Lewis: Disaster authority to get full powers

Lewis: Disaster authority to get full powers
Hope Town Docks, Abaco

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis yesterday said his ministry is waiting on Cabinet approval before its authority can utilize its full powers.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, the government passed the Disaster Reconstruction Authority Bill, 2019, the Disaster Preparedness and Response (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the Hurricane Dorian (Replacement of Government Issued Documents Exemption from Fees) Bill.

The bills put forth provisions that would empower Lewis and his new ministry to better coordinate the national response for the recovery and reconstruction of Grand Bahama and Abaco – the two islands that bore the brunt of Dorians destruction on September 1 – 3.

“The strength of the ministry lies with the authority itself,” Lewis told Eyewitness News Online.

“NEMA is also a part of it but NEMA is already established and is already in place.

“However, we believe that the ministry will be in full effect once the authority is established.”

Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis

Lewis said: “And that is the information that we are going to take to Cabinet to give us the full authority to go ahead and form the board and the names will be presented to Cabinet also for approval.”

The provisions in the reconstruction authority bill empowers the authority to accept, deposit and act as trustee and manager of any donations, endowments, gifts or bequests for the purpose of reconstruction of a disaster zone; entering into contracts; and appointing employees as it considers necessary.

It would be comprised of a Board of Directors and certain committees to deal with money matters.

The orders in the disaster amendments bill provides for mandatory evacuations, curfews, and restriction of movement in certain areas for a period of time.

The bill also provides for orders declaring relief from the disaster, including a rebate of business license 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.

Speaking to the ability of his ministry to carry out its functions, Lewis said: “All of our bills have been passed in the House and the Senate and again the strength of the ministry, in order for us to have our full power, plus to act at full throttle, we would certainly need to have the authority in place.

“Then we will form the various reconstruction committees on the various islands.

He added: “But we expect after Cabinet tomorrow, we will be in a much better position because we will be given the authority to form our board and to name individuals to the various positions.”