Davis defends decision on pre-election contracts
Most of the contracts the Minnis administration claims were signed weeks, and in some cases days, before the 2017 general election, just happened to “culminate at that point”, according to Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis.
“The fact that contracts were signed sometime shortly before election, I’m sure if they were to examine the process, they would have recognized that the contracts would have been in train for a year or maybe two years [for] some of them,” said Davis at a press conference in the Minority Room following the budget communication yesterday.
“It’s just that it culminated at that point in time, after going through all of the processes.
“… If they examine that, I think they will find that most of the contracts that they complain about would have been in train for at least two or three years.”
In the budget communication, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said the PLP administration “left us with a cupboard that is bare”.
Turnquest said there is an excess of $320 million in outstanding commitments left by the previous administration.
He said vendors are clamoring for payments, and new bills are being discovered every day, and highlighted that there was a large amount of commitments made days before the election.
Leading up to the 2012 election, former Prime Minister Perry Christie accused the Ingraham administration of seeking to bribe voters with jobs and contracts.
He pledged that, if his party won the election, it would ensure legislation is passed to prevent a government from handing out contracts or jobs between the time Parliament is dissolved and an election takes place.
At the time, he accused then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham of using the Public Treasury to sway voters with promises of jobs and lucrative government contracts.
Turnquest said it was hypocritical of Christie to make such a claim in light of the current government’s recent findings.
Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Assembly Glenys Hanna-Martin said the government would have to focus on the motives behind contracts and not the proximity to the election.
“I think the point the former prime minister was making.. he likened it to bribery,” she said.
“I think in Cat Island we had situations where the FNM candidate was sitting down signing contracts just before the election.
“So it was the concept of, not so much the proximity to an election, but the motivation or the motive for signing.
“Bribery was the term used.
“As indicated by the leader, in this case, on examination we will have to see what they are talking about.
“You will see a lot of these things were projects that were projected and in train from that time.
“The issue is not that you did it before an election; the question was ‘Why were you doing it, and what was your objective at that time?’”
In his communication, Turnquest revealed that the former government spent $30 million for roadside contracts in New Providence — a project that was only supposed to cost some $3 million.
“As all will readily appreciate, the matter of those VAT dollars collected from hard-working Bahamians and, more specifically, the uses to which those VAT dollars were put, has been and remains a sore point indeed,” Turnquest said.
“Despite repeated public requests and pressure on our predecessors to provide clarification on this issue, they stalled and prevaricated to the point of obfuscation.
“Finally, the previous administration relented and only a couple of months ago set out the details on how, in its estimation, VAT monies were allocated and used.
“It was clearly evident from that presentation that those monies were not fully dedicated to the grave need to reduce the level of government debt in this country.
“By their own admission, significant portions of the VAT dollars were used to finance some tax reductions and more significantly, to finance new spending on the previous so-called and self-proclaimed priority spending programs.
“These programs include $30 million in the current fiscal year for roadside contracts in New Providence under the aegis of the Beaches and Parks Authority, $25 million over three years for Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival and over $10 million in consultant fees for an incomplete [National Health Insurance] program.”