NASSAU, The Bahamas – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Development, the Hon. Philip Davis touted the success of the Government’s Urban Renewal Programme underscoring that the quality of life for residents in the communities of Bain and Grants Town, Centreville and Englerston has been positively impacted by it.
In his communication to the House of Assembly, Wednesday, July 23, the Deputy Prime Minister acknowledged that Urban Renewal 2.0 is not a “panacea” for all social ills, however the urban and traditional communities are “the richer” because of the programme.
He told parliamentarians that the Government is “resolute” in its commitment to address the myriad of challenges confronting the nation in a holistic and integrated model that addresses the social, educational and community development of urban residents through the following:
· engendering community spirit and cohesion, and community and leadership development – particularly among young people;
· assisting with re-entry of ex-convicts into society through the Second Chance Programme;
· assisting the physically and mentally challenged;
· rehabilitating of houses in urban communities;
· creating opportunities for economic empowerment;
· facilitating the prevention and reduction of crime; and
· promoting clean green physical environs.
The Deputy Prime Minister noted that the Urban Renewal Band has transformed and empowered hundreds of lives as a result of their participation in it.
“The Urban Renewal Band teaches Christian values and morals, while engendering self-esteem, self-discipline and good work ethic, teaching social graces, time management, and musical skills to members,” he said.
Since November 2013, over 600 houses in 23 constituencies in New Providence have been repaired as a result of the Small Home Repairs Programme.
“Almost 400 contractors have been engaged to repair houses; and together, Urban Renewal has caused the engagement of over 1,000 tradespersons: carpenters, masons, electricians, tile layers, plumbers, and helpers. Many of these contractors have used smaller vendors to secure their supplies,” said the Deputy Prime Minister.
In his contribution, he also addressed the audit by the Office of the Auditor General conducted on the Urban Renewal Commission (Small Home Repairs Phase I).
The audit was conducted to determine compliance with the Financial Administration and Audit Act 2010, the Financial Regulations 1975, other government regulations and procedures and best practices. That report was laid on the Table of the House of Assembly on July 16th.
Mr. Davis said the report outlines specific recommendations for controls for immediate consideration.
“The critical recommendation of the Auditor General in respect of the Urban Renewal Programme is the creation of an independent/statutory body to facilitate its objective. At this time, the recommendation is being actively pursued,” he said.
The Deputy Prime Minister mentioned several homes that the Auditor General’s Report suggested had received “little or no work” or were “incomplete”.
He said considering the impact of Urban Renewal and its Small Home Repairs Programme, the Government has not seen anything in the Report that will change its decisions of investment in people.
“We still believe in giving a second chance to individuals who have run afoul of the law. Yes, we all deserve a second chance. Even the Apostle Peter was given a second chance. Many of the Small Home Repairs contractors have tarnished criminal records; in fact, a few are out on bail. This Government deliberately retained those who had the requisite construction skills and gave them contracts to repair houses, and they embraced the opportunities and executed repair works that have withstood keen scrutiny.
This Government realises that engaging these individuals to assist with small home repairs will cause them to refrain from stealing and other criminal activity, and continue to seek gainful employment.”
He maintained that the Small Home Repairs Project will continue over the next fiscal year with emphasis on repairing the homes of the elderly, mentally and physically challenged, and single parents.