Bowe defends weapons decision
The decision by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) to purchase weapons and other military items from a home-based business did not pose a security risk to the country or the force, former RBDF Commodore Roderick Bowe said.
Bowe was responding to Nassau Guardian questions about the findings in an auditor general’s report into the RBDF that raised concerns over the force’s procurement of weapons and other military items in 2014 and 2015 when Bowe was commodore.
“No, I don’t think so,” said Bowe, when asked if he thought the decision had posed a security risk.
“We would have not been able to do business with them if they weren’t able to be vetted and properly cleared by the U.S. authorities to export those weapons.
“So that is a check and balance there.
“I believe that we did have due diligence in that regard. There are new companies that come on the market daily, and to say that they are not qualified, it is kind of difficult to judge them by that, to say that they are not qualified.
“If they meet the requirements we set out then that wasn’t an issue.
“We did do our homework with other companies in regard to procuring other items, and [with] one or two of them, we found that, for various reasons, we could not do business with them.”
Bowe said the force did its best to determine which companies it felt comfortable doing business with.
Once a company meets the criteria to procure weapons, Bowe said, the RBDF would focus on trying to find the best price.
“Any company that has to be used to procure weapons for the RBDF would go through a process of vetting to see if they qualify,” he said.
“What we would do is, we would seek to send out a listing of the weapons and ammunition that we would want to purchase.
“Once those quotes would return to us, we would make a decision as to which company we would go with.
“If you went into the market for a Browning or a Sterling weapon, those weapons are not different from different buyers.
“The only difference is that you have a different buyer to purchase it from. So you would probably look at the best price for your dollar, the best quality available is always within the name of the weapon itself.
“But to get the best quality, in terms of the best price, you would seek to find a number of vendors out there.
“Once you would have gotten those prices from the vendors, we would then go ahead and make a determination as to who we would get them from.
“The vendor here in Nassau was a vendor that had been providing items for the RBDF and other government agencies for quite some time.
“We didn’t have a problem with it. I think that was the best price that we got.”
But Auditor General Terrance Bastian recommended that the RBDF “ceases to source its military products from home-based businesses”.
He wrote that, in November 2014, Cabinet approved the award of a $1.3 million contract to a home-based business to procure weapons and other military items for the force.
The auditor general said that the company was inactive from 2008 to 2013 and only had its business license renewed four months before receiving the contract.
Bastian noted that the company did not have the requisite approval from the commissioner of police to import firearms into The Bahamas and that the Customs Department could only verify three of the 12 entries lodged in that company’s name in its system.
The auditor general further said that two entries for shipments of weaponry, one in 2014 and the other in 2015, could not be located by the Customs Department.
“Utilizing the services of a home-based company, over an established company that has been used by the RBDF in past purchases, poses probable security risks,” the auditor general wrote.
Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said last week that the force can account for all of its weapons.
Bowe, who served as commodore from January 2010 to March 2015, said that he has “nothing to fear” regarding the findings in the report.
“I did what I thought was best for the organization during my time as its head,” he said.
“I don’t think that we did anything wrong in that regard.”