Find the money
During debate in the House of Assembly last week, Finance Minister Peter Turnquest made a startling claim. He said the government is searching for $42 million that cannot be found from the $150 million borrowed by the Christie administration after Hurricane Matthew.
“We can only trace approximately $108 million of the $150 million that was supposedly borrowed and spent for Hurricane Matthew,” he said during debate on a resolution thanking the governor general for the Speech from the Throne.
“While I am not saying the balance is unaccounted for, I am saying that we just cannot find it. We’re still looking.”
Turnquest should not drop this bombshell and leave it there. Every effort should be made to find the taxpayers’ money. The Christie administration raised taxes on Bahamians unlike any government before. People with little lost much to fill the state’s coffers.
Funds deposited in modern financial institutions do not just disappear. If the finance minister and his staff can’t find the money, independent auditors should be brought in to help.
Exuma MP Chester Cooper is defending the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) as shadow finance minister. We are surprised that Cooper has allowed himself to be used by his party in this manner.
“Either he knows where the $42 million is or he doesn’t,” Cooper said yesterday.
“His irresponsible suspicions are of no material use at this point. As minister, he has a duty to account.
“I remind the minister that elections are over. I invite his government to focus on economic growth, job creation, foreign direct investments and spurring domestic entrepreneurship.”
Cooper was not there when the wheeling and dealing took place in the last PLP administration. He was not around the Cabinet table. He was not in caucus. He should let those former decision makers answer.
Turnquest yesterday suggested that the last government diverted the missing money borrowed for hurricane relief to “buy an election win”.
“The PLP government, we suspect, obtained a resolution to borrow $150 million on hurricane relief, but instead diverted $40 million plus of that sum for unauthorized expenditure on any number of things in an ultimately vain effort to buy an election win,” he said.
“And while that money most likely went to their cronies and other wasteful spending, it is the Bahamian people who are now stuck with the bill.”
We would not be surprised if that claim is true. Turnquest, though, needs to produce the evidence. He is the finance minister and has the power to substantiate his claims.
Find the money and detail to the people how it was spent.