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‘Folly’ to release PwC’s $357m GBPA research

NATIONAL Security Minister Wayne Munroe. Photo: Dante Carrer

NATIONAL Security Minister Wayne Munroe. Photo: Dante Carrer

By FAY SIMMONS

Tribune Business Reporter

jsimmons@tribunemedia.net

A Cabinet minister yesterday asserted it would be “folly” for the Government to disclose evidence showing how the $357m payment demand issued to the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) was calculated.

Wayne Munroe, minister for national security, dismissed calls by Michael Pintard, the Opposition’s leader, for the Davis administration to release both the report it received from the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) accounting firm setting out what is allegedly owed to the Government and the bills presented to the GBPA. 

Mr Pintard, asking if PwC’s work will be disclosed so that all MPs can view it, said: “I would just like to ask the member for Freetown: Would the Government be willing to lay the bill and the study that was conducted by the accounting firm so that all members of the Parliament have a chance to see what the figures are and how you arrived at it. You may very well have an ally in the Free National Movement.

“Unfortunately, we are in the dark about the things that you talk about, because the discussions didn’t involve us and any of the other stakeholders we are aware of. Would you be willing to lay the study and the invoices so that we can all see it and assess?”

Mr Munroe replied that Mr Pintard should get legal advice from “a good FNM lawyer” to understand the “folly” of that request. He did not explain this assertion, although it likely relates to the Government’s desire to keep the details of PwC’s work confidential given that arbitration proceedings with the GBPA appear imminent.

He said: “Marco City should get some legal advice on the process and dispute resolution processes. I know there are many good FNM lawyers. There are many good FNM lawyers who would be able to advise him as to the folly of his request.”

Mr Pintard questioned whether that was a “yes or no” to the Opposition’s request. He asked: “Is that a yes or no? All of that stuff is too complex. Is it a yes or is it a no? Are you willing to lay the documents?” Mr Munroe did not reply and the debate moved on.

Mr Pintard, meanwhile, argued that the Davis administration is making a “bad decision” engaging in a public row with the GBPA.

While giving his contribution on the Anti-Gang Bill in Parliament, Mr Pintard argued the Davis administration should have spoken with Freeport’s municipal government and its licensees privately instead of engaging in a public exchange that can make investors question doing business in Grand Bahama.

He said: “One of the challenges we’re having right now is not a new challenge. We have a challenge where you have a sitting government engaged in a public row with the municipal government, Grand Bahama Port Authority.

“We have said from the beginning we believe that this is a bad decision by the Government, that they are creating uncertainty not just in Freeport, but they are creating uncertainty among present and potential investors who are not certain it makes sense pumping their money into an environment where the Government appears to have the capacity that it could then wrestle away assets or make any number of threats.

“They could have certainly had a private conversation, not just with GBPA because this is not just about them, but with licensees, with the Chamber of Commerce, with members of the Opposition who know some things about the Grand Bahama we’re living in every day and we never left despite many, many hurricanes.”

Mr Munroe argued that it is “deceptive” to imply the Government is not following the “rule of law” and contractual rights by pursuing the $357m that it claims is owed by the GBPA for public services provided in Freeport over and above the tax revenues generated by the city.

He said: “Mr Deputy Speaker, for anybody to suggest that the Bahamas government is making an assertion that this is our contractual right, if you do not agree with us, it goes to be determined by a third party in dispute resolution process.

“If the Bahamas government is wrong, the Port will succeed. If the Bahamas government is right, as my friend from Fox Hill would say, they should pay us what they owe us.”

Mr Pintard fired back that the FNM has been “absolutely clear” that more Bahamians should be shareholders in the GBPA, licensees should have greater involvement in the function of the municipal government and that central government should not be in charge of regulatory functions or infrastructure maintenance in Freeport.

He said: “We believe that the present status quo in Freeport cannot remain. We would like to see an expanded shareholder base with far more Bahamians being shareholders in GBPA. There has to be greater involvement of the licensees in making decisions relative to the functioning of GBPA, including how service charges are applied.

“We do not believe that central government should be in charge of the regulatory functions in Freeport so that they can politicise it in the way they are seeking to do in the rest of the country. Nor do we believe that they should be in charge of the infrastructure maintenance and upgrade.”

Mr Pintard said previous FNM and PLP administrations and the GBPA are “culpable” for Freeport’s current state and, as such, the Davis administration should have sought to settle the dispute “behind the scenes” prior to threatening arbitration as he accused the Government of trying to score “political points”.

He added: “We believe that both GBPA and central government, central government which at one point was a Free National Movement central government which right now is run by the PLP, all of us are culpable in terms of the state in which our Grand Bahama is, Freeport in particular.

“And so we should have had the wisdom to have far more conversations behind the scenes to find a resolution. We believe this government is attempting to score political points to give the impression that they are more nationalistic than the rest of us; that they love Bahamians, and Grand Bahamians, and people in Freeport, more than us.

“They have no more love for our people than we do. We are here, we ride out storms with our people. We help them in the aftermath of catastrophes that hit them. What we do not want is a politicised environment. We want investors with deep pockets, clear vision and a willingness to help create a shareholding society. That’s why we want to expand it [the GBPA] and transform the leadership.”

Mr Munroe again interrupted and maintained that the Davis administration is “abiding by the rule of law” and that all investors within The Bahamas should be aware they are subject to its laws.

He said: “I cannot permit it to remain on the record any assertion that the Government is doing anything other than abiding by the rule of law. Every investor in every island should know that they are subject to the laws of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. They are subject to the agreement that they make and that the Government will hold them to it. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Comments

ExposedU2C 1 month ago

The PWC accounting firm in the Bahamas is controlled and led by individuals who are well-known die-hard FNM supporters.

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ExposedU2C 1 month ago

Couldn't resist being facetious. LOL

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moncurcool 1 month ago

Clearly, the Minister just gave credence to the government trying to do a shake down,

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ThisIsOurs 1 month ago

"Munroe replied that Mr Pintard should get legal advice from “a good FNM lawyer” to understand the “folly” of that request. He did not explain this assertion, although it likely relates to the Government’s desire to keep the details of PwC’s work confidential given that arbitration proceedings with the GBPA appear imminent."

I wish a good lawyer would explain this. Because by definition nothing in the report produced by Pwc would be secret. Its an accounting of govt services rendered and the associated cost and govt revenue collected

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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

Yet, this same Minister sent a posse of police to Long Island to confiscate the MP SDs and carry out a kangaroo court case.

Ain't long now for these New Day crooks.

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Economist 1 month ago

The Minister is clearly afraid that the public might not see things the way the government does.

If the government has a clear, honest and legitamate claim, then what do they have to fear by releasing the report?

If evrything is so cut and dry, it will not affect the outcome.

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Baha10 1 month ago

If legit, the debt can withstand the light of day, if not … well … not good … and requires “very” convincing explanation, otherwise … well … even worse!

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ExposedU2C 1 month ago

Yes, but as we all know, cockroaches do not like the light of day.

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