“The Buck Stops HERE!” – President Harry S. Truman
Last week in part one of this series, we reviewed several events for which the current Free National Movement (FNM) government should be accountable, but for which they refused to man up and take that responsibility.
In that first installment, we noted the new government’s rush to initiate political prosecutions of former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) members of Parliament, alleging that they had engaged in corrupt activities while in office. We recounted how two of them were acquitted of the charges, with no apology from anyone in the political directorate.
We recalled a sign on U.S. President Harry Truman’s desk in the Oval Office of the White House that said, “The Buck Stops HERE!” which affirms the notion that the president has to make the big, final decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions.
This week, we will continue to consider this — is there anyone in The Bahamas who is responsible enough to have a sign like that on their desk and ideally on whose desk should such a sign sit? In this article, we will cite 10 instances where the government has failed to acknowledge where the buck stops:
1. The Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) New Providence island-wide electrical blackout on Friday, November 29 that also interrupted the international broadcast of the Battle for Atlantis, created a national embarrassment for The Bahamas.
There was no official comment on the blackout by anyone in government until the following Sunday when the prime minister condemned it (as, by then, everyone had) and acted like an outraged member of the public, albeit one who threatened to make big changes there.
Ideally, the government should have had a statement out long before BPL did. It should have recognized that the buck stops with the political directorate, but it took more than 36 hours for anyone to make an official comment.
2. When BTC also went out on Friday, November 29, along with the lights, no one from the government commented on this either, or explained it. The Bahamas government still owns a significant part of BTC, but no one seems to want to be responsible for its failures. Where does the buck stop in such circumstances?
3. The government-owned Water & Sewerage Corporation (WSC) has reportedly shut down an American reverse osmosis plant in Eleuthera, and the Americans have supposedly filed a complaint with the U.S. authorities over the decision. Who is speaking about this development, which clearly impacts in some way the water supply on Eleuthera?
If this is true, the board and its executive chairman made the decision that has now thrown the entire tourism product on that island in jeopardy. Sources on the ground have stated that the American operation did not take the decision kindly and that they filed a complaint with U.S. authorities over the WSC decision. We are awaiting more information about this story to ascertain exactly where the buck should stop on this development.
4. In January 2020, less than a month from now, you will not be able to carry your groceries home from the food store unless you bring your own bag or purchase them from the store because of the ban on single-use plastics that will be going into effect.
What about the plastic bags we use to weigh our fruits and veggies in the store? Are they banned as well? And what about other single-use plastic items used in other industries? Is the food and beverage sector the only one to get hit with this?
On December 5, 2019, a public service announcement appeared on TV, outlining what was to be banned, but there is no one to tell those impacted where the alternatives are available and no one to ask exactly what else may fall under this ban.
5. The meaning and ramifications of the French blacklisting The Bahamas financial sector has never been explained fully to the Bahamian people.
The attorney general offered the excuse that the French might be experiencing their own stress, so blacklisting us may have been a reaction to that. This was a very simplistic, ingenuous and unhelpful explanation.
Where does the buck stop with this? We need to know who said what to whom to cause the blacklisting, what did anyone do to try to stop it, and what is anyone doing to fix it.
6. And then there was Hurricane Dorian. We still have not learned how many are dead from the hurricane.
How many are missing? How extensive was the damage in monetary terms? When will we know the truth? People are looking for answers, which seem to have blown away with the Category 5 hurricane.
So anxious was the government to avoid having the buck stop at its doorstep that new committees, new groups and even a new ministry were created to deal with those bucks looking for a place to go.
7. Speaking of Hurricane Dorian, when will the public receive a fuller accounting of the magnanimous contributions that were donated from all over the world for the recovery effort of Hurricane Dorian?
For a government that has professed to strictly comply with the principles of accountability and transparency, on whose desk will the buck stop so that the public is provided with an accounting of such donations?
8. Our Bahamas customs department has been directed to implement the brand new “Click 2 Clear” system during the holidays, instead of phasing it in during slower periods after Christmas.
As a result, everyone bringing in items, from the smallest Christmas gifts to the Christmas feasts in the giant food stores, is encountering enormous challenges clearing their items. Instead of the usual day, it is taking a week, or sometimes more, to get your goods through customs.
Apparently, there is no place the buck is stopping on this matter because it is only getting worse: the store shelves are getting emptier, and some Christmas trees will not have anything underneath.
9. However, when the buck actually finds a place to stop, we can be assured that things happen and happen in record time.
Our National Christmas tree was erected on Bay Street and caused a social media furor. The decorations were, shall we say, unusual.
It was reported that the prime minister quickly expressed his dislike of what he was seeing and his desire to have the decorations changed. Literally overnight, his directive was carried out and morning commuters traversing Bay Street were amazed to see an entirely new and more conventional set of decorations on that tree. So apparently, in that one instance, the buck stopped in the right place to get things accomplished. Too bad it can’t do that more often.
10. Earlier this year, amid considerable controversy, The Bahamas government announced the purchase of Our Lucaya Resort in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
At the time of the purchase, the government also announced that it intended to sell that property within a few months. To date, the sale was not consummated and there has been no announcement about the status of the sale, although the government affirmed several months ago that it had several interested purchasers.
As we approach the end of the year, we are none the wiser. Shouldn’t the government provide an update on the status of the sale of this humongous, multi-million-dollar purchase? Where does the buck stop on this matter?
As we approach the end of the last year of the second decade of this millennium, and the third year of this FNM administration, our Christmas wish is that, for the time remaining in its term in office, the government will recognize that, in matters of public policy, the buck ought to stop with the political directorate.
It is imperative that those in whom the public trust has been placed man up to their decisions. Then, and only then, when we have elected officials actually taking responsibility for all their actions, good or bad, will we be able to grow as a nation and as a people.
• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.