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Bahamas public justifiably horrified, says attorney general

By Krystel Brown Nassau Guardian Online Editor From Caribbean News Now

NASSAU, Bahamas — Bahamas Attorney General Carl Bethel said on Friday there is something “rotten in the state” as he referenced a number of reported cases of alleged misfeasance by the former Christie administration highlighted during the budget debate in the House of Assembly.

He said that, while his office will take a balanced approach when looking at such matters, he noted that Bahamians are “justifiably horrified” by some of the allegations of wastage and are calling for action.

“The budget debate in the House of Assembly… has begun to reveal the excessive spending that the PLP indulged in,” Bethel said as he contributed to the 2017/2018 budget debate in the Senate.

“Whether it was no bid contracts issued by unqualified building contractors, or the hastily concocted public- private partnership agreements, cobbled together without the benefit of the professional knowledge and assistance of the quantity surveyors and engineers at the Department of Public Works, who are paid to protect the public purse against this sort of pillage.”

He added: “Contracts (were) issued to contractors, some of whom only formed their contracting companies within days of getting their contracts.

“…Bahamians would have also heard repeated calls to initiate investigations to these apparent or suggested abuses or alleged acts of misfeasance.

“Madam President, this is the situation which now confronts us.

“As Shakespeare so eloquently summarized in the play Hamlet, ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark’. Something is rotten in this state.

“People feel it. They sense it and the parliamentary debate in the other place has raised questions which might tend to support the public perception and the angst felt by the general public.”

His comments sparked a heated exchange between Bethel and leader of opposition business in the Senate, Fred Mitchell, who is a former minister.

Mitchell said he is unaware of any act of malfeasance on his part or on the part of Senator Dr Michael Darville, who is also a former minister.

He objected to Bethel’s “implicit threats”.

Mitchell added: “Don’t come in here being fast and loose, and quick and clever. If you have something… say so.”

The former minister’s comments came after Bethel pointed to the 2011 Caribbean Court of Justice ruling that gave the go-ahead for the attorney general of Belize to take legal action against two former Cabinet ministers for monetary losses suffered by the state as a result of misfeasance.

Bethel said he was merely making note of the case.

He said despite “the hue and cry being raised in the wider society, in Parliament and on social media”, he has to remain balanced.

Bethel said he will uphold the ideals of the office.

“I can assure the Bahamian people that only lawful steps and all lawful steps will be taken by the attorney general with vigour and determination to do what we can do through law to restore good governance, accountability, standards of conduct, requisite and appropriate transparency and respect for the laws and ordinances of the realm,” he said.

“We must restore those landmarks and boundaries set by our forefathers which have, hitherto, prevented the worst excesses and abuses of governmental authority, far too many of which, I’m sorry to say, appear at first glance to have been abandoned by the last administration.”

At least two Cabinet ministers have called for the attorney general to launch an inquiry on the actions of the former administration, with a view of bringing civil action.

IMAGE: Attorney General Carl Bethel addresses the members of the Senate on Friday. Photo: Ahvia J. Campbell

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