All MPs receive a $2,500 allowance each month ($30,000 per year) that is designated via the Parliamentarians Constituency Office Allowance Act to finance the operations of their constituency office. The monthly allowance was increased to $2,500 from $1,500 back in 2015. All MPs are required by law to keep all receipts and proper accounts of the use of this allowance, which are to be audited annually by the Auditor General. The allowance in law is set out for rent, upkeep and maintenance; salaries, bank charges and NIB payments; utilities; equipment and supplies. In the Family Islands (except Grand Bahama and Bimini) the allowance is also set for transportation within the constituency.
If a part or all of the allowance is not used as the law sets out, an MP shall be liable to pay the monies (which is our tax dollars) back to the Treasury. For 39 MPs, this allowance amounts to $1.17 million in annual public expenditure.
For too long now, we as Bahamians have accepted having MPs who do not maintain open and fully functioning constituency offices. We have not demanded that they follow the law and do right by us in this regard, whether we would have voted for the particular MP or not. When they do not use this allowance as the law requires, it winds up being extra money for them each month to simply pocket.
The government must make all MPs accountable for the use of their constituency office allowance. And the government must also ensure that MPs are not being permitted to funnel that allowance into their personal business operations or personal accounts via use of their constituency office in a building or space they already own or are already paying rent on for their personal business. What monies they would not require for rent, utilities, etc in such circumstances should be returned to the Treasury.
NOTE: The law says that no Member of Parliament shall use a constituency office or allow a constituency office to be used for any public political meeting or fund-raising activity for any political party.
Articles on spending and borrowing in Budget 2017 to follow.