s Parliament is set to resume, the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) sees opportunity in the government’s agenda for the upcoming legislative year.
We are encouraged that several legislative pieces are being considered for strengthening and amendment to improve structures of governance, quality of life, anti-corruption efforts and economic opportunities.
Therefore, ORG has identified key policy options and initiatives that can support these efforts.
Priority policy options and areas:
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – The full enactment of the FOIA has yet to happen since 2017.
Last year, it was announced that in 2022, Bahamians would be able to make FOIA requests to 10 government agencies in a trial period.
This announcement was a significant step forward for the FOIA regime in The Bahamas and was met with positive public response.
ORG acknowledges that full enactment of FOIA systems can take time, however in order to meet the public’s expressed interest in gaining access to publicly held information, ORG recommends that efforts be accelerated so that this trial phase is open by the end of the year.
ORG is committed to advance this agenda in the public’s interest and will support the government to achieve this goal through public education and engagement.
Public Procurement Act – Procurement legislation makes government acquisition of goods and services transparent and accountable to encourage wider and accessible economic growth.
Components of The Bahamas’ current Public Procurement Act (2021) detail modern features such as online pre-registration of vendors, established government procurement criteria and processes by amount, regular reporting of awarded contracts and the development of a Procurement Committee for open multi-sector oversight of significant contracts.
As the government seeks to amend the legislation for swift and efficient governance, it is essential that accountability and transparency are upheld to engender public trust and competition in government contracts. To support the process of revision, ORG will benchmark regional legislation and global standards as well as offer recommendations for consideration.
Public Disclosure Act – The existing public disclosure regime in The Bahamas was pioneering for its time in a regional context. ORG is excited to see that the government is considering revising this law.
The Public Disclosure Act (1976) created a disclosure commission that monitors and examines the assets, income and liabilities of sitting parliamentarians and senior public officials. In its 46 years since passage, compliance with the law has been uneven.
ORG’s Accountable Governance Committee has benchmarked the act and noted areas which, if amended and modernized, may benefit the act’s anti-corruption function and provide more accessibility, accountability and transparency.
For example, creating an online platform for individuals to complete their declaration can encourage more public officials to comply with the law.
Digitized processes tend to reduce cognitive overload and make processes accessible. Moreover, this online platform can be furnished with mechanisms for the public to monitor and assess individuals who have successfully completed their declaration.
ORG sees digitization, greater transparency and accessibility, behavioral science and strengthening the integrity of administrative structures as key opportunities regarding this law.
Effectively amending this legislation can allow the administration to continue in the ethos of innovation that took place in 1976.
Fiscal Responsibility Act – In recovering from Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic, debt management is important as the government needs to manage its fiscal position.
To mitigate the effects of these catastrophes, administrations have resorted to an increase in borrowing, subsequently leading the debt-to-GDP ratio to be more than 90 percent.
In rebuilding and growing the economy, it is necessary to utilize the Fiscal Responsibility Act to evaluate and assess the spending of the Bahamian government.
This legislation can be used to plan and strategize pathways for development.
ORG commends the government for seeking to amend the law as announced earlier this year and supports the timelier inclusion of independent perspectives and expanded public reporting of The Bahamas’ fiscal position as well as the sources of expenditure and revenue.
Education reform – An effective educational system should recognize a variety of outcomes for all Bahamians.
Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected learning outcomes on many levels in The Bahamas and recent exam results reinforce the necessity for robust reform in the education sector.
ORG has identified several policy initiatives that, if undertaken, can serve to mitigate these challenges.
A significant effort to connect with individuals who were unable to complete their studies will be critical to supporting local economic and social progress.
For instance, the government can allow for the operation of partnership schools to bring high quality innovative education for all into our most under-served communities.
Programs to support parents with early childhood development and expanded opportunities for preschools can support comprehensive accessibility.
Additionally, ORG supports expanding opportunities for vocational pathways in the form of youth apprenticeship programs in higher levels of education.
A reformed educational system should mirror a regime that focuses on promoting outcomes that consider everyone’s background and supports their well-being with sufficient resources to transparently monitor the quality of education.
ORG offers the above legislative recommendations to improve governance, better equitable economic outcomes and increase public trust.
We believe the proposed revisions will improve the conditions and democracy of citizens of The Bahamas and support the growth and success of its public and private sectors.
These reforms fit within the larger context of the National Development Plan (NDP) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In advancing these policy options, ORG supports broad public consultation and education for meaningful input and interests to be fully considered.
Collaboration between the government, civil society and public sector remains a vital interest for ORG in the policy-making process.
We remain available to collaboratively apply the necessary resources to advance these policy opportunities for a brighter future in The Bahamas.
— Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG)
The Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) is a not-for-profit civic foundation committed to realizing a brighter future by creating dialogue, insights and solutions around the challenges affecting accountable governance, education reform and economic development in The Bahamas. We are businesspersons, students, artists, educators, politicians, clergy, academics and members of civil society united to resolve the nation’s most vexing issues by addressing their root causes. Through research, advocacy, and education we can create a culture of governance that promotes opportunity and prosperity for all.