Commentary by Bradley B. Roberts
Former Cabinet Minister and MP
May 20th 2018
I was shocked when I recently read in the press that Minister of Works Desmond Bannister confirmed the intent of the government to spend additional diver’s sums of monies to seek a solution to the longstanding challenge of the Glass Window Bridge in Eleuthera. This policy decision is unnecessary, it is a case of duplication of efforts, duplicity of the government, not to mention fiscally imprudent given the scarce financial resources of this country.
The official public records in and out of Parliament coupled with existing project files within the Ministry of Works clearly confirm that Canadian Costal Engineering Firm W. F. Baird and Associates completed the final design for a new Causeway to replace the Glass Window Bridge in 2006. It was during the signing of a $3.7 million contract for the reconstruction of seawalls on Eleuthera that I addressed the structurally challenged Glass Window Bridge, indicating that it will be replaced by a new structure after the technical officers at the Ministry had completed an evaluation of all existing roads on the island of Eleuthera. I said the following at that time:
“As part and parcel of the infrastructure enhancement throughout the island of Eleuthera, I am also pleased to inform you that my Ministry is also in negotiations with W.F. Baird and Associates to have this company complete the final design, Tender and Construction Documents of the new causeway which will replace the Glass Window Bridge and eventually fully restore the entire road network of Eleuthera, upon completion next year” I announced in early April 2006.
“I also advised that in the meanwhile, however, temporary repairs to the Glass Window Bridge structures would commence within 60 to 90 days”.
This then begs the question of why the government intends to waste limited funds when the solution is within in Ministry of Works and at the fingertips of the Minister. I go further in advising that the Works Minister need only consult the Director of Works who coincidentally happened to be the Director of Public Works back in 2006.
The project was not advanced because the PLP lost the government in 2007. Further, the Ingraham administration between 2007 and 2012 sought to obtain funding and construction expertise out of the Peoples Republic of China but nothing materialized. The obvious intent of that FNM government was to use the plans in place for the construction. I also note that this same Canadian firm, W.F. Baird designed the new Fishing Hole elevated causeway in Grand Bahama.
This announcement comes on the heels of the award of a contract to Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM) for over $5 million to lay water mains in Long Island when a local firm in Long Island submitted a bid for $2.2 million but was rejected. With contract in hand, BHM is in a position to sub-contract the job out to the Rowdy Boys for $2.2 million and pocket a cool $3 million for providing just a project Manager to oversee the works on their behalf. This is wanton waste and fiscal mismanagement of the corporation’s scarce financial resources. With cabinet Minister Brent Symonette having significant financial interests in BHM makes the contract award and overall corporate governance look even worse as no public office is to be used for personal profits and unreasonable advantages.
I also note that international credit ratings agencies told the government that their borrowings were excessive and unnecessary especially in the receipt of a financial windfall in excess of some $600 million in Value Added Tax receipts. The revenue provided sufficient cash flow to fund current government operational demands. One is therefore forced to wonder about the rationale and motivation behind the borrowings and the key just might rest in the identity of the personality engaged by the government to shop for the money because a 1% to 2% commission on facilitating the loan could mean anywhere from $7 million to $14 million into the pockets of the facilitator. It is always corrupt and unethical to manipulate public finances to put millions of dollars into the pockets of politically connected special interests, friends, families and lovers at the expense and on the backs of mostly struggling tax payers.
In the wake of all of this wanton waste, Immigration recruits, many contractors, police reserves and relocated customs officers complain that they cannot get paid or receive their relocation allowances. These abuses of public funds and our people are totally unacceptable and the voices of dissent and opposition to this abuse of power and disrespect for Bahamians must grow increasingly louder and unrelenting in nature. There must be no backing down in the face of tyranny and oppression because we know that power concedes nothing without a demand. The people must demand transparency, accountability, honesty and respect in the public administration of the affairs of the Bahamian people.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Turnquest can howl all he wants about the Fiscal Responsibility Bill and the pre-election spending of the PLP, but the evidence of the perverse fiscal practices of this FNM government betray and contradict his rhetoric. The FNM must first practice what they preach if they are to be believed as sincere because actions always speak louder than words.
A word to the wise is sufficient.