Cooper, Wells spar over accusation that govt “broke the law”

Cooper, Wells spar over accusation that govt “broke the law”
Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper speaks in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, February 10, 2021. (FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper once again accused the Minnis administration of “breaking the law” with respect to the reporting requirements of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, Leader of Government Business in the House of Assembly Renward Wells assured that the government will comply before the end of this month.

Cooper said the government has a pattern of “saying one thing and doing something else”.

“We cannot listen to what they say,” he said in Parliament.

“We must watch, and watch carefully, what they do.

“They behave as if one set of rules applies to them and one set of rules applies to everyone else.

“They sometimes behave as if they are above the law.

“They like buzzwords like ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’, but in their actions, they are blatantly hypocritical.”

Cooper pointed out the Fiscal Responsibility Act mandates that the Fiscal Strategy Report be presented to Parliament no later than the third Wednesday in November, 2020, and debated by January 31, 2021.

The report was presented in December 2020, and there has yet to be a debate on the report.

“It is now February 10; not one peep from the other side as to when this debate is going to happen,” the Progressive Liberal Party deputy leader said.

“They knowingly and blatantly break the law again.

“Today, I was pleased to hear of the new compendium of financial bills.

“…We continue to bring laws, but I urge this government not to bring laws that they are not prepared to follow.”

In response, Wells, the Bamboo Town MP and minister of health, said: “The member for Exuma is accusing this government of breaking the law.

Leader of Government Business Renward Wells, the Bamboo Town MP and minister of health.

“You know, Mr Speaker, under the Emergency Powers Act, the competent authority has the authority to move certain requirements in law.

“And, Mr Speaker, the reality is the government will debate the Fiscal Responsibility Act’s requirement in the fiscal responsibility report that was to be laid [in] November.

“We did lay it in December. It is our intention during the mid-term budget debate, which must be done by the end of this month, that report will be debated along with the government’s direction in regards to the mid-term budget, as to what we intend to do in the country.”

But Cooper said he was “confused as to what the member’s point was”.

“Section 10 (4) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act mandates that the Parliament shall debate the fiscal responsibility report and shall inform the minister no later than the 31st day of January of any recommendations in the fiscal strategy report,” he said.

“That doesn’t sound debatable to me. I am no QC; I am not a lawyer either, but I understand what the word ‘shall’ means, Mr Speaker.

“And the government has broken the law as it relates to the Fiscal Responsibility Act.”