Bahamas Press 3RD February 2021.
Despite the calamitous fall in our rankings in the most recent Corruption Perception Index (CPI) there is not a peep from the FNM nor its enablers and the usual pundits who regularly expound on all matters especially where the PLP may be concerned and they can smear the PLP. The Tribune reported “ Noting that the government tabled legislation early on its term to strengthen its anti-corruption regime but has failed to debate and pass those bills. Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) Executive Director Matt Albury said yesterday that The Bahamas’ drop in rank on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2018 should prompt the Minnis administration to take more action”.
What all of these talking heads choose to ignore is that the FNM came to power on the notion that the previous administration was corrupt and, that it would root out corruption. They FNM effectively sold this lie to the Bahamian voters and reinforced the perception of PLP corruption by claiming that the PLP stole our VAT money. As we now see, in each year since the FNM administration came to power corruption is perceived as getting worse not better. That a populist government is corrupt should come as no surprise. Indeed, research by Transparency International (TI) had this to say :
“Populist politicians often make promises to take back corrupt government institutions and put the power in the hands of people, garnering favour from supporters who place an emphasis on the merits of an exciting, outsider candidate over those who fit a traditional party’s status quo. But the very corruption those leaders vowed to eradicate has been known to increase under their watch. With an emphasis on one leader, accountability and transparency can languish”. The TI research continues: “In countries with populist or autocratic leaders, we often see democracies in decline and a disturbing pattern of attempts to crack down on civil society, limit press freedom, and weaken the independence of the judiciary.
Instead of tackling crony capitalism, those leaders usually install even worse forms of corrupt systems,” José Ugaz, the Chair of Transparency International.
No Bahamian public official is daft enough to believe that the United States will allow an erosion of democracy and the stench of corruption on its doorstep. Specifically, will they remain uninvolved if the rule of law and the Bahamas Judiciary is undermined?
These are all questions which flow logically from the recent PCI report. We can either ignore it (the FNM,s default position) or work towards dealing effectively once and for all with public corruption and mending not demolishing our public institutions. The Nassau Guardian reports that: The United States Department of State has highlighted the “lack of transparency” and “perceived corruption” in government procurement in The Bahamas. In its 2020 Investment Climate Statement on The Bahamas, the US opined that The Bahamian government does not have modern procurement legislation and companies have complained the tender process for public contracts is not consistent, and that it is difficult to obtain information on the status of bids. The article continues:
“US firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI (foreign direct investment) and have reported perceived corruption in government procurement and in the FDI approvals process,” the report stated. It continued, “negative aspects of The Bahamas’ investment climate include: a lack of transparency in government procurement. “The State Department pointed to the Minnis administration’s draft Public Procurement Bill, 2020 which was tabled in Parliament last June along with the 2020/2021 budget. The bill seeks to establish a public procurement board, a digital procurement platform, and an electronic vendor registry, to modernize existing procurement systems with international best practices. The Ministry of Finance indicated in its recent fiscal snapshot that the bill is slated for debate during Q3 of the 2020/2021 fiscal year. The Investment Climate Statement also stated, “the absence of transparent investment procedures and legislation is also problematic”.
Recall that these were the very issues raised by Mr. Phillip Davis, QC leader of the Opposition recently in the House. Mr. Davis expressed his concern that in the ten months of the Covid-19 Emergency Powers in force, the Prime Minster had not submitted the details of monies spent on contracts, the value of the contracts, how they were awarded etc.
His statements was met with derision by government members and even threats of legal action against Mr. Davis but, to date, no substantive response has been received from the FNM. It would therefore appear that the US will once more have to force us to put our house in order and stop the corruption because this government is unable to do so.
Michael J. Brown