Monday, 10 September 2018

Philip Brave Davis on the 2017/18 Mid-Year Budget in Parliament

2017/2018 MID-YEAR BUDGET DEBATE
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
PHILIP BRAVE DAVIS MP, QC
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
13 MARCH 2018

Thank you for recognising me Mr. Speaker.
I rise on behalf of the resilient people of Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador. I thank them for their support. It has endured now for twenty-seven consecutive years.
This is an onerous demonstration of their confidence, I am privileged to represent their interests in this Honourable House.

Mr. Speaker
Notwithstanding the apparent disdain the side opposite has for my constituency, I will continue to fight for their clinics, for more investments, more jobs, better roads and for better docking facilities. Their love and loyalty have strengthened my resolve as a public servant; and my commitment to them is deeper than ever before.

I endeavor to work daily to conduct myself in public life to prove myself worthy of their continued support and confidence.

Mr. Speaker
I have said on more than one occasion that no price tag is too great for the people of Cat Island, Rum Cay, and San Salvador.

It is clear that the Member for Elizabeth still does not understand that every Bahamian, no matter on which island they live, has the right to have access to basic health care and essential services. There is no priority of citizen by island.

Each Bahamian has the right to live where he or she wishes. Our responsibility to them is to ensure that they have at minimum access to essential services and where possible access to enhanced services.

Nothing is too good for any Bahamian. Nothing is too good for Cat Island, nothing too good for San Salvador, nothing too good for Rum Cay.

I also take note that the BAIC Office in San Salvador was closed. That office was a catalyst for the entrepreneurial spirit of the people there. What a shame that the people of San Salvador are no longer afforded the benefits derived from an agency that was doing good work, bringing out the creative best of San Salvador.

This cannot be the government that committed to spurring migration ‘Back-To-The-Island’.

This government has a basic challenge. What they say is very different from what they do; and what they do very often targets the privileged few.

Mr. Speaker
I want the Member for Elizabeth to know that I want my clinics built. The same technical officers who advised the former Minister of Health are the same who now offers the same advice.

I spoke to one in recent times and got confirmation that it was the ministry’s recommendation to build as planned. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise now. I just want those clinics built for my constituents who are citizens of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas!

Mr. Speaker
When I consider this exercise, it is nothing less than a political campaign, a marketing and public relations exercise by the government. It is mere smoke and mirrors.

Rather than an exercise in dissecting the fiscal policies that traditionally underpin a government’s vision through its stated priorities and objectives, the budget statement is but a litany of words and figures, which I do not think that the Government itself understands. Many Bahamians, and I am no exception, are disappointed.

This FNM government appears more interested in revisiting the past, in character assassination, naming and shaming and in prettying up the accounting books, rather than using all of the instruments of government to improve the lives of Bahamians – the purpose for which they were elected to office – TO GOVERN.

In their collective imagination, the pasture is getting greener, when, in reality, there is no feed. People are suffering and expressing their level of discontent and despair ever so loudly each passing day. What irony!

Mr. Speaker
Contrast what we were presented with a few days back by the Government, with position of the PLP Government when it came to office in 2012, when it gave its first mid-term Budget Report.

We thoroughly analysed the failed policies of the FNM, but we did not dwell on them “ad infinitum”. Instead, we moved very quickly to lay out a plan and programme of governance, which, as events subsequently proved, did put the Government on the right track.

The truth is to be found in the answer to the question “where would our economy be today, in the absence of VAT and Bahamar?”

The essential role of government is governance. It is not the role of a government to conduct witch hunts. Governments are not auditors-in-chief. Their essential role is to provide for the peace and security, the social and economic upliftment of all of our people.

Not so with this Government. But, we are not surprised, as we all knew that they had absolutely no plans, no programmes and no vision to move The Bahamas forward.

Sadly, the results are now plain for all to see. I now refer to this administration as the “tabloid administration” It is merely content to grab headlines and put out Fake news. The recent disgraceful conduct over the OBAN affair is sufficient evidence of this.

Mr. Speaker
On the 21st February, when the mid-year budget statement was delivered, it did nothing to allay the concerns and views of the Opposition expressed during the budget debate 9 months ago. In fact, they have become heightened.

This government has no plans to govern this country. In numerous cases, their policy decisions have made conditions in the country worse for our people.

The Hon. Member for East Grand Bahama has demonstrated clearly that he does not understand the figures that were presented to him by his own Ministry.

The Minister of Finance indicates that during the period 2016-2017, there was a shortfall in revenue of some $200m. If the Minister would have done even a basic analysis behind this shortfall, he would have found that one of the main reasons for this was the devastating effect of Hurricane Matthew, which resulted in revenue inactivity and lost revenues due to exemptions provided to individuals and companies under various Exigency Orders.

At the same time, the Minister should have appreciated that there had to be a corresponding spike in expenditure as a result of the massive clean-up and the nature of emergency restoration and remediation.

The other side deliberately forgets that we had two devastating hurricanes in the short space of 12 months, Joaquin and Matthew.

Each had a direct bearing on our fiscal situation, resulting in a decline in revenues and an increase in expenditures. This is the analysis I would have expected from the Minister.

Instead, Mr. Speaker

This Government used a very noble and necessary intervention to raise foolish concerns about fiscal mismanagement by the previous government.

It is dishonest, therefore, to make sweeping accusations without fully understanding what one is talking about. Moreover, I would refer the Minister of Finance to various reports by the IMF, the IDB, the Central Bank of the Bahamas and Moody’s which shows the impact of these “Acts of God” on the fiscal indices.

The honest comparison would be, if they wish to boast about their fiscal prudence, is to look at the Revenue of the half year without the revenue inactivity and the increased expenditure caused by the hurricanes.

As I said earlier, though, the treatment of this budgetary exercise represents a “marketing exercise”, devoid of any true understanding of the underlying reality. It is all an attempt to represent certain facts which are not, in fact, there.

Before I leave this point, I read somewhere that the Minister of Finance made a statement in which he refers to the “immoral” use of the VAT revenues? What exactly does he mean? And why use the word immoral!

Any expenditure of funds must be approved by this House through Budgets, and to use the word “immoral” is taking this too far. As the Minister would know, VAT funds are not segregated from general revenues and when compiling a Budget the technocrats do not make assumptions on what is VAT and what is not.

Here again, emotions and gimmickry has overtaken the Hon. Member.

[To quote statement from budget presentation]

I know time is limited but I will seek to touch on as many salient issues of national import as my time allows.

The Economy
Mr. Speaker

By its own admission, the government has intentionally added to the rate of joblessness in the country (unemployment has returned to double digits); revenue performance has deteriorated; the state of national healthcare has worsened; our immigration laws and policies are under assault and conditions have worsened; the level of borrowing (some $1.4 billion in nine months) is unsustainable with no accountability.

To top it off, there is no immediate economic relief or plans for New Providence, Grand Bahama or the Family Islands.
Further, the Minister of Finance openly admitted to withholding much needed funds for capital expenditure, robbing scores of communities and thousands of Bahamians of basic government services and amenities to which they are entitled.

Consequently, thousands of Bahamian households continue to suffer hardship. The government for its part continues to describe the problems facing our country, fabricate and invent other problems, such as corruption and excessive hiring in the public service, abuse of the public purse and to engage in victor’s justice.

The Oban petroleum deal for East Grand Bahama presented unrealistic jobs creation numbers, but more fundamentally Mr. Speaker, the lack of transparency, accountability and the specter of fraud, deceit and sleight of hand have caused immeasurable reputational damage to our country.

Locally, our constituents have lambasted this Government for their action, eroding much public confidence in this government’s ability to govern us honestly, openly and in our best interests. Under the current cloudy and suspicious circumstances, the PLP could not support this agreement. There could be little doubt there could be no rational explanation for the conduct of the government on this issue.

The cogent evidence is that the whole deal is frought with fraud – and if you were had or taken, there are sufficient instances of misrepresentation for you to extract yourself from this debacle! Otherwise, who is the mystery man or woman to bring this project to your attention to act in such shoddily manner? – from Freeport or Nassau?

The Prime Minister represented on 19 February that the document being signed by the Secretary to the Cabinet with Peter Krieger was in fact the Heads of Agreement between The Bahamas and Oban.

He did not say this was a ceremonial, for the cameras event.

The press has indicated that the man signing the document Peter Krieger did not sign his own name but that of Sanpat Dhunna, the President. Mr. Krieger had previously been identified to the public as the President.

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet members were witnesses to the signing. None of them disclosed that this was not the real signing but only ceremonial.

The Prime Minister on Thursday 1 March tabled what he said was the Heads of Agreement between the parties.

The House and the country expected to find the signature of Mr. Krieger on the document.

They did not find that signature but instead that of Mr. Dhunna. This too is now questionable as we see a letter purportedly signed by Mr. Dhunna which appears to be different from that on the HOA laid.

The press has said that Mr. Krieger signed Mr. Dhunna’s signature or name.

The Prime Minister did not disclose to the House that there was a ceremonial signing and therefore possibly two different documents.

The impression was that there was one document and that was the one he produced to the House,

So questions have to be asked:

Will the Prime Minister say whether there are two documents or one?

Is the document signed by Mr. Krieger with Mr. Dhunna’s name the document that was tabled by the Prime Minister in the House?

Is the document tabled in the House then a true, valid agreement?

Whatever the answers to these searching questions, in my view this represents a fundamental dishonesty and government by sleight of hand. The country is entitled to implicitly rely on the word of a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has an ethical responsibility to tell the truth. He has a legal responsibility not to mislead the House.

Mr. Speaker
According to official government records, more than 2,500 persons were separated from the public service in just six months – from May to November 2017 – thereafter, the firings continue unabated.

The Minister of Finance disputes mass firings and explained away the separations as “natural attrition”, including the unceremonious firings of permanent and pensionable officers with good years of service.

There is a principle called “the improbability of coincidence.” This level of attrition is unprecedented in the public service and never happened during previous administrations. But it is coincidentally happening during this particular administration.
Equally coincidental are reports of staff at the Ministry of the Public Service being inundated with contracts to be executed – that the backlog requires much overtime to process.
Could it be that certain people were identified and separated to make way for persons of the government’s own choosing? The government denies this, but, “the improbability of coincidence”.

Mr. Speaker
To date the real and tangible jobs are being created by Baha Mar and The Pointe. And now see, the Ministry of Labour recently announcing a jobs fair for the project at Ocean Cay – immediate job offerings.

Is it not ironic that the “peoples time” government is causing mass firings and adding to the country’s joblessness while projects executed by the PLP government continue to keep the economy afloat through the creation of thousands of real well-paying jobs, yielding positive economic benefits for our people? It’s the People’s Time, but thank God for the PLP!

Mass firings on Friday and job fairs on Saturday!
The irony continues Mr. Speaker.

Equally ironic is the initial claim by the Attorney General that the mass firings have saved the government some $75 million, yet the government returned to Parliament and borrowed another $90 million on the heels of passing a resolution to borrowing $722 million and later raised an additional $750 million.

First, the Finance Minister said the $90 million was earmarked for the airport upgrade in Exuma and a jobs training programme, among other projects that would not increase or impact the budget deficit or national debt.

The government apparently changed its mind and said that the funds would not be drawn down in the current fiscal year. Their latest salvo is that they are determining how this money will be spent.

This suggests fiscal irresponsibility; that there is no transparency, no accountability or no clear and focused policy strategy on governing the fiscal affairs of this country or our national affairs generally for that matter. No vision. No plan.
At the beginning of the debate, there was another resolution tabled for the borrowing of another $100 million.

Mr. Speaker
It is also ironic that as the government rails about PLP mismanagement of the fiscal affairs of this country, their record shows that overall expenses are $400 million more than last year – $1.3 billion vis-à-vis $900 million.

Further, after boasting of saving $75 million from mass separations from the public service, the member for East Grand Bahama reported to this Honourable House that public service salaries are $15 million more than last year.

Mr. Speaker
This can only be characterised as voodoo economics.
I encourage the FNM to simply take responsibility for being in government; take responsibility for their decisions and take full responsibility for the consequences of their actions. There is no need for caveats.

The single largest expense line item in the budget is debt redemption and it has been that way for quite some time now, so let us compare apples to apples in our analysis.

The fact of the matter is that the PLP, in 2012, met a fiscal deficit in excess of $500 million with deteriorating revenue performance. Not including overhangs – or the bills left behind – calculated on a cash basis – not on an accrued basis.

Our medium term fiscal consolidation plan successfully reduced this sustainably year over year by some 80 percent before two devastating hurricanes in 2015 and 2016 crushed the country’s infrastructure; shut down the country for almost one week; severely damaged the tourism plant; and crushed a number of economies on several Family Islands.

Additionally, liberal tax exemptions were extended to private citizens and numerous businesses to assist them in rebuilding their lives and businesses.

This is an inconvenient truth to some among us because it does not fit the narrative of corruption and mismanagement that others seek to spew; but those are the unvarnished facts.

The principal question now is, “where do we as a country go from here?” Are we looking behind and creating bogeymen or are we pressing forward and blazing new trails for a new generation of Bahamians to follow and be confident in doing so.

The Latest Blacklisting By The European Union
Mr. Speaker

According to several news agencies, both local and international, European Union tax experts took a policy decision to blacklist The Bahamas along with St Kitts and Nevis, and US Virgin Islands.

This decision, was endorsed by European Union Finance Ministers at a regular monthly meeting yesterday.

Even though the government said it would do all in its power to avoid another blacklisting, we find ourselves being blacklisted.

The larger question is what is the policy of the government to effectively push back against this onslaught to our second largest industry? The Prime Minister came to Parliament entreating that we stand unified on matters affecting this Industry.

We agreed. We did so notwithstanding the government’s decision to take an extended summer vacation break after the post-election ceremonies and celebrations when it had sufficient time to address the threats to avoid blacklisting.
No sooner than the agreement was made, the Prime Minister returned to the campaign trail telling the world that the PLP destroyed the financial services sector.

This is an example of what I mean when I say that this Government is intent on naming and shaming.

Mr. Speaker
This brings me to the multilateral convention for the Automatic Exchange Tax Information Convention.

The threat of blacklisting loomed large:
The Prime Minister’s communication of 13 December, 2017 spoke to the strenuous and decisive efforts of his government since May 2017 to avoid the threat of immediate blacklisting by the OECD and EU.

Blame was put at the foot of our administration, the accusations being that we failed to meet the required number of bilateral Tax Exchange Agreements.

The suggestion was that we waited two years after committing to the bilateral convention – noting that letters were sent out as late as in December 2016 to fulfil our commitment.

The accusation had been made before and I intervened to correct the view that the Prime Minister and his government had formed in relation to this matter.

Unfortunately, the view obviously persisted – and again, during the PM’s communication on 13 December, 2017 on the subject matter, I sought to intervene.

Mr. Speaker
You should recall that I was not permitted to do so by the chair as the communication in my view contained controversial statements. The Prime Minister did not yield.
My intervention was to warn the government, that despite their strenuous and decisive efforts – the goal posts continually move – and its moving does not depend on who is in charge of the administration – whether it be PLP or FNM.
The clearest illustration of this fact is the move from bilateral protocol to multilateral protocol and the ensuing threat to be blacklisted.

I also wanted to make the point that this was such a complex issue that we in Government needed to be guided by the industry. I know many of the key players in the industry would want to help.

The Convention relating to Automatic Exchange of Tax information, bilateral and multilateral, permitted participating parties to choose – bilateral or multilateral.

On the recommendation of industry stakeholders, we elected bilateral. The EU and OECD, in a meeting held in October 2016, thought best that we should move to the multilateral platform.

An outcome of the meetings also required an invitation for the Bahamas to join the Inclusive Framework of the EU’s “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Initiative” (BEPS Initiative) and in March 2017, Government was invited. Our response to this invitation no doubt has led to the blacklisting yesterday by the EU.

Apart from correcting what were false innuendos – I was concerned by the admission of the PM that he was lost on the issues and no doubt they all seem out to sea on this issue hence the blacklisting by the EU.

Mr. Speaker

In December the PM confirmed that they were aware upon assuming office of the impending threats to be blacklisted and spoke of their strenuous and decisive efforts to avoid it.
Having had notice of an impending blacklisting, why are we some nine (9) months later being blacklisted?

In that communication, Our Prime Minister assured all of us that “we have thus moved away from the threat of being blacklisted.” Really?! Which he confirmed during his National Address and again I quote
“To protect our financial services industry, we took decisive action to avoid being blacklisted by the EU and OECD.”

Could I now say that the sluggish and lazy response of this Government have put our country on a dangerous and disastrous course? The suggestion for the blacklisting is “failure at a high political level”. [see letter if necessary].

It is sad that members of the government seems not to understand the need for constant vigilance when it comes to the Off-shore Financial sector.

I hope the FNM government’s excuse is not to blame the PLP and deflect from its responsibility. We stand ready to work with the government on a national strategy to protect this industry and Bahamian workers.

The Nation’s Health
Mr. Speaker

I have said this before and I say it again in this honourable place: The PLP’s policy prescription for decisively addressing the country’s national health needs is National Health Insurance.

We have always remained clear about that. Ten months into this government’s tenure of governance, Bahamians are still unsure and uncertain about this government’s plans to address this critical need.

Bahamians have been subjected to a PR campaign on national health care. This included reported free surgeries by the Health Minister, all with a steady dose of detailed descriptions of what they term a national health crisis. These are not policy solutions, Mr. Speaker.

In the meantime, there is a dire shortage of beds in the public health system resulting in critically and chronically ill patients being sent home prematurely.

Mr. Speaker
As part of the PLP’s revenue enhancement measures, heavy taxes, popularly characterized as sin taxes, were assessed on alcoholic drinks and tobacco products.

We on this side do not believe that additional taxation of these products will provide a sustainable funding mechanism to defray the costs of national critical and chronic – or secondary and tertiary health care delivery services.

The PLP
• completed and opened the critical care block,
• refurbished satellite health clinics across this archipelago,
• extended operating hours of selected clinics,
• expanded and deployed medical doctors in many family island communities,
• expanded the operational capacity of the Rand Memorial Hospital,
• opened mini hospitals in Exuma and Abaco,
• commenced construction and renovation of clinics throughout the archipelago, and
• executed contracts for the enhancement of the maternity ward and male and female wards
all in preparation for the access and delivery of universal health care to all Bahamians as a human right, not a privilege.

Bahamians expect successive governments to build on gains made by their predecessors or provide justifiable and workable alternative solutions. To date, the FNM government has provided neither.

This is disgraceful and further substantiates the fact that they were woefully unprepared to govern.

There is a distinct difference between political campaigning and actual governance.

For our part the former Minister put in place a solid workable plan and there is no need to reinvent the wheel but to simply build on a foundation of progress.

Quit with the moaning and groaning and fix the outstanding problems. Secure the required beds to accommodate sick people who are in serious need of medical care.

I implore the Health Minister to move posthaste and cease all the talk. Our people want action, a resolution to this crisis and not long talk filled with empty promises. Further, if you can’t fish, then with all due respect, please get the hell out of the boat.

PLP Immigration Policy Position
Mr. Speaker

A perennial, current and vexing issue remains immigration, and in light of the recent court rulings, the charges of legal ambiguities and outright misrepresentations of the law, I wish to restate our position on this matter to reinforce our position statement delivered by Senator Mitchell in the Senate last week. I adopt his words as my own as I quote him verbatim:

“It is therefore the view of the PLP that the cases before the Courts must be prosecuted to the highest courts in the land.

“Further and in addition to that the law should be amended forthwith to ensure that it is clear that it is the executive who has the right to grant citizenship of The Bahamas and no one else.

“Further, the law should be amended to remove the element of profit from people like Mr. Smith for whose firm the type of litigation in which he engages is a profit centre at the expense of the Bahamian taxpayer by adjusting if necessary the rule on costs of these applications in the Supreme Court. It should be juxtaposed against his invitation to migrants to sue the Government so that the government will be overwhelmed with cases and bankrupt the country.

“We have indicated in the public domain that given the zeal with which this is being pursued, and the number of illegal migrants who keep coming and continue to be defended one must wonder whether or not the two are not working in league with one another.

“There is a need for us to secure our borders. We support that. We are concerned that sufficient work is not being done to secure our borders. We are concerned when ships can make their way up to the main island of New Providence without let or hindrance.”

Soil Erosion And Road Collapse In Eleuthera
Mr. Speaker

It was reported in the media that extreme weather conditions have now made it difficult and some say impossible for residents in north and South Eleuthera to move about the island by land.

Many of us have viewed video footage on social media of water gushing across Queen’s Highway; the highway having been split in two in an area called the sandpit.

Information coming to our attention raise some serious questions about the circumstances surrounding this environmental disaster and with your leave Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise these issues as I seek clarification and answers for the general public:

• Can the Member of Parliament for North Eleuthera assist this Parliament in providing the name of the owner of the sandpit dredging operation?

• Will the Prime Minister confirm if a permit was granted to operate a sandpit? If yes, then when was the permit granted?

• Was there ever excavation of sand to a depth of 14 feet below the surface of the road in the vicinity of the sandpit and Queens Highway where the road was split in two?

• Will the Minister of Works who should have received a report from his Engineers confirm whether or not the excavation of sand and the operation of a sandpit in the area adjacent to Queens’s Highway contributed significantly if not directly to the road being split in two by the sea?

Bahamas Power and Light (BPL)/Energy Sector Reform
Mr. Speaker

It is no secret that the power generation and distribution systems owned and operated by the government owned Bahamas Power and Light are unreliable.

The amended Electricity Act, the Bond Reduction Act, the BPL business plan together with the national energy policy laid out the way forward for the reform for both BPL and the energy sector generally.

I note, however, that the recent $100 million bond issue by the Bahamas Government to upgrade or replace BPL’s power plants and aging distribution network failed to address the $500 million BPL legacy debt.

• What is the status on retiring such a debt?

• What is the status of self-generated power and net metering programme?

• What is the new timeline for BPL to reduce its electricity cost by thirty percent and for the introduction of alternative energy sources?

• Has the government abandoned our relationship and alternative energy commitment through the carbon war room?

• On what island and when can we expect the first Family Island pilot program to commence as part of the island challenge?

The Water And Sewerage Corporation Audit
Mr. Speaker

If any among us doubted that these recent forensic audits of public accounts at various public corporations commissioned by the FNM government were anything more than glorified and expensive witch hunts, the recent Water and Sewerage audit should eliminate all doubt.

Mr. Speaker
For the information of this House and for the consumption of the general public, I refer to specifics of the matter of the Ernst and Young (EY) forensic audit of the Water and Sewerage Corporation, which was tabled last week in this House and elaborately commented on by the Chairman of the Water and Sewerage Corporation, the Member for Long Island.

This is a most sordid and libellous Report, which has made its way into the ancient records of this place. For me it is distressing because it touches on matters that are extremely personal to me as morbid references were made to my dear departed mother.

They also attacked a lady, Mrs. Merlean Poitier, who has worked as a legal secretary for many years in the firm of Davis and Co. and before that Christie, Ingraham and Co. and then Christie, Davis & Co. She has an impeccable reputation in the ranks of legal secretaries, only to be sullied by persons with biased, prejudicial and puerile minds.

As members would know, this is the second report by EY both of which appear to be targeted at me and my role as Minister for Works in the last administration.

On the BPL issue, alleging and suggesting that a contract had been given to my brother by BPL at my instance which proved patently false and an a public apology had to be tendered to me by the Minister of Works.

It is vexing that I now tackle this latest saga from the government.

On Thursday, 1st March, 2018, the Minister of Works, the Hon. Member for Carmichael mentioned to me that my name had come up in the latest EY report but he refused to indicate the exact reference.

I immediately took it on me to write to the Global Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ernst Young Global. I will read this letter so as to have it entered into the records of this Hon. House:

(LETTER to MARK WEINBERGER)

The key elements of my letter was to formally request a peer review of standard operational, accounting and auditing practices at EY because I perceived that the local Strategic Business Unit was unwittingly allowing itself to be used as pawns in a high-stakes, high profile political witch hunt by the FNM government.

I was not invited to comment on the accusations raised by the audit – not even a telephone call. And yet, the report has brazenly been put forward as being an established fact.

This report by EY indicates a true lack of professionalism and is an attempt at assassination of character by hired hands and mercenaries.

This report could not be the work of true professionals. At best, it is that of a “side corner” organisation holding itself out as a professional organisation.

The entire report is riddled with unsubstantiated statements and innuendos
Mr. Speaker

The EY report (forensic audit) is a slap-dash piece of work designed to aid the government in their on-going witch hunt of individuals and game of naming and shaming.

It has unfairly maligned senior members of the management of the W&SC and has damaged their professional standing. How can the present Chairman and Board expect to work with these same individuals in a professional and above board approach when they have been so spitefully savaged.
The report is badly flawed and cannot stand. I would think that the report should be withdrawn forthwith and apologies issued all around.

I must go on record as condemning the performance and presentation of the Member for Long Island, the Chairman of the W&SC. His behaviour was deplorable and puerile.
It was something that we would expect from a high school debate. He appears to take delight in bringing out sordid details and appears to have no sense of public propriety.

As a new member and a young member, I should only wish to caution him that time is longer than rope and what today he is so gleeful about can in a very short while prove to be his nightmare.

I am sure that the good people of Long Island did not elect him to be the avenging angel of wrath. In his daily conduct of the affairs of the W&SC Corporation and by his performance in this place, his stature has steadily diminished.

Before I leave this matter, EY reportedly observed from email discussions that someone within government was “directing” a payment of IM to NID despite clear objections from WSC and MPW personnel. Several emails were exhibited and one lifted to be put in the substantive report.

A read and understanding of the email lifted clearly demonstrates the mischief that the audit exercise was engaged to create. It was story telling without regard to the truth as it was clearly disingenuous to suggest that someone within the government was directing this payment. The email lifted was sent by the PS of the MOW, where he wrote about an officer in the MOF being directed to request the MOW to facilitate payment. I was MOW and whereas I wished I could have given directions to officers in the MOF, that just could not happen. Chairman spoke of a “guardian angel” in the MOW pointing to no doubt to me.

It was very easy for EY to speak to the PS. I am advised this never happened. Couldn’t EY speak to Simon Wilson? Again, I am advised, this did not happened. Couldn’t they speak to me?

These inquiries would or could have deterred them from the salacious innuendo and spectre of wrong doing by the views expressed by EY. This brings me to the issue of the unnecessary reference to one share of 5,000 shares held by Mrs. Poitier and the disinterring of my mother’s bones to connect her to me.

EY confirmed that they reviewed the corporate registry files of NID to ascertain who the owners are – they discovered that this company was incorporated since 8th July, 2004.

These are the facts that they did not mention:
– The company was incorporated by Joan Ferguson & Co.

– The owners by shareholding at that time were ALF – 4,700, Ann Krallis – 150 and Joan Ferguson – 150

– That 8th August 2006 – shareholdings changed to Avery Ferguson – 2,400 ALF -2,400 , Joan Ferguson 150

– That on 28 May, 2008, ALF – 4,998 and Joan Ferguson – 2

– That on 5 January, 2009, ALF – 4997, Shawn Smith – 2, and Joan Ferguson – 1

– That Agency moved from Joan Ferguson to Commonwealth Law Advocate on the 19 June, 2012 – Ruth Bowe Darville/Desmond Bannister –

Could they not have spoken to Ruth Bowe Darville?

I recall Long Island informing me that they told him that EY spoke to Ms, Ruth Bowe-Darville. She says it NEVER HAPPENED! The corporate regime requires that there be at least 2 named shareholders.

Has the time come to eliminate the concept of the nominee shareholder? It evolved from 5 persons to 2 – EY, no doubt is familiar with the concept, had they made a full and true inquiry to determine the ownership of NID as they purported to be doing, this much ado about nothing, sullying the names of others all of this could have been avoided.

Mr. Speaker
More damaging is characterisation of a purported text message exchange between myself and DGM Deal under the Rubric – suspicious/unusual communications. On review of the exchange, I know that it was not me. I don’t conduct myself in this fashion. I will inquire about matters and may make recommendations on matters. Directions from me would ordinarily fall in matters of policy.

This exchange therefore troubled me. I contacted DGM Deal to have the context in which these exchanges were made – his response embolden my view that this exchange did not take place between us.

So, I asked that he provide me the phone number involved in this exchange. He did so and it is a number that I do not know nor am I familiar with the number. It was 376-0001. 1 do not know it!

Did EY discover this number? Did they seek to determine to whom this number was assigned or who is the owner of this account? Clearly someone impersonating me was engaged in the text exchange.

Would this not have been uncovered had they truly engage in a proper forensic audit?

Mr. Speaker
Members opposite continue to paint a picture of corruption on the part of the PLP and their associates. We go on record as condemning corruption. It has no place in our world.

As for the FNM, their style of governance is to name and shame as if that is what they were elected to do. This is a continuing narrative of the members of the FNM.

The two PLP governments of 2002-2007 and 2012 to 2017 came into office knowing full well that there were instances of corruption on the part of the FNM.

In fact, there are members sitting opposite who have conflicted themselves and raised alarming issues of corruption while holding posts in the government.

I should just like the newer members of this House to know that Article 49 of the Constitution provides for a member to come before the House and ask for an exemption when either, personally or through any of his companies, he is conflicted in his business interests and seek and exemption.

There is no evidence in all my time here that any member, some of whom are in this place have sought any such exemption. But we know who you are.

At the same time, there are others of the FNM who are not in this place against whom serious allegations have surfaced but against whom we have never sought to shame or name.

All I wish to say is that we know who you are. But the PLP is bigger than you think. We are a national party that has tirelessly sought to advance the welfare of the people and we will continue to be that kind of party.

Pettiness will not deliver food on the table; it will not provide that culture of oneness and dignity that we seek to strive for as a people.

So get off of it and go about the task of governance.
Conclusion
Mr. Speaker

Our solemn pledge to the Bahamian people remains unchanged. We will continue to be a voice for the poor, weak, the underprivileged and ordinary Bahamians seeking a better way of life to replace the tyranny and culture of mean spiritedness under this uncaring, spiteful and vindictive FNM government.

What we have in The Bahamas today is an apparent threat to representative government. Underpinning all democratic societies is the principle of representative government with the basic compact that assumes that public officials (MPs) will hear from constituents/general public and to act appropriately on their concerns.

The EY report with the complicit endorsement of the government casts a pall of potential challenges over the relationship between MPs, constituents, and the general public.

Mr. Speaker
Our democracy is at stake. It is for all of us to remove the scales from our eyes and see things as they really are.
Nothing this FNM Government does will deter us from our mission of advocacy, constructive engagement and wiping every tear from every eye.

Nothing!
Mr. Speaker

Cat Island, Rum Cay, and San Salvador is disappointed in this Government’s Mid-Year Review.

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