Friday, November 8, 2019
By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
INDEPENDENT member of parliament for Centreville Reece Chipman yesterday criticised the Minnis administration’s new Disaster Authority Bill, saying it is a “no change” bill and a “no FNM” bill.
The statement read: “The Minnis administration continues to destroy the very fabric of the Free National Movement, and FNMs ought to be concerned. Legislation that discourages independence, lacks accountability and transparency, and encourages corruption and conflict of interest, is not the Free National Movement I knew.
“The decision to leave this new FNM continues to be justified as the road to 2022 needs to be more about you, the Bahamian people, not special interest and dictatorial legislation. Same ole, Same ole (sic). There is no way a minister should appoint an auditor where a corporate body is involved. It goes against corporate governance principles. The auditor’s responsibilities are too independent to be politicised. Therefore, the legislation lacks independence. Section 11 of the Bill gives that authority to the minister.”
The statement added: “The Bahamas National Recovery and Reconstruction Fund Trust to be established in Section 6, has no audit or reporting responsibilities to Parliament. But will be responsible for collecting funds, local and international, and in many cases responsible for the disbursement of funds. Lack of reporting and auditing leads to legislation that lacks accountability and transparency.”
Mr Chipman said the bill is “corruption and conflict manifesting itself in legislation”.
“Have not seen this before. The bill, section 11 in the constitution and proceedings of the board skirts around the conflict of interest issue by allowing board members to obtain contracts from the authority. The very organisation they govern. Wow, therefore the legislation encourages corruption and motivates conflicts of interest,” he said in his statement. “The Minnis administration is simply going in the wrong direction.”
Last month, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis described the bill as one of many “bold steps” that will fundamentally change how the country prepares for and responds to hurricanes.
During debate on the proposed legislation last month, Dr Minnis said Hurricane Dorian’s devastation forced the country to look differently at major storms, adding that it could no longer assume that this was a once-in-a-lifetime event.
The amendment bill calls for imprisonment of one month or a fine of not more than $500 or both for people who refuse to evacuate once an order is given. A curfew can also be ordered when evacuation is ordered.
The prime minister can further make an order declaring relief from any disaster, which shall include a rebate of business licence fees, waiver of value added tax, exemptions from excise tax or tariff tax and waiver of any other fee, levy or tax payable under any law.
And in cases where people do not heed evacuation orders, the bill proposes to legislate that no first responder has the duty to risk his life to rescue or recover anyone until officials give the all clear.