Reconstruction trust fund expected to be up and running by next month

The Bahamas National Recovery and Reconstruction Trust Fund is expected to be up and running by February, after which point it will remain ongoing permanently, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis said yesterday.

He emphasized that the fund will be managed by “private sector professionals” and undergo regular reporting as well as auditing to ensure transparency.

“We intend to roll out our first batch of recovery, with respect to repairs, at the beginning of February,” Lewis said.

“We recognize that we have over 4,800 homes either totally destroyed or damaged in some form or the other. We know that’s not going to happen overnight.

“So, now we have to figure out how we’re going to phase the program out and the good thing about the reconstruction trust is that the government is seeding it with the first $10 million. We made that pledge, we have made that commitment.

“And then with this pledge conference coming on to add to that, the management of the trust itself has the ability – the legal capacity – to go out there and to raise funds. Again, this is going to be ongoing.”

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is sponsoring a conference at the Baha Mar resort on January 13, 2020, in order to raise money for recovery and reconstruction following Hurricane Dorian.

UNDP Official Kenroy Roach said yesterday the purpose of the conference is to bring the local, regional and international private sector on board with the efforts.

Last month, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the government is “quite urgently” seeking to raise funds “to complement the government’s $10 million already given for home repairs”.

“Accountability is very, very important to us,” Lewis stressed yesterday. “We have to advise the public as to funds that we receive and how it is being expended.

“So, the Reconstruction Authority will make regular reports to me and I’ll make regular reports to Cabinet, as well as to Parliament, so that people will know how funds are being expended.

“This is one of the reasons why we’ve established the authority and we’ve established the reconstruction trust so that when people make pledges, their money will be earmarked and they can better account for how their money was spent.

“If you said, ‘I want to donate $300,000 towards a school,’ it goes into the Consolidated Fund; chances are that could get buried somewhere along the way. But when it goes into our reconstruction trust, which is managed by private sector professionals, earmarked, it is carried out according to the request of the donor.”

The minister added, “Again, questions are always asked – ‘What you doing with my money?’ So, we want to be able to answer responsibly and correctly.

“Because, I say very often, I will not ever want to trade in my watch or my bracelet for any handcuffs. So, it is not my intention; I am not going to give up my freedom for any reason. I intend to be above board.”

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