Op-EdOpinion

Politicians and their finances

It was a week; even as a skilled joke-smith, I couldn’t have written it any less ironic.

However, what still has me snickering is a group of “newbie” MP’s unaware they need to disclose their finances to the Public Disclosure Commission.

It’s painfully apparent that the more things change, the more they remain the same in the 242!

Let’s have a closer look.


Ignorance isn’t always bliss:

When Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) Chairman Bishop Victor Cooper told The Nassau Guardian earlier this week that some first-time MPs were not aware that they had a legal requirement to file their financial disclosures under the Public Disclosure Act, I was gob-smacked!

Bishop Cooper also said, “There are persons who are new members of Parliament who aren’t aware, and so as a result of that, some persons are just finding out, and so they’ve been advised that they need to get their information in and they’ve been advised to do that ASAP. It’s just helping those, giving a simple grace period for those who haven’t been through it before.”

Say what?

Now, Bishop Cooper, I know you are just getting familiar with your chairman’s post having been appointed in January of this year.

So please, with all due respect, let me remind you of a few mitigating factors regarding the Public Disclosure Act and why the time for “grace periods” is over.


The power of the act:

The function and purpose of the Public Disclosure Act is the provision for the Public Disclosure Commission to examine declarations produced and filed by MPs, senators and senior public officials, and public appointees.


The PDA Commission also failed to disclose:

One of the critical requirements of the PDC is to produce and publish reports to the general public, allowing voters to see who declared and who didn’t.

Ironically, the PDC has not produced a report since December 2011, and it contained information on disclosures only up to 2008. That’s 14 years outstanding.

Members of Parliament and senators are required by law to turn in their financial disclosures to the PDC by March each year, covering their assets and liabilities for the previous year.

The PDC also clearly states that any person who does not comply with the law is liable to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than two years.

It’s clear with no report published since 2011 and no declarations by numerous politicians from both major political parties, past and present, not to mention the fact that not one MP has been penalized or jailed for their failure to disclose, that sadly the PDC appears to be dysfunctional, operating way below par.

Hopefully, Bishop Cooper, in his capacity as chairman, will fully address these longtime issues that seem to be halting progress at the PDC and usher in a new day (pun intended) of transparency and accountability amongst our politicians regarding their finances.

The voting populous has grown weary of seeing select groups of individuals turn from “thousandaires” into “millionaires” every five years without a trace.


For the record:

Both leaders of the present administration and the opposition have declared.

Prime Minister Philip Davis’ office confirmed that he filed his disclosures on time. Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper confirmed yesterday that he too filed on time.

Similarly, Opposition Leader Michael Pintard also said he has filed on time.

Now, if we can only get the rest to follow suit.


Pointless:

In all honesty, it’s been bare-bones compliance with the Public Disclosure Act.

Having an act that no one adheres to nor recognizes is lunacy, not to mention the wastage of public funds on a commission that has proven over and repeatedly to be an epic failure for decades.


It’s FOIA’s time:

This lingering issue, once again, highlights the dire need for the full rollout of the Freedom of Information Act in The Bahamas.

Know better, do better!

(That goes for both politicians and voters).

• Inigo “Naughty” Zenicaze- laya is the host of radio show “Talking Heads” on Guardian Radio.

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