House of Assembly is the “biggest issue in Bahamian politics”, says MP
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Centreville MP Reece Chipman yesterday advised Parliament of his resignation from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) with immediate effect, citing the failure of the committee to conduct its business or have its terms and reference approved by the House as some of the reasons for his departure from PAC.
In a letter dated January 16, and addressed to the Speaker of the House Halson Moultrie, Chipman indicated that the government has become “immune to abusing the rules of the House”, which he said could lead to lawlessness, both in and outside of the Lower Chamber.
“My resignation serves as a signal to the next generation, that the House of Assembly is the biggest issue in Bahamian politics, and unless we fix it, as soon as possible, we lose you to an unjust, unfair oligarchy that will continue to reign over a nation; a Bahamas of embedded ‘have nots’, and that has very serious implications; and that, I cannot appreciate,” the letter reads.
He wrote that the PAC, as one as one of most prestigious committees in the Westminster parliamentary system, has a responsibility to study public audits, ministry and public officials for questioning, and produce reports on its findings.
He said, however, none of that has happened to date under the Minnis administration.
“There were absolutely no committee reports to the House of Assembly of The Bahamas since we took office,” read the letter.
“So, out of the six committees of the House, none have reported on their meetings.
“These committees through the Westminster system are very important for the growth of democracy and the growth of the Bahamian people.
“Though members were nominated and agreed, no reports have been forthcoming.
Chipman also took exception to the PAC being limited to reviewing reports that have been laid in the House, insisting most were “substantially behind or irrelevant at this time”.
“The only relevance is this political ping pong, which the next generation of Bahamians can care less about,” the MP said.
“The Bahamas people want clarity on how much money we have; how much do we need and what we are spending it on? The very essence of the Public Accounts Committee.”
The Centreville MP also lashed the government on its legislative agenda, charging that bills and resolutions brought to Parliament have usually been unaccompanied by “sufficient or clear information to make substantive decisions”, and in some cases once passed, regulations and guidelines do not accompany the legislation.
Additionally, Chipman raised concerns about the failure of the Parliament to address his motion for select committees on the natural resources and sovereign wealth fund, as well as fake news — all of which has remained on the agenda since last April.
He also took issue with the “abuse” of House rule 39(2), which he said has not been observed since the Minnis administration took office.
The rule outlines the order of business when the House meets on the second Wednesday of the month, a time when members are allowed to ask questions.
As Chipman announced his resignation during the evening sitting of the House yesterday, he attempted to table the letter, Moultrie interjected.
The speaker said it was inappropriate timing to table a letter during the notice for future meetings point on the agenda, but said Chipman could request of the chair to do so at the next sitting, provided adequate notice was given.
Chipman’s resignation from the PAC comes 10 months after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis fired him as the chairman of the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC).
The firing came after Chipman refused to resign and wrote Minnis detailing a series of alleged violations at AMMC, which he said the prime minister ignored.
Last June, Chipman, along with Bain and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson, Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller and Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine voted against the government’s proposed value-added tax hike from 7.5 per cent to 12 per cent.
The four MPs also voted against a resolution that sought approval from Parliament for the government to enter into a five-year lease agreement with a company partly owned by Minister of Finance Services and Immigration Brent Symonette.
Prior to announcing his PAC resignation yesterday, Chipman said he wanted a select committee of Parliament to investigate public, private partnership and joint ventures, including the government’s partnership and investment policies, “to determine the economic impact; adequate corporate governance structure; and legislative compliance of named projects”.
He said the select committee would “consider and suggest the best way forward to ensure accountability and transparency so that the birthright of every Bahamian is protected”.