Unit to become part of overall effort to drive down crime
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Nearly a year and a half after the Minnis administration tabled legislation to reestablish the National Alliance Agency (NIA), Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said he hopes to have the NIA Bill passed this quarter.
Dames said he expects the unit to be called the National Intelligence Crime Agency.
“It’s all a part of our overall crime thrust, and so we’re hoping because we have set aside, I think it is $2 million for this fiscal period for the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), and so I am hoping that we get it on the agenda soon — hopefully before this quarter,” Dames told Eyewitness News Online.
The Minnis administration tabled the NIA Bill in September 2017.
However, Parliament has yet to debate the proposed legislation.
Last June, the government increased the budget allocation for the NIA from $90,000 in 2017/2018 to $2 million in this fiscal period.
Upon coming to office, the government disbanded the NIA, which had been in operation for five years under the Christie administration without legislation to govern it.
The Christie administration repeatedly promised to introduce legislation to mandate its purview, but failed to do so.
Asked whether the government has reviewed what the NIA under the Christie administration did, and whether it was within the scope of existing legislation, Dames said, “It did nothing really.
“Unfortunately… it was not set up properly.
“A unit was set up called the NIA, but it was essentially directionless.”
He likened the envisioned unit under the Minnis administration to the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom, which focuses on disrupting and eradicating organized crime and other major crimes, including human trafficking, child sexual exploitation and terrorism financing.
As part of the unit, Dames said the ministry will recruit intelligence analyst.
“The focus of the unit is on crime, not snooping on people’s business and that’s why it’s important to clearly articulate the focus, but that’s going to the focus and it’s very important to the success of the overall crime effort,” the minister said.
The bill tabled by the Minnis administration seeks to establish an agency that would be responsible for collecting intelligence that could impact the security of the nation.
According to the bill, the objectives of the agency would be to coordinate intelligence gathering and joint strategic planning among various law enforcement agencies and government departments, so as to “ensure a more effective campaign against crime”.
The agency would also collect by investigation or otherwise “information and intelligence respecting activities that may on reasonable grounds be suspected of constituting threats to the security of The Bahamas”.
Additionally, the agency would be under the control of the director, a position appointed by the governor general, acting on the advice of the prime minister.
The proposed legislation would provide for “agents” to be engaged at the agency.
The bill would also provide for an independent body, to be known as the Review Committee, to review and report to Parliament on the activities of the agency, and to review complaints against the agency.
The agency would be authorized with general powers of inquiry, search, arrest and seizure.