Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the wonderful people of Central Grand Bahama to contribute to the 2013/2014 Budget Debate.
With your leave Sir, I wish to submit some Constituency matters, and provide an update on the expenditure of the Constituency allowance.
• Central Grand Bahama’s Constituency Office is located on Beachway Drive at the rear of the Charthouse off East Sunrise Highway. Telephone phone number 374- 4044; email: email@example.com;Website: neksteamgbcentral.com; Facebook: Neks Team Central; Twitter: @NeksTeamCentral
• I again wish to advise Churches, and all other entities on Grand Bahama especially Government Departments; that when hand delivering correspondence addressed to me, it should be delivered to my Constituency Office. The office hours are 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Again the telephone number is 374-4044.
I wish to state to the various Government Agencies on Grand Bahama, that has the disgusting practice of delivering invitations the day before the event; that I would not attend as my life is planned, and I’m not sitting around waiting on invitations to attend functions that have been planned well in advance; when political operatives have their invitations weeks in advance. Quite frankly, when an invitation is delivered the day before a function, I believe it is your intent to preclude me.
• My Music Ministry which was started in 1996 continues. The St. Georges’ High School was presented with some 22 new instruments to replace and compliment instruments they had in inventory. 12 Keyboards complete with benches and earphones are in storage; and will be presented to St. Georges’ High School as soon as the electrical work is completed in the music lab, where they will be housed.
• Constituency funds were also used to purchase Baseball Equipment for the Youth of Eight Mile Rock.
• The Bartlett Hill Primary School was provided with a re-constructed Basketball Court and the Construction of Bleachers.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that my Music Ministry has contributed Musical Instruments to over 20 Schools, Youth Groups, Churches, Marching Bands, Junkanoo Groups, and other Community Organizations. Marching Bands in Exuma, and Eleuthera were also beneficiaries of my Music Ministry.
• Constituency funds were also used to supply computers to Sister Mary Patricia Russell Junior High School and the St. Georges’ High School. I look forward to the continuous provisions of Constituency funds for the benefit of my constituents.
Finally Mr. Speaker, The Williams Town/Russell Town Transformation Project Is one that I am truly proud of; every morning when I walk the seaside I find persons from all over Grand Bahama exercising. Their compliments on the project are most gratifying.
Mr. Speaker, Before I begin my substantive contribution, I wish to commend to this House The Nassau Guardian’s Editorial of Thursday May 30, 2013. It is fitting and most appropriate it is headed:
‘THANK YOU HUBERT INGRAHAM’ “There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed. If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old- fashioned ingratitude’, said Robert Brault. While expressing gratitude to Hubert Ingraham for his leadership of the nation would be appropriate, it never seemed something he demanded or felt comfortable with. He seemed often to believe that his was an honor by the people of The Bahamas and it was his responsibility to do the job for which he was elected and paid by them. The things for which Ingraham should be thanked are many but among them might be the following:
• A commitment to free and open private media
• A commitment to open democracy and accountability as demonstrated by gavel- to-gavel parliamentary coverage.
• The establishment of 24/7 e-government, enabling the public to transact with government over the Internet.
• The new business license regime allowing perpetual licensing, establishing national licenses and mandating that licenses be granted within seven days.
• Enhancing the social safety net through reform of the National Insurance payments and benefits scheme.
• Enhancement of the healthcare system in constructing the Critical Care Block of Princess Margaret Hospital, the modernization of the Emergency and Intensive Care Facilities of Rand Memorial Hospital, the constructing of the Abaco Mini- Hospital.
• The enhancement of the infrastructure of the capital city through the substantial upgrades to the road network, the water mains, the non-revenue water reduction program, the upgrade of the airport, dredging of the harbor and clean-up of the island.
• The provision of medical insurance coverage to police officers, doctors, nurses, and teachers.
• The modernization of the Royal Bahamas Police Force. Hubert Ingraham’s greatest achievement, however, might be the leadership he provided the country in times of crisis. There was never any doubt in the difficult times he occupied the helm of the nation that a true leader was in place. His coordination and discipline of the agencies and departments of government made for a unified government policy posture. His decisiveness made for greater efficiency in the execution of government business and often allowed business to be more certain as to the position and action of government on any issue. His work ethic pushed the work of Parliament to its limits, leading to the most aggressive and active legislative performance of any administration. His integrity led to clean government, with few scandals to distract from the business of governing. His management of the nation’s affairs during the last global economic and financial crisis, while controversial regarding the rise in government debt, was classical fiscal policy response to such a crisis, providing economic stability, social relief and support for the financial system of the nation. Hubert Ingraham gave a lifetime for some to public service, and while there are those who had problems with his personality and style, no one denies that he was an effective leader who made The Bahamas a better place. He was generous in his effort on behalf of the people of this nation and his impact can be seen and felt throughout our archipelago. It would be simply too ignorable not to stop and say thank you. Thank you Hubert Ingraham.”
New Providence Road Improvement Project (NPRIP)
Mr. Speaker, I am obligated to respond to the communication of the Hon. Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Works and Urban Development, on the 22 May 2013. On page 2 of his communication, we find these words:
“The latest problem is but another mess which it has fallen to me and my colleagues to clean up following bad decision making some three years ago during the course of this project.”
Mr. Speaker, This is a ridiculous statement. Earl Deveaux nor Phenton Neymour as Ministers responsible for the Water & Sewage Corporation, instructed that the elbows in question be purchased. Those elbows were purchased by competent engineers and the administrative team of Water & Sewage Corporation. Instead of playing the blame game as the Minister now responsible for Water & Sewage is doing; he should have called in the technical and administrative teams in to ascertain why those elbows were purchased. He should have also sought to find out where else in New Providence and throughout The Bahamas these elbows are being used. It is my understanding that these same elbows are being used elsewhere in The Bahamas. He took; hook, line and sinker, the brief written by Mott McDonald.
Let me say to the engineers at Mott McDonald, and I know who you are, unless there were changes since May of last year. You will not be allowed to play Pilot. There is a lot of water, but no basin or towel will be provided for you to wash your hands as though you had nothing to do with this. Let me remind you Mott McDonald and inform this House, and The Bahamian public, that you were the government’s eyes, ears, and nose on this project for which you were well, and I’m sure continue to be paid.
On page 4 of the brief the Minister so warmly embraced:
“It is likely that there is more than one cause that resulted in the facilities. Currently the most likely cause are:
FIT FOR PURPOSE: Talbot have confirmed that the fittings are designed for use of potable water systems to withstand internal hydraulic pressure only. Talbot indicted that the fittings are suitable for above and below ground use but is not tested for use in a load bearing application.”
“Currently it appears that the Talbot elbow may not be fit for purpose as it was not tested to withstand the forces of the construction process. Talbot has also suggested chemical attack by high residual chlorine in the water could be a potential cause. Talbot has confirmed that no official guidelines for chlorine levels have been issued.
Could you imagine elbows that would be used for potable water where chlorine must be used and no official guidelines for chlorines use have been issued? Makes no sense
Towards the end of the brief photos of the elbows are provided with the following caption:
“To have a part crack in this way shows either extensive pressure has been applied to the fitting from external forces or the material has been weakened or a combination of both. Our internal destruction tests show that when an acetal fitting is subjected to pressure well exceeding the standard working pressure of 16 bar, and the test pressure of 24 bar the fitting would crack/split in one place. We have never seen an acetal fitting crack in more than one place and going in various directions. External testing has been conducted on previous parts received at Atlantic Plastics showing the same whitening and hairline cracks, these tests revealed that the acetal fitting had been subjected to high levels of chlorine which in turn made the fittings brittle.”
Let us go back to page 5 of Mott McDonald’s brief:
“If chemical attacked by Chlorine is found significantly reduced the material strength then there is an argument that Talbot has supplied a fitting that is not FIT FOR POTABLE WATER SYSTEM.
Mr. Speaker, Having written all that I have presented Mott McDonald then concludes with this offensive statement.
“In any event the major liability appears to rest with the Ministry of Works and Urban Development; however, the Contractor may also have a contributing liability from compaction of the backfilling material.”
And the Minister a Learned Attorney accepted and presented this. My questions to Mott McDonald are: 1. 2. 3.
Where were you when these elbows were being installed? Where were you when the tests were conducted? Where were you when the backfilling was done?
Mott McDonald you were the government’s eyes, ears, and nose, and should not be allowed to play Pilot by this government. I could say more, but that is sufficient for now. Mr. Minister, deal with Mott McDonald and the suppliers of these elbows.
Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat amused a few weeks ago when the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minster of Works and Urban Development toured the Airport Gateway Project. This project he voted against while in opposition. The then opposition voted against this project. They voted against the good decent people of New Providence having potable water.
He complimented the good work of the Bahamian Contractor, and then went on to suggest that he had something to do with Bahamians being on this project.
The record will reflect the Emile Knowles Construction has been on this project from day one.
The $10 Million allocated to the Ministry is nothing more than a slush fund. While I agree that houses need to be repaired this $10 Million could put 1,000 persons to work at Government minimum wage for 10 months, with careful planning the number of employed persons can be increased and the time extended to over a year. It is not too late to correct it.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke of the ill advised decision to sand and seal the Marsh Harbour roads at a cost of $1.3 Million. I am advised that the roads continue to deteriorate after poor workmanship and it is now being considered to have these roads paved in asphalt. Well it was our intent to asphalt the road in Marsh Harbour and the Settlement roads. The cost last year would have been some $6 Million. I note with some interest $10 Million is now allocated for road improvement.
Jose Cartellone Construcciones Civiles (JCCC) the main contractor on this project, was required to submit a weekly report detailing manpower being utilized and their Nationality
I challenge the Minister to lay on the table these weekly reports so we could see from start to finish the manpower component utilized and their nationalities. I am certain that like the New Providence Road Improvement Project it will reflect some of 80 percent or more of the persons working on the project being Bahamians.
Yes, he was willing to show off this project that he voted against while in opposition. In the words of Hubert Ingraham; “Reapers they are, Sowers they’re not.”
I turn your attention to the draft estimate of 2013/2014 Budget.
I note with great interest the Ministry of Public Works will be employing a driver at an annual salary of $56,317.00. As I review the estimates further I note that under Head 33; there are new hires in excess of $1.2 Million, further what stands out is the increase in general service workers from 6 to 94 with salaries in 2012/2013 $100,917.00 to $1,852,664.00.
Blind Blake can see what is happening here: Mr. Speaker, repairs, and so if the Marsh Harbour roads are to be done, then we should have some $4 Million left for the rest of The Bahamas.
In the 2012/2013 Budget under Head 33 line item 731260 Construction of Gymnasiums Abaco, Eleuthera, and Cat Island. $1.5 Million was allocated. There is no evidence that a nickel or a dime of this was spent. In the 2013/2014 Budget under Head 33 line item 731260 Development of Family Island Sporting Facility, changing the name under the heading to mislead, $2 Million is allocated.
In the Prime Minister’s communication page 22 we find these words:
“In addition, the Government will begin the process to invest some $10 Million in the construction of Multi-Purpose Sporting Facilities in the Family Islands that will give young athletes in these communities the opportunities to develop in competitive sports.”
I can find no provisions for this $10 Million in this budget. I will gladly yield to be told where I can find it.
Fire Station Grand Bahama
Mr. Speaker, The Fire Station in Grand Bahama was destroyed during the hurricane in 2004. During my tenure as Minister of Public Works and Transport, I have had very few regrets. I wanted to build this Fire Station, as the people of Grand Bahama are most deserving of it. I regret I was unable to do so, due to circumstances beyond my control. The land was identified and cleared, plans were drawn and left in place for its construction, there is no provision in the 2013/2014 Budget for a Fire Station. Before we were voted out of office we ordered new Fire Fighting Equipment, they should arrive in Grand Bahama in the very near future, I hope. It is most unfortunate that once they arrive they will not be properly accommodated as there is no Fire Station and no provision has been made for one.
Sunset Village Eight Mile Rock
Mr. Speaker, Sunset Village was severely damaged during the Hurricanes of 2004 and completely destroyed during the Hurricane of 2005. A contract was executed for a properly planned Cultural Village, this Cultural Village was intended to serve as a major tourist attraction for Eight Mile Rock and West Grand Bahama, complete with proper restroom facilities, a Bandstand to accommodate Concerts and Cultural Shows. This Village would have provided employment for hundreds; not only for residents of West Grand Bahama, but for Taxi Drivers, Tour Operators, Entertainers, and Promoters; this project was stopped period. People of Eight Mile Rock, West Grand Bahama, and Grand Bahama in general, especially Taxi Drivers, and Tour Operators you now know how this government feels about you.
Mr. Speaker, The Prime Minister at a luncheon held for parliamentarians past and present on May 25, 2013, on Grand Bahama announced that the government would assume responsibility for the Grand Bahama Airport as of July 1, 2013.
Having lived in Freeport for 42 years working at the Airport for a number of years, I am familiar with the Airport operations. It is common knowledge that the airport is not the most profitable in that huge group of companies. We all know what happens when a government assumes responsibility for an entity. The question is what will happen to the Grand Bahama Airport after July 2013. I can find no provisions in the draft estimates for its operations. I suppose this information will eventually come.
Mr. Speaker, While on the topic of Airports it is my understanding that the Marsh Harbour Airport will soon be opened. It is a State of the Arts facility that requires proper management from the very start. Again I see no provision in the draft estimates for it. As a matter of fact the Ministry of Transport and Aviation had been reduced. It has been reduced by some $3.5 Million.
Mr. Speaker, I know turn my attention briefly to Bahamasair. Mr. Speaker, The records would reflect that between; 2007-2012, that these were the best managed years in Bahamasair’s history. In May 2007 the reputation of Bahamasair was at its lowest ever. Bahamasair was a sick patient, we left it stabilized. Though strong focus customer service, on the ground, in the air, and on time performance, there was a steady and acknowledged reversal of the poor image of Bahamasair. For the first time in its 30 year history, the company set a new standard for annual reporting on Bahamasair operations. Financial statements for 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 which were completed and issued by the December 31 each year.
The full annual report for both years were completed and presented to the Board and me, as Minister by February of the succeeding year. These reports were subsequently laid on the table in this place.
Mr. Speaker, Our proper management of Bahamasair is reflected in the subsidy from a whopping $26 Million in 2006/2007 to a reduction of $16.9 Million in 2009/2010. It was increased to $18.6 Million in 2011/2012. The financial statements outlined detailed that this increase was due to the increase cost of fuel of which we had no control over. While on the topic of financial statements: The financial statement for 2010/2011, was just laid last week It was completed; before we were voted out of office, you only had to lay it on the table. The records of this House reflect that the last statement laid, prior to the laying last week was tabled on May 9, 2011.
Bahamasair subsidy has increased from $18.9 Million in 2012/2013 to $20 Million in 2013/2014. We want to see the statement of 2011/2012. It has been over a year as it relates to it, and if your board is functioning, we should have had it by now.
Government Building adjacent to Ministry of Works
Mr. Speaker, Earlier this year, I asked the Minister of National Insurance a number of questions. We now know that a building permit was issued January 28, 2005. We can safely assume that a contract was signed earlier in order for a contractor to apply for a building permit. We came into office on May 2, 2007. Another question we must now ask is what prevented a competent contractor from completing that building in 2 1⁄2 years. Well on January 14, 2013 I asked the Minister the following questions: I wish to ask those questions again:
1. Will the Minister inform the House who was the Architect for the Government building situated west of the Ministry of Works?
2. Will the Minister say how much was the Architect paid for the Architectural services?
3. Will the Minister say if the building was designed with Hurricane impact windows?
4. Will the Minister provide a list of Contractors who bidded on the building and their respective bids?
5. Will the Minister say what year was the contract issued for the construction of the building?
6. Will the Minister say what amount was the contract issued for?
7. Will the Minister say: what was the completion date? 8. Will the Minister: say who was the Electrical Sub-Contractor at the
commencement of the building’s construction?
9. Will the Minister say when was the principal contractor terminated and why?
10. Will the Minister say: what was the value of the work completed at the time of
the termination of the contract? 11. Will the Minister say how much was the Contractor paid up to the time of the termination of the contract?
Mr. Speaker, I await the answers for these questions. I trust that they will be provided in the report that Minister Gibson keeps referring to. For the sake of posterity the contract for this building was executed by the PLP. As the former Prime Minister would have stated publicly the building was in complete disarray when we came to office in 2007. Poor interior designs, shoddy works, the roof leaking like a sieve, and had to be removed. The doors were so small, that the furniture had to be ordered unassembled and each piece had to be assembled in the respective office. Can you imagine a building being built in 2005 without Hurricane impact windows?
We still await the report.
Summer Job Program
Mr. Speaker, It is wrong to implement a policy that discriminates against children; the placing of The Summer Jobs Program in the Ministry of Gra-nd Bahama does just that. I was sent 15 applications by the Ministry for Grand Bahama, so I can only ensure that 15 children from Central Grand Bahama Constituency will be employed on that program. With 14 Polling Divisions that is an average of one person per Polling Division. During the FNM’s tenure, an Island wide Coordinator was engaged. Each Member of Parliament was permitted to engage a coordinator for their respective Constituency. The member for West Grand Bahama can attest to this. The money was equally divided among the six Constituencies. With this policy hundreds were guaranteed employment from each constituency. I can tell you of a family in Royal Bahamian Estates who never supported me, their children was the first to register almost every year, and they were employed as we did it on a first come first serve basis. I recall one year some loyal supporters of my children were left out based on our first come first serve policy. I instructed my coordinator to find placements for them and I paid them out of my own pocket. With this program being coordinated by the Ministry of Grand Bahama I can only guarantee that 15 students from my constituency will be employed. This is unacceptable and a disgrace.
I respectfully request that consideration be given to reverting to the plan that guaranteed 100 students from each constituency.
In 2011, we employed the following in Lucaya: 24 - College Students; 15 - BGCSE Students; 40 - BJC Students; 23 - Undocumented Students a total of 102 Students.
Hubert Ingraham’s greatest achievement, however, might be the leadership he provided the country in times of crisis. There was never any doubt in the difficult times he occupied the helm of the nation that a true leader was in place.”