Prime Minister Philip Davis said yesterday that introducing a campaign finance bill is not a priority of his government at this time.
In the lead up to the general election last year, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) pledged to introduce anti-corruption and campaign finance legislation.
Davis was asked how soon before the public can see these promises fulfilled.
He replied, “Well, as soon as our personnel get around to doing it. Right now, there are sufficient comprehensive provisions in our law to combat it.
“The attorney general has been given the mandate to consolidate and to do benchmarking against best practices, to identify what provisions we will have in our laws to combat the anti-corruption issues that impact our country.”
Davis said he did not indicate when campaign finance legislation would come.
He suggested that the government has more pressing concerns.
“There are other issues that impact the little person on the street, the man on Ida Street who doesn’t know where the next meal is coming from,” Davis said.
“I’m more focused on those issues at this moment. At the moment, that’s not a priority for me. The Bahamian people are undergoing suffering and pain as a result of the issues that occurred over the last four years and we’re trying to address those as a priority.
“Yes, those matters are on our radar, but they are not prioritized at this time.”
The recently released United States Department of State’s 2022 Investment Climate Statement on The Bahamas pointed out that the campaign finance system remains largely unregulated with few safeguards against quid pro quo donations, creating a vulnerability to corruption and foreign influence.
The idea of legislation to govern money in politics has been discussed for more than 30 years.
In the 1980s, a campaign finance bill was drafted under the Pindling regime. It never made it to Parliament.
Former Prime Minister Perry Christie had promised such legislation more than once.
In July 2012, shortly after he was re-elected, he said the practice of politicians using money to sway voters had deteriorated to “repugnant” and sometimes “criminal” levels.
However, Hubert Ingraham, while prime minister, had expressed no desire for such legislation, saying that honesty cannot be legislated and pointing to the many challenges faced by the US campaign finance system.
Prior to his 2017 election, then-Free National Movement Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis also promised campaign finance legislation, but it never materialized.
In February, Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper said the Davis administration intends to follow through with its pledge in this regard as it is committed to transparency.