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Dpm: Deals 'Took Advantage Of The Bahamian People'

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The deputy prime minister has blasted previous administrations for “taking advantage of the Bahamian people” by entering into contracts “nobody in a commercial sense” would agree to.

K Peter Turnquest, pictured, told Tribune Business that “there’s no doubt about that” when asked whether former governments had committed taxpayers to huge expenditures and liabilities without any idea of how such agreements would be financed.

With numerous multi-million dollar disputes between the government and private developers/investors seemingly headed for Supreme Court resolution, Mr Turnquest said many of the deals inherited by the Minnis administration were “clearly not in the best interest of the Bahamian people long-term”.

Declining to speak to particular examples, he told this newspaper: “It’s unfortunate that we have not used more discretion, more responsibility, in terms of entering into contracts where there’s absolutely no need for them, in some instances, and the commercial terms - or terms - are not ones you would usually see in a commercial lease.

“It’s not just about the Government. It’s about taking advantage of the Bahamian people and backing them into a circumstance that’s clearly not in the best interest of the Bahamian people long-term.”

Mr Turnquest said several contracts had been entered without funding being allocated to finance them, or any notion as to whether the already-strained taxpayer could take further exposure. While agreeing that the Ministry of Finance’s involvement in such negotiations “would obviously help”, he said it had participated in several of the contracts in question “maybe directed or otherwise”.

He added: “Some of them, the conditions that have been agreed, nobody in a commercial or objective sense would ever agree to. We’ll see what happens with all the claims made, and when they are finally resolved we will address it then I suppose.”

Tribune Business last week revealed that the Supreme Court gave a pre-Christmas oral verdict that the government’s lease of the Summerwinds Shopping plaza, owned by former Cabinet minister Leslie Miller and his family, was “valid and binding” on the Crown.

This has opened the way, potentially, for a damages claim against the Government and Bahamian taxpayer for more than $66m. Mr Miller’s lawsuit, filed in July 2018, and the five leases involved were among the contracts identified by Mr Turnquest during the 2018 mid-year Budget debate as “handcuffing” the Government’s financial plans.

It was one of two cases he cited where the Government owed between $13-$14 million for property leases and had “no exit clauses”, even though “not one single government worker has ever set foot in the building”.

Tribune Business also reported recently on the other “case”, which involves businessman and accountant Kingman Ingraham, who is asserting a $30m claim against the Government based on its alleged breach of an irrevocable lease agreement to rent the former Kelly’s Warehouse on Soldier Road for the Department of Public Health - a situation that has placed his family home in jeopardy.

Between his claim and that of Mr Miller, the Government - meaning the Bahamian taxpayer - could be facing a near-$100m payout liability if both their claims are upheld and they obtain the damages sought. There is also the litigation launched by Scott Godet, developer of the initial Post Office private-public partnership (PPP), after the Government ended his $17.43m project.

Tribune Business knows of other potential multi-million dollar claims against the Government by investors and companies who believe it has breached binding, legally enforceable contracts they have with it. This suggests the $186m figure quoted by former MP and Cabinet minister, Pierre Dupuch, as to the total liabilities faced by the taxpayer may not be completely far-fetched.

Mr Turnquest’s words will be of little comfort to these investors, who will argue that the proper course is simply for the Government to negotiate a financial settlement with them or pay them what is due under the deal’s terms rather than seek to wear them down by dragging the case out through the court system.

The cash-strapped Treasury, though, may provide one explanation for the Government. And Mr Turnquest told Tribune Business that it had “to be mindful of these issues” when doing its annual budgeting, since “unanticipated” claims “much more than you imagined” had a habit of emerging during the year.

“There’s always going to be something out there that you can’t control or unaware of,” he said. “We’ve put contingencies into the Budget to take care of these issues, some of which are much more than originally anticipated or higher than you can possibly imagine with respect to being unable to amend contracts out there that have no short of long-term benefit to the Bahamian people.”

Mr Turnquest added that the switch from cash-based to accrual accounting, which the Government hopes to complete by 2022, is “critical to know what our liabilities and signed-up commitments are”.

“From an accounting point of view it gives us a much more accurate picture of where we are as a country, what our commitments are from a revenue planning perspective, and we’re able to better plan our cash flow,” he explained.

“We can ensure that our vendors, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, that have done work for the Government are paid on time. It’s a difficult and technical matter, but we are making progress.”

Comments

birdiestrachan 6 months, 1 week ago

Turnquest should remember OBAN

Contracts signed by the previous Government pale in comparison to ones signed by the FNM. I suppose in his view it has something to do with their hue.

A news paper Editorial that wishes to support them said this FNM Government. doc and Turnquest is out of their depth.

In a ditch and digging my view Can they go any lower??

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DWW 6 months, 1 week ago

i fail to see how the two things can be compared. thats like comparing pigs to rocket ships.

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Sickened 6 months, 1 week ago

But what measures will this government put in place to ensure that any future agreements made by this or any future government must be made for the benefit of the Bahamian people? Because we all know that secret contracts are where the big bucks are!!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 6 months, 1 week ago

No government has to honour a contract entered into by a previous government where there is a preponderance of evidence, circumstantial and otherwise, to indicate the contract came about for the primary purpose of defrauding the public purse with no rational commercial benefit or too ridiculous an opportunity cost for the Bahamian people at the time it was signed.

But ask yourself: Why are Minnis and Turnquest so reluctant to name the individuals who signed these very dubious (likely frauduent) contracts on behalf the previous Christie-led corrupt PLP government along with the individuals (cronies) they were intended to unjustly enrich to the tune of many millions of dollars? These persons should all be named in the case of each of these purported contracts.

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bogart 6 months, 1 week ago

Pot callin kettle .....

Didn't pot just taking reins of gov't took advantage of people pumping money into Bank of the Bahamas which has many private persons shareholders still begging question who and how many politicians are shareholders?...How bout paying outTreasury scarce funds for BoB not worth it? ... How about months ago gov't jus buying Lucayan Hotel and then sticking it to the Bahamian people paying all da employees from past owner, severing money entitlements and even full Stsmp Duty?...Didn't after previous gov't sticking it to people much terrible VAT regressive Tax and then present gov't critical of that jus went on an did jus sticking to same audience people more of VAT regressive taxes?...Didn't prrevious gov't get complaints on red plates govt vehicles all over used all hours and present pot still having red vehicle plates outside hours AND ALSO last month giving out $1,400. bonus Christmas time to them....Pot not humanely cleaning up demolishing blatently obvious dangerously improper inferior no hurricane clips roofs illegal building structures shantytowns they inspected in time INSTEAD of adding untold hardships to survivors and money sticking to all for cleanups, afterwards....

Indeed pot and kettle been sitting in same Peoples Parliament for years knowing each other and ALL people gettin MORE IN HISTORY NATIONAL TAXES an BIGGEST EVER NATIONAL DEBT still now burdening all...food lines soup kitchens longest

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Well_mudda_take_sic 6 months, 1 week ago

It's the tit for tat mentality that justifies corruption in the eyes of all corrupt politicians, Minnis and Turnquest included.

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TalRussell 6 months, 1 week ago

Comrade KP would make a good archaeologists, he likes encourage Royal Constabulary go digging up every damn dollar that any Perry Gladstone's PLP's, might've, could've been connected to?

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Sickened 6 months, 1 week ago

Boy, if only we could get back half of what disappeared under the many years of PLP rule. I'm guessing that we would easily have $10 billion sitting in the consolidated fund.

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