Our Annual Office Rental Bills & Other Utilities – Budget 2017

The Bahamas government spends a substantial amount of our tax dollars in office rent for its Ministries and Departments. Based on the information that is available in the new 2017/2018 Budget, over $45.8 million has been allocated for office rental payments. Budget Heads for areas such as the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) which were removed from the national Budget by the former administration have not been re-instituted for the 2017 Budget, so any rental allocations that may exist under the PHA and other such areas cannot be seen by the Parliament and public and hence, are not factored into that $45.8 million figure. We also have not been told whether any of the newly discovered contracts entered into prior to the General Election include office rental contracts. Continue reading

Constituency Office Allowances: We Need to Finally Hold Our MPs Accountable – Budget 2017

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. Continue reading

Accountability Moving Forward – Budget 2017

Deficit Spending – For too long now, Bahamians have had to rely on the mere word of a government Minister regarding key aspects of how our money is being spent, because such information is not available in print for us or even the Parliament to see, analyze and hold officials to account. It does not matter whether or not you trust a Minister or think he or she is honest. A functioning system has to be built on laws, procedures and standards that everyone must follow no matter who you are or how the public may feel about you at any given time. We cannot hold a government accountable if we have nothing to hold them accountable with. Continue reading

New Administration Must Return To The Budget Accountability Documents Removed Last Term

Salary & Staffing Details – As readers here may recall, this blog highlighted to the public back in 2014 the historic removal of the salary and staffing information from the national budget referred to as Personal Emoluments. This critical accountability plank of the Budget tells Parliament and the public how many people are employed in each category of the Service in Ministries and Departments, how much they are being paid and what their job titles and scales are. The documents show the changes year to year in the employment numbers as well as salaries, etc. Once this information was stripped, it was no longer possible for the Parliament or the public to account for the number of hires and what they were being paid. Back when I raised this matter, the former Prime Minister later responded, claiming that removing the documents that enabled the Parliament and public to track how our money is being used in this critical area, made the Budget “more modern”. Continue reading

Value Added Tax (VAT) – Round 2

As we await the presentation of the 2017/2018 Budget, and as discussions on the cost of goods and services and the cost of doing business continue, here are several key questions we will be awaiting answers to:

1 – Is the government considering a repeal of the Value Added Tax Act provision that mandates VAT be charged on customs duties?

2 – When will we see further and substantial elimination of customs duties?

3 – What will be the specific considerations given to the current levy of business license fees?  Continue reading

To Have Time To Get A Firmer, More Comprehensive Grasp Of Our True Financial State Of Affairs…

We know and have seen that the country’s finances are in a mess. Constitutional and forensic audits are to be done, the results of which are not yet known. Assessing our true financial state would undoubtedly take time. The first Budget of the new administration will be critical for our country and for our standing with international ratings agencies. To put itself on the best foot forward in the most critical task of managing our finances going forward, formulating a Budget that comes closest to working in line with our true financial realities once all or sufficient facts are known is the ideal. Continue reading

Party Leaders Must Put Their Supporters In Check Now To Prevent Election Violence

For the most part, Bahamians are peaceful about their political support. But for some of us, we take our support or desire to please a particular politician too far. Election violence is not foreign to The Bahamas. It just has not risen to the scale we have seen in neighboring countries. But that can change IF our leaders do not take deliberate steps now to make it clear to their supporters that violence and intimidation of any kind will not be tolerated or rewarded. New Providence in particular is a powder keg in some respects. Tensions can run high, even in our everyday interactions with one another. When you add in the kind of fervor that is stirred up during election season, violence can become the inevitable outcome – especially with so many desperate or power-thirsty people out there who see their Party as their livelihood. Continue reading

My Position On The Spoiled Ballot Proposition

ballotboxIf there are independent candidates or otherwise out there that you believe in, why not help them, whether they are in your constituency or not? If you truly believe in changing the landscape of the legislature, it does not matter whether a good candidate is your personal representative or not. Help that person to get a chance to make a difference. If the names on the ballot in your area are ones you truly cannot see yourself voting for, then help another Bahamian who has potential, to get his or her feet in the door. There are some good candidates who happen to be on a party ticket. But if the party is that repugnant to you, assist others to succeed. If you consider yourself to truly be a person of progressive influence, you should be able to influence people to action that actually counts toward progress. A vote for a Bahamian with potential, counts. Continue reading

Did You Know? Bill Tabled For Interception of All Our Communications

WhatsGoingOn(Read Bill Below) The Bill was tabled Wednesday night (Feb 8) in Parliament. The Interception of Communications Bill 2017 is intended to replace the existing Listening Devices Act. The Bill allows for the interception of all communications on public and private systems. Communications in the Bill are speech, music, sounds, visual images, any form of data, any apparatus or signal used to transmit the same, and anything transmitted by postal service. Via the Bill, our communications can be obtained with a warrant granted by a Judge for the Commissioner of Police or someone he designates. The Bill also gives the Minister the power to obtain our communications without a warrant. This provision in particular is one I believe can be subject to abuse.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE BILL – (You can scroll to the bottom first if you wish to read the Bill’s Objects and Reasons. This is the section of all Bills that tells you the purpose of and reason for the Bill). Continue reading