0

Parliament 'Must Get Serious' On Corruption

photo

Matt Aubry, executive director of the Organization for Responsible Governance. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The bribery probe involving the Defence Force’s $150m fleet “speaks volumes” about the need for Parliament to take the anti-corruption fight “as seriously as the country”, governance reformers urged yesterday.

Matt Aubry, the Organisation for Responsible Governance’s (ORG) executive director, told Tribune Business that the Dutch investigation into whether such payments were made provided “further proof” of why his group and others were pushing so strongly for the government to move forward with a package of stalled anti-graft Bills.

While praising the Ministry of Finance for releasing the draft Public Procurement Bill 2019 for consultation, Mr Aubry reiterated that it was “critical” for the government to move the Integrity Commission Bill and the creation of an ombudsman’s post through Parliament as rapidly as possible.

Suggesting that politicians may be out of step with how the Bahamian people view this issue, he pointed to an ongoing ORG survey where 65 percent of respondents ranked government corruption in The Bahamas as “extremely serious”. Another 26 percent rated it as “serious”, meaning that more than nine out of every ten persons view it as a major problem.

Some 74 percent of replies voiced optimism that corruption in The Bahamas can be “substantially reduced”, while 83 percent agreed that ordinary Bahamians “can make a difference” in the battle against practices that the prime minister himself estimated cost this nation’s economy several hundred million dollars annually.

Warning that perception was everything, Mr Aubry said incidents such as the Defence Force claims could undermine the progress The Bahamas has made in “changing” its image when it came to corruption - especially where the private sector and civil society were concerned.

Reiterating that nothing had been proven in relation to the Defence Force contract, he told Tribune Business: “This goes back to our most recent history and is further proof of why we’ve been advocating so strongly for anti-corruption legislation like the Integrity Commission Bill.

“This speaks volumes to the need for the upcoming Public Procurement Bill, and would involve the Proceeds of Crime Act - legislation that has been passed and needs to be passed... Parliament needs to take it as seriously as the rest of the country sees it.”

The proposed Integrity Commission Bill would repeal and replace the current Public Disclosure Committee, establishing a comprehensive and independent anti-corruption body to reform anti-corruption policy, investigate issues of corruption, administer public disclosure and educate the public.

Mr Aubry yesterday said the Ombudsman Bill, which would create a post to resolve disputes the public has with government agencies, also needed to be moved forward. He added that ORG’s survey, conducted to coincide with the imminent launch of its National Integrity Campaign, had also found that 78.8 percent of respondents did not how to report corruption to the authorities or file a complaint.

“We don’t have clear procedures to report corruption, and don’t have mechanisms to understand how corruption is addressed and vetted,” Mr Aubry told Tribune Business. “The process of how these things come forward and are evaluated locally is not effective. People don’t know how to report corruption and don’t believe that reporting it will result in any great change.”

He added that the “consequences and repercussions” if caught needed to be obvious, and said: “Even the perception of corruption has an impact. It affects the country’s international reputation. For businesses that want to be foreign direct investors, and want to come here, it doesn’t speak well to the environment they will encounter here, which on many fronts has improved considerably .

“More importantly, it erodes the trust locally, the public’s trust in government because of VAT increases and duty that continues to be high in various areas. The ordinary citizen queries what they’re paying for when they see instances like this. These are allegations, but they all have an impact in this area both locally and internationally.

“We’re really excited to see the Procurement Bill go forward, but the Integrity Commission Bill and Ombudsman’s Bill are necessary steps to root out the potential for this culture of corruption to grow greater.”

Mr Aubry explained that corrupt practices undermined the effectiveness of the Government’s procurement system as well as requiring that lost monies “be made up for” elsewhere via increased and new taxes.

“If there are vendors committed to integrity it doesn’t serve them in what they’re doing,” he explained. “It fosters a pay-to-play environment and that’s not something that we want to promote for The Bahamas.

“I think we’re changing that, and see this [the Defence Force claims] as detrimental to what we’re trying to achieve as a nation. It’s concerning. Ultimately, let’s get in front of this as a nation. Let’s use the Government, civil society, the media, the clergy to promote a culture of integrity, and promote what we do is much more important than who we are.”

Comments

truetruebahamian 3 months, 1 week ago

Do something about it ansd we will help! But All those from Ping's time on must also be held accountable and pay and or be imprisoned!

1

SP 3 months, 1 week ago

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Lots of good sounding words, but no substance of how we will get from this point and headed in the right direction!

This is a typical scenario of why we remain in this state of wonton piracy rule. All we do is stand around talking when we should be marching on Parliament demanding justice, accountability, resignations and the disbanding of the PLP and FNM.

It is illogical to blame this mess we call a country on any one party. It took decades of collaborative corruption across party lines to drive the country into the ditch. Neither party acted as a corrective watchdog against the other. They are one and the same, two-headed coin.

The PLP and FNM are equally guilty of massive corruption resulting in the poor state of our country and the decimation of our people.

Our country will never progress as long as the PLP or FNM has anything to do with governance.

The Organisation for Responsible Governance’s should be advocating for two new political parties instead of simply soapboxing meaningless, flowery, words with no teeth or objective.

1

Godson 3 months, 1 week ago

I am just so ashamed of us as a people (grown professional adults) who seem not to possess or have the discipline and ability to carry out a straight business transaction on behalf of the Bahamian People without f_cken tiefing. And then we complain when members of the 'white race' looks down on us. SHIT!

2

birdiestrachan 3 months, 1 week ago

It is an investigation, perhaps it may be a good idea to wait until the investigation is complete.

0

Porcupine 3 months, 1 week ago

birdie, it is further proof of what party politics has accomplished. Who can be proud of where we are? Who?

0

Bonefishpete 3 months, 1 week ago

Yes lets wait. We have top men working on it right now. Top men.

1

Tarzan 3 months, 1 week ago

So long as jurors do not fall out of the jury box laughing derisively about the old "I took the money to give it to the Church, or for the PLP campaign coffers" nothing will change. There is no sentient person alive in the Bahamas who does not know that bribes and their active solicitation were a way of life in the Christie Administration years, and yet, this charade of "nothing to see here, move on" continues unabated.

0

Sign in to comment