Major Conflict in the Ministry of Finance

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Hubert Minnis - Leader of the Opposition
Hubert Minnis – Leader of the Opposition

STATEMENT BY THE FREE NATIONAL MOVEMENT

The FNM is extremely concerned about the potential possibility of a major conflict of interest that may be emerging in the Ministry of Finance.

The FNM has noticed with much interest and trepidation the ongoing transfer and hosting of government sensitive data from the Department of Information Technology (DIT) Data Centre to Cable Bahamas where a senior government official from that Ministry is also serving on the Board of Directors.

The transfer of these services is at a significant expense to the government and the Bahamian people, and at a time when it is absolutely unnecessary and raises several questions which the Christie government is obligated to answer and fully explain. For example;

(1) Can the government explain why these steps were necessary after their own consultant confirmed that the existing government systems have the capacity (and ability to expand) to meet requirements and the necessary professional support?

(2) Under whose advice did the government initiate these actions since the government’s IT professionals in the DIT were ignored on this matter?

(3) Is it a conflict of interest for a senior member of the public service to serve on the Board of a company where work that is under his direction is given to that company?

The public should be aware, that the existing multi-million dollar Governments Wide Area Network (GWAN) was purchased by the government in 2009. Since that time, the platform and infrastructure has been constantly upgraded and maintained, and supported by the government’s ICT professionals and the established companies hired by the government.

In an effort to improve quality service delivery and to broaden the e-governments’ platform; the IT Professionals and technical staff in the public service were amalgamated into a single department in 2011. The Department had one broad mission, which was, to effectively be the centralized agency for the delivery of information and communication technology solutions for the enhancement of government services.

This new Departmentwas specifically populated with many of the progressive thinkers and energized Bahamian professionals from within the government. Once formed, the Department immediately produced positive results for the government. Not only were thousands of dollars saved as purchasing of equipment and software became centralized and the assets standardized to allow for better management, but the professional atmosphere was now greatly enhanced and the individuals produced accordingly.

The decision of the PLP to abruptly change the policy by outsourcing services once provided by the DIT and additionally, by drastically reducing the Department’s budget effectively crippling its ability to adequately perform regular services, many of the Bahamian professionals in the department are confused and the Department is now in chaos. Regrettably, no one knows the government’s intent nor can they see how the Department will continue to function in the future. They lament the fact that the government is prepared to waste millions of dollars to build a new GWAN when the existing one can do the job. Further, evidence now clearly exists, which suggests that this policy is being driven by a foreign wife and husband team employed by the Christie government to build the new network which will be located at Cable Bahamas. This man and wife team will also be hired to give the government advice on everything related to technology. To further prove this point. The wife of the two person company have already requested DIT to provide her with a list of all present and future projects so that she can review them and subsequently advise the government. The FNM has learned that the professionals in the Department are highly insulted by this action because they know that they are qualified to advise the Government on these matters. The professionals are so disturbedthat they are ready to confront the Minister about the request by this man and wife company which they regard as unreasonable and demeaning. However, their request for a meeting to date has been ignored.

The FNM condemns this reckless action in the strongest terms. We demand that the Christie Administration and the PLP show their love and respect for the Bahamian professionals by listening to them, taking their advice and not take further steps to downsize and eliminate this important Department. We regard as despicable the actions of the Minister of State Mr. Micheal Halketis who was presented to the Bahamian people as a “new generation thinker, “yet he is allowing his boss to disrespect young Bahamian professionals. This is disgraceful!

Secondly we ask that they take the advice of the government of Singapore and implement proper information technology governance so that the risk of spending money on the advice of friends and unqualified one-man-bands is avoided.

Thirdly, it is unconscionable that the government selected a man and wife team to provide IT services and build a new network while ignoring well established companies which can guarantee local and international support, professional advice, and personal development for the staff at DIT.

The FNM is advised that to date the following Agencies have data lodged at Cable Bahamas:

VAT, Customs, Business Licence and Immigration Departments.

Consequently, we ask the government to state categorically what policies and systems are in place that would stop any administrator at Cable Bahamas from accessing the personal information collected by these agencies. Moreover, if there are breaches what are the consequences and penalties stipulated and where can we find them? Exactly where are the systems located and who else has physical access to them.

CASHNGO

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