Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis labelled both Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) Managing Director Katherine Forbes-Smith and Minister of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis as “disasters” yesterday as he accused the government of creating the two operations only to create jobs.
As Davis criticized DRA’s newly announced Small Home Repair Programme for Hurricane Dorian victims on Abaco and Grand Bahama as “just nothing more than what was always in place through Urban Renewal” during the monthly PLP press conference at the party’s headquarters yesterday, he took aim at Forbes-Smith.
“Kay Forbes-Smith, she’s now in small home repairs?” Davis asked.
“I thought she was in charge of NEMA (the National Emergency Management Agency) or whatever, disaster relief construction. She is a disaster, and she presides over the disaster committee.”
He added, “I’m concerned because, from all accounts, she’s a divisive figure and we are not confident that she’ll be dealing with or discharging that function in a non-partisan way.”
Asked whether he has confidence in Lewis, Davis also said: “That’s the problem, again another disaster, because this appears to be one bureaucracy over the other.
“Don’t forget he was appointed the minister, and then about a month or two later, you have this Disaster [Recovery] Authority and she was appointed.
“And don’t forget, even before those two – before the Ministry of Disaster and the Disaster Authority – we had NEMA. So it’s all these bureaucracies. It appears that they’re just trying to create jobs to appease their cronies.”
This is not the first time Forbes-Smith’s position has been criticized by the official opposition, as its members accused her of being in a conflicted position in serving as hurricane relief coordinator while also being the Senate president in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
She had been appointed by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis on September 11 to lead hurricane relief and redevelopment efforts on Grand Bahama; while Permanent Secretary Jack Thompson and former Chairman of the National Insurance Board Algernon Cargill were to lead the efforts on Abaco.
A little over a week later, on September 22, Minnis announced the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Recovery and Reconstruction, with Lewis as the minister.
Minnis said at the time that the ministry will have seven key responsibilities such as handling “enhanced” disaster response measures, including the coordination of immediate relief and response efforts with NEMA and other organizations.
Government’s Disaster Reconstruction Authority Bill, 2019 – which called for the establishment of an authority that would be responsible for management and oversight of reconstruction in disaster zones – then passed in early November, although the opposition did not support the bill.
Later that month, Forbes-Smith resigned from the Senate in order to focus on relief efforts, according to her resignation letter.