Statement by the Hon Philip Davis MP
Leader of the Opposition
Progressive Liberal Party
House of Assembly
Nassau, 22nd June 2017: In the House of Assembly, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and some of his Ministers made certain assertions. Invariably, though, attempts to prove lies will always prove fruitless. I do not now, nor have I ever, condoned or encouraged wrongdoing. Threats will not change this. We do not seek to excuse. We seek to share full facts and welcome any investigations into these facts.
Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF)
The allegation that the PLP allowed the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) payments to lapse, causing the forfeiture of up to $33 million in damages for Hurricane Matthew is false.
The facts are that The Bahamas, after careful consideration (and) on the advice of technical officers in the Ministry of Finance, Met Department and the Port Department took the decision to withdraw from CCRIF following the rejection of a claim under the insurance for Hurricane Joaquin in 2015. The claim was rejected on the basis that the wind velocity did not meet the mandated speed to accept a claim and that the damage was therefore due to flooding and not to wind.
Up to that time, The Bahamas had been paying premiums in the tens of millions and were unable to collect anything. Acting on advice, Government agreed that self-insurance would be more cost effective. At the time of the decision, we were also in the middle of negotiations with CCRIF to adjust the terms of that insurance.
Prime Minister Perry Christie also brought this matter home to representatives of the World Bank when he met with them in Paris in December 2015 during negotiations for the World Climate Accords. In fact, he referenced the recent experience of The Bahamas with Hurricane Joaquin noting that existing insurance structures are inadequate and often legalism was relied on to deny legitimate claims which spoke directly to the situation with CCRIF. Following Matthew, I am advised, CCRIF wrote the Government suggesting that we may have qualified for loss compensation, this suggestion was referred to the team that had advised earlier and it was that team’s considered view that we would not have qualified. The persons who advised us are still in the (public) service. Minnis only need to seek their input or review the files on this matter.
Contract for Clean Up of Petroleum at BEC Clifton Plant
In respect of the allegation that Irrington “Minky” Isaacs received a no bid contract from BEC, this too is false.
The facts are that Mr. Isaacs’ company won a contract to assist in the clean-up of petroleum in Clifton Pier and Blue Hills Station at the BEC plant. I am advised that the contract was put out to bid and Mr. Isaacs Company was the successful bidder. The issue here is not how much was paid but whether value for money was obtained for the work given. Our advice is that it was.
It is important to note that the scope of works the subject matter of the contract had been in existence from at least 1997 with two other contractors having been engaged before the award of the contract to Mr. Isaacs’ company. The contract was issued following the established protocols — contracts were let to other companies during the years 1997 to 2002 and then 2002 to 2007 and then 2007 to 2013. In 2013 after a successful bidding process, Mr. Isaacs’ company received the contract.
Being associated with the PLP and I suspect being associated with the FNM does not disqualify one from bidding for work with the state-owned enterprises.
PAYMENTS TO ASH ENTERPRISES POST HURRICANE MATTHEW
Works were given to Jonathan Ash (Ash Enterprises) amounting to 8 million dollars for hurricane clean up with innuendo that there was no value for money and that cronyism was involved.
I am advised that the contract’s award followed the usual procedures. The contractors’ work and ability to perform was, I am advised, well known to the technical officers of the Ministry of Works. The contractor is not as far as I am aware connected to the PLP. I am advised the company had the equipment and in an effort to ensure that the Hurricane clean-up was done quickly, expeditiously and more effectively a contractor with the expertise and skills and equipment was awarded the work. That contractor was Ash Enterprises. I am further advised that the work for which the contractor was paid includes not just sums of money for his account but to pay all of his subcontractors and suppliers who assisted in the clean-up that he supervised. The only question, if any, was whether value for money was obtained. I am advised that there was value for money. And if further questions obtain, we welcome your investigations
STAR ACADEMY (FORMERLY BAHAMAS ACADEMY)
The Minister of Education’s assertion that the Star Academy with the Seventh Day Adventists for 20 million dollars was a waste of money.
That is false.
It is interesting that the Minister neglected to mention that similar arrangements as this contemplated with the Seventh Day Adventist Church was also concluded with a number of other churches including the Catholic Church of which he is a part.
It is unfortunate that the Minister has created controversy over a perfectly legitimate arrangement with the Seventh Day Adventist Church merely in an attempt to score cheap political points.
The Minister intentionally misled Parliament on many assertions about the school and left out many key facts behind the decision such as the fact that there are actually 2 buildings on the property which the Ministry will occupy, one of which is now complete and to be used as an administrative building and the fact (that) when the school is complete it will also be the home of the technical cadets who will use it in the afternoon as they are being forced out of BTVI because of increased enrollment. Therefore, the completion of the school is of utmost importance to our troubled youth and the technical cadet program.
The question again is whether the arrangement can be justified by the overall contribution to society and whether the state receives value for money. Without question the answer to both is.
The Minister must recognise the value of a holistic partnership with religious schools for the general betterment of our children. The subventions and partnerships provide immeasurable benefits to our society beyond the question of costs. Focusing on cost only is myopic and exposes the Minister of Education and his government’s lack of appreciation of the ills of society much less how to address them in partnership with civil society.
For our part, we would like to thank all churches and in this instance the Seventh Day Adventist for their willingness to partner with the state in the overall education of our young people.
I would wish to send a message to friend and foe alike that every allegation which the FNM has made during the campaign and since they became the government, they have made them rashly, intemperately and with malice aforethought. They have all been refuted by the PLP by the facts. This is from an old playbook which the FNM started in 1992, tried again in 1997, then again in 2007 which is to try to paint the PLP as crooks and thieves. Those allegations have proven to be lies. They did not stop from trying.
I want our PLP supporters especially not to be suckered into accepting the propaganda of the other side on these matters. PLPs must stand firm in the face of lies and propaganda. The FNM government under Dr. Minnis is acting like spoiled children in a candy store. The first thing our supporters and people of goodwill should ask when the allegations are made is: are they true? The facts show that their allegations are false.
Secondly, I want to invite the Prime Minister to stop whining, complaining and blaming and start governing. Crime continues unabated. Unemployment continues to create a scourge across our islands. Climate change is real and continuing to attack our shores. In the meantime, a brand new government with a huge majority of seats is whimpering, whining and crying: look what the PLP did. Govern please.
Finally, I ask them do not threaten. Efforts to prove the lies which the government has fostered by false evidence and giving only one side of the story will always prove fruitless. The Progressive Liberal Party has not and will never condone or encourage wrongdoing so threats will not change this. We do not seek to excuse but rather to share full facts. If you have cases of malfeasance then act and let the chips fall where they may. Be sure however that you are wasting national resources in a political witch hunt.
Two can play at the game. Everyone remembers the FNM with Hubert Minnis sitting in the Cabinet selling BTC at an undervalue, giving away the national jewels for the price of the furniture. They allowed self-dealing with the creation of the Arawak Port Development on the phony assertion that a minister recused himself from discussions.
That is the FNM’s playbook. We have an obligation to say it isn’t so; it isn’t right and we do so. Cut it out. Govern please or leave the job to someone who can.