Beset by controversy over the resignation of former Cabinet minister Lanisha Rolle, the Minnis administration decided to resort to old hat in Parliament yesterday.
Out of that proverbial hat, Public Service and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle dusted off a National Insurance Board (NIB) audit of accounts for 2013, which undoubtedly was intended to shift focus away from mounting calls for transparency, and from a shadow of scandal in the Rolle resignation cast by the government’s very own Cabinet Office statement on the issue.
The NIB audit examines the use of board funds to finance the 2012 Christie administration’s housing program, and like all other audits of public accounts, ought to be tabled upon submission to government.
Instead of an expeditious tabling of the NIB audit report, however, government is said to have been in possession of the report for over a year.
External audits come at a hefty price for taxpayers, and ought to be utilized to bolster accountability and transparency, and inform government on areas of deficiency in public administration that require remediation.
It took little discernment to recognize that the belated tabling of the report was timed to redirect public upset about activities under the current Free National Movement (FNM) administration, to those of the previous Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration.
But such antics call into question the purpose of external audits ordered by the Minnis administration, as they open the government to being accused of using public money to fund audits designed to source and lay political landmines, rather than to facilitate improvement in the management of public finances.
Such is the double-minded stewardship of the Minnis administration, which on the one hand basks in a party legacy of good governance and openness, while on the other hand advances expediency that redefines transparency as being the provision of information only when and how government deems it beneficial to its interests.
For the governing party, its lifeline even as it lurches from one self-inflicted controversy to the next, has been that it remains the best party for the Bahamian people because the FNM is distinctly different from the PLP.
Bringing an NIB audit report on transactions eight years ago, while coming empty handed on government audits and expenditure reports this term, including but not limited to a most recent audit within the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, is evidence of an administration desperately clinging to a lifeline showing distinct signs of wear and tear.
While the NIB minister was determined to make the public aware of some of the audit’s more controversial findings regarding the Christie administration’s housing program, the prime minister, who has been the portfolio minister for the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) since its inception, has yet to cause a near eight-month late audit report of DRA’s accounts to be laid before Parliament as required by law.
The DRA’s home repair program on Abaco and Grand Bahama was placed on hold due to a reported exhaustion of millions in government subventions, even though vendors of the program said they had not been paid, and many approved applicants remained in limbo.
An independent forensic audit of the proposed sale of the Grand Lucayan Resort in Grand Bahama has yet to be brought to Parliament, together with the initial heads of agreement for the sale signed between government and joint partners Royal Caribbean International and the ITM Group.
The Grand Lucayan heads of agreement is one of at least seven signed in the last two and a half years that have not been tabled, and a number of forensic audits announced by the prime minister upon assuming office have also not been tabled.
The cost of all initiated audits has never been disclosed.
The governing party’s lifeline is worn thin by its many instances of appealing to opposition hypocrisy, rather than establishing that the Minnis administration is better by simply being better.
The Bahamian people gave their verdict on the Christie administration nearly four years ago.
The Minnis administration cannot hope to escape the same fate by hanging on to the “you did it too” narrative.