The report reflected several months of extensive investigation undertaken by the Committee last fall. The investigation was initiated at the request of small business owners in New Providence who were concerned about continuing delays and the impact of the roadworks on their livelihoods.
The Public Accounts Committee heard testimony from numerous government witnesses, including the government’s own Auditor General. They reviewed a thousand pages of evidence. They invited – at every juncture – the minority members of the Committee to participate. They did their work in accordance with the rules of Parliament and with the laws of The Bahamas.
Their report presented devastasting evidence that the roadworks have been disastrously mismanaged. An infrastructure project now running to the hundreds of millions – and the two main beneficiaries of the skyrocketing costs have been a foreign contractor and a company associated with the Deputy Prime Minister. In the middle of a recession, when Bahamians needed jobs and our economy needed a stimulus, this government handed a gigantic contract to a foreign contractor – one who turned around and gave nearly 80% of the subcontracts to a company associated with the Deputy Prime Minister. Missing accounts, millions may be missing – the whole thing is rotten.
The project is now $93 million overbudget.
We would say it has been a disaster from start to finish, but there has been no finish — the fiasco continues – there is no end in sight.
We noted that the minority members were at every juncture invited to participate in the Committee’s meetings. They did not attend 6 out of the last 7 meetings. They chose not to question the government’s witnesses, not to participate in the process.
Today, they tabled a Minority Report, produced in secret and never shared with fellow Committee members. This is in serious violation of the rules of the House of Assembly. Just as the government has broken numerous rules – not to mention the terms of international agreements – in its handling of the roadworks, they have broken serious rules in order to table the Minority Report.
This government does not believe the rules apply to them. They operate with impunity. They operate with contempt for the Bahamian people. They operate with no sense of the consequences to the reputation of our institutions and our nation.
Their behavior, and their Report, are an embarrassment.
The Minority Report asks the people of The Bahamas to take seriously the idea that an infrastructure project which is now $93 million overbudget – $93 million and counting – an infrastructure project whose date of completion has been changed time and again, with no end in sight – has been run perfectly.
Nearly one hundred million in cost overruns — and they admit to no incompetence.
Again, their contempt for Bahamians is breath-taking.
The Public Accounts Committee was chaired by my distinguished colleague, Dr. Bernard Nottage. He has acted at every moment with the utmost integrity, in accordance with the rules of Parliament and with the law.
The government’s behavior, from the Prime Minister to the Speaker of the House to the minority members of the Public Accounts Committee, stands in stark contrast. They seek to muddy up the findings of the report, to obscure both incompetence and wrong-doing, to hide the serious questions raised about abuse of power and inside dealing.
But their mission to do so has failed and will continue to fail. They are underestimating the Bahamian people, who can see for themselves how poorly planned and poorly executed the roadworks have been, who can see for themselves the terrible impact on local businesses, who can raise their own questions about why foreign contractors and labour were hired in the middle of a recession.
The government has delivered for foreign contractors and for special interests, but they have not delivered for Bahamians.