What’s Going On With These Matters? A Matter No Longer Making Headlines Doesn’t Mean The Matter Is No Longer Important

WhatsGoingOn#1 – Fuel surcharge on oil makes up the majority of our electricity bills each month. If oil is still going to be used by BEC for power after privatization, and there will be no company competition or alternative energy sources, a foreigner coming in to own, manage or operate BEC does not automatically mean our power bills will magically become cheaper. The government repeatedly refuses to reveal any details about its plans for BEC, including details on this critical issue of how foreign involvement will benefit Bahamians, the economy & the environment.

#2 – Remember back in March of this year when I revealed investigations into an alleged visa scandal at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where thousands of Bahamian visas had allegedly been both sold and fraudulently issued to Haitian nationals in Haiti by Bahamians employed under the Ministry? Days after my article, senior Police Force officials confirmed to the media that the Force was, as I revealed, in fact investigating this matter. The Minister responsible refused to comment to the media on at least three separate occasions when he was questioned on this matter. NO INFORMATION BY GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN GIVEN ON THIS ALLEGED BREACH OF NATIONAL SECURITY & IMMIGRATION LAWS.

#3 – Remember prior to the start of the 2014/2015 Budget debate when I revealed that in a historic move that blocks both transparency and accountability, the government had stripped the Budget of its standard salary & staffing expenditure documents (Personal Emoluments documents), thus now rendering the Parliament and the country unable to see and track how public money would be specifically spent on salary & staffing in each government department & Ministry? An extra $49 million in salary & staffing has been budgeted this year that cannot be tracked and quantified. The Prime Minister & Minister of Finance responded at the close of the debate, saying the government would generate those documents that his government stripped from the Bahamian people’s Budget, and would put them on the government’s website. THAT NEVER HAPPENED.

#4 – Remember last Budget year when the government introduced a new fee at Customs called an Environmental Levy, and claimed the money collected was to be used for the environmentally sustainable disposal of the products that attracted the levy? Remember when I pointed out that the government needed to create by law, an Environmental Levy Fund to administrate such monies, otherwise the money would go into the general Consolidated Fund to be used however the government saw fit? Last Budget year the government said it would table the Environmental Levy Fund Bill. IT NEVER DID. And we do not know how much of our money has been collected in Environmental Levy fees since last July. Those fees caused an immediate spike in consumer prices on products such as tires, etc.

#5 – Remember when arrests were made in the alleged home invasion robbery that reportedly took place at the residence of the Deputy Prime Minister? He and his wife were allegedly robbed at gunpoint. The trial was set to begin on January 29. It is now September, and not a word has been heard yet about that trial.

#6 – In February of last year both in my prior national newspaper column and on my blog pages, I raised specific questions – including questions regarding necessary legislation – about the government’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA); the government’s secret intelligence agency which it says is being used to conduct surveillance in the country, even though the Police Force already has a surveillance division. A year later, Opposition members echoed similar questions about the NIA. National Security Minister BJ Nottage said he expected the government to present a Bill to both legalize and regulate the NIA by the end of this year. Nothing has been said of this since, and hence, Bahamians still do not know what the NIA is doing, which and how many Bahamians it is carrying out surveillance on, who is giving the orders, what they are spying on, and how that surveillance is being done.

#7 – When Cable & Wireless, the operators and majority shareholders of BTC, announced they would use just under 2% of the profits from their majority stake to create a BTC Foundation, the government said it would table that Agreement in Parliament once signed. That Agreement has been signed with the government throwing a huge propaganda party surrounding the signing, BUT THE AGREEMENT HAS YET TO REACH PARLIAMENT.

#8 – What is the status of the Chikungunya Virus in The Bahamas? The Ministry of Health has not provided updates in quite some time on the number of cases now in The Bahamas, or the response thereto.

#9 – The government STILL has not announced who will become the new operators of Grand Bahama’s only resort-based casino, though it has made countless promises over the last two years to do so. It also has not announced what its position will be on the Real Property Tax provision of Freeport’s Hawksbill Creek Agreement which expires in 2015. This is a critical provision for Freeport, yet the government has yet to state what its plan is on the negotiation of this soon-to-expire provision.

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