for the DRA.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
THE Disaster Reconstruction Authority spent $14m “without due diligence” under the Minnis administration for debris management, a government official said.
Myles Laroda, the state minister with responsibility for the DRA, made the revelation as he highlighted various irregularities and concerns about how the authority was managed, saying a former director of the institution acknowledged this failure.
Mr Laroda also raised an issue about the proposed Abaco Hurricane Centre, first announced by the Minnis administration, saying hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on the project to date but the foundation has not yet been poured.
He also said National Insurance Board contributions had not been paid on behalf of DRA employees, an issue the authority is now correcting.
He told Parliament that the DRA’s debris management arm spent $9.5m for two sites in Abaco and $3.5m in just four months for sites in Grand Bahama.
He reiterated that a forensic audit is underway into the DRA and said he did not want to preempt that investigation.
He told the House of Assembly: “During the management of these sites there was a gap, and I’m quoting one of the former directors, that there was a gap where the government paid $14m without due diligence. There was a gap where the government paid $14m without due diligence.”
He also said: “(In) Elbow Cay we had a situation with debris removal of which there was no contract. There was a notice to proceed. I’m advised that the scope of works that were not laid out were somehow underestimated and that takes us to the Abaco Hurricane Centre of which again, I’m gonna be very guarded, but I will say this, that there was a joint venture between a Bahamian and a foreign entity for the plans and also the construction of that facility along with some government homes of which $400,000 was dispersed.
“Two hundred and fifteen thousand was dispersed to an entity that attempts had to be made to try (to) recover those funds. A further $185,000 was paid for the plans of this at the time $1.8m structure. To date, $900,000 has been spent on that project and when I last visited the site in Abaco I could tell you that the foundation has not been poured yet.
“Nine hundred thousand on a project that was scheduled from $1.8m that has ballooned to $2.7m and all we have is a structure with a foundation not poured but still coming out the ground and a few blocks. I’m not a construction man, but I do know that that don’t sound right, and when we have a situation with the $215k that was spent and I’m advised to the foreign partner who would have justified when we tried to recover those funds –– and this recovery started under the FNM, so this ain’ just the PLP trying to recover these funds –– we were advised that the funds paid related to pre-procurement costs of which there were three days of per diem at $22k per day.”
Regarding the Small Homes Repair programme in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, he said more than 3,700 homeowners sought assistance. He said 1,200 people in Grand Bahama got assistance at a price tag of $1.5m and $585,000 went to Abaco residents.
In terms of home rebuilding, he said the Minnis administration had five houses under construction in Central Pines of which $600,000 had already been spent.
“By comparison, Sweetings Cay had the Rotary build a total of 17 homes for $1.5m. I let the Bahamian people judge that. With regards to the domes, we had 38 erected in Abaco of the proposed 213. Approximately $4.9m was spent and less than 20 percent of those domes erected even though 75 percent of the funds was given out.”
He said another $800,000 was paid to a secondary contractor to erect domes after the initial contractor left the project.
Speaking of the DRA’s unpaid contributions to NIB, Mr Laroda said: “What is also concerning, that at December 2021 the DRA owed the National Insurance Board the sum of $168,793.89. There were no payments made to NIB on behalf of the staff of DRA from its inception. I want to ensure the public and those employees former and present that we are presently addressing those matters.”
Last month the DRA said UHY Bain & Associates will forensically audit the authority after an operational review found many signs of mismanagement.