PM alleges former authority chairman has “a lot of explaining to do”; explains budget decreases in other areas
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis alleged yesterday that an 86 percent increase in the Bahamas Public Parks and Beaches Authority’s approved budget “coincided with electioneering”.
He noted that new contracts issued between July and September resulted in a whopping $22 million increase in its projected expenditure.
Davis, the minister of finance, while making his contribution to the 2021/2022 Supplementary Budget Debate, said: “I would be remiss if I do not speak about the Bahamas Public Parks and Beaches Authority.
“In the 2021/22 fiscal year, it had an approved budget of $15.2 million. After contingencies, its total budget was around $28 million, an increase of 86 percent against budget, an increase that coincided with electioneering.”
He added: “I am now told that because of new contracts issued in the months of July, August and September of this year, the projected expenditure of the authority for this fiscal year is $37 million. That’s an increase of almost 150 percent against the budgeted amount and in dollars, it’s an increase of $22 million dollars.
“I want that to sink in for a moment. I also want it to sink in that a number of these contracts were awarded to clean middle and high-end subdivisions, like Blair and Westridge, to name a few.
“The member for St Barnabas will undoubtedly have a lot of explaining to do. As a result of this reckless and irresponsible behavior by the member, as of September 30, 2021, after only four months into the fiscal budget, the authority had already utilized almost 60 percent of its budget for the entire year, with eight months still remaining.
“The roadside contracts in Killarney alone had risen to almost $400,000.”
While referring to several budgetary reallocations, Davis noted that the $2.1 million decrease in the education budget was the result of the findings of an audit to remove all inactive individuals from the payroll.
“Other savings were identified due to the continuation of virtual learning, with certain expenses associated with in-person learning and thus not required for a portion of this school year,” he said.
“To be clear, the operations of the ministry and Department of Education were not impacted by this removal of inactive people from payroll or the reduction in expenses due to virtual learning.”
Davis added: “The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture saw a $1.9 million decrease in its budget that represented savings due to there being no Junkanoo parade this year.
“The Ministry of the Environment saw a $7.8 million decrease that represents monies transferred to the ministry related to the Bahamas National Trust, as well as the transfer of the Bahamas Public Parks and Beaches Authority to the Ministry of Works and Utilities.”
Davis also affirmed the government’s commitment to small business development as he noted the reduction of the allocation for small business development in the Ministry of Finance’s budget.
“This administration is firmly committed to small business development,” said Davis.
“I remind this House that the Bahamas Development Bank, the Venture Capital Fund and the Small Business Development Centre were all established by PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) governments.
“Sustainable small business development requires a supportive environment. The SBDC was designed to assist in providing just such an environment. During the pandemic, Bahamian ingenuity took hold at the SBDC and, through an army of private lenders, it was able to provide support to the small business community.
“This government is interested in seeing this model continue in a structured manner and, at the same time, not have the SBDC duplicate the Bahamas Development Bank’s efforts by engaging in direct lending.”