Unfortunately, these issues are so prevalent in our society that we have come to accept them as a way of life. This can not continue. The effects of years of slackness and corruption are compounding and causing ever increasing problems for our society.
The recent news of BEC Bribery Scandal may appear as just more of the same for our country, but I believe it has far reaching implications but also presents us (the people and government) with a tremendous opportunity to define what type of country we are going to be moving forward.
BEC Scandal Details
Just a few days before Christmas, the news broke that Alstom a French power company had pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $772 Million fine, the largest in US history, related to a widespread scheme involving tens of millions of dollars in bribes in countries around the world, including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and The Bahamas.
Alstom’s corruption scheme was sustained over more than a decade and across several continents. It was astounding in its breadth, its brazenness and its worldwide consequences. – Deputy Attorney General Cole.
Details emerged in the local paper that revealed how the scheme worked in The Bahamas;
Alstom employed a consultant who was a close personal friend of a BEC board member with Government ties. They were referred to as “Consultant I” and “Official 8” respectively in the plea agreement between the Department of Justice and Alstom.
“Consultant I’s primary purpose was not to provide legitimate consulting services to Alstom and its subsidiaries, but was instead to pay bribes to Official 8, who had the ability to influence the award of the power contracts,” the agreement said.
“Consultant I was a US citizen, was based in the United States and maintained a bank account in the United States.”
The agreement said that around 1999 to 2004 Alstom and several subsidiaries began bidding on BEC power projects.
When they were successful, Alstom allegedly made payments to Consultant I for the purpose of paying Official 8 in exchange for his assistance in awarding the projects to Alstom and its subsidiaries.
This was a bombshell and the clearest case of corruption I had ever heard of in The Bahamas. It demands a response and in the weeks since many comments have been made, here are two more notable:
The PM’s Response
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said that it is a very serious matter and that the Government is committed to deal with it accordingly.
“The attorney general of The Bahamas Allyson Maynard Gibson is engaged with that,” Christie said when asked about the matter.
“Discussions are taking place. The information is being made available. So the matter will be investigated.
“It is a serious matter and the Bahamian people will be informed of the results of that. It is ongoing. It is moving very rapidly…We have to deal with it.” – PM Christie
But lets face it we don’t have a lot of faith in words spoken by PM Christie.
The Leader Of The Opposition’s Response
Dr. Hubert Minis, Leader of The FNM and Official Opposition has said that the party would never condone corrupt behavior, and that it was the government’s responsibility to fully investigate the allegations.
The FNM was built on a foundation,” Dr Minnis said, “of transparency, honesty, integrity. We urge the Christie government to pursue this matter to the end. The public wants to know who was involved in any form of corrupt practices.”
He said: “Now that this information has been released via the (Tribune) and the court system, they have a responsibility to the Bahamian people to pursue the matter to the end.”
Dr Minnis added: “They would have our 100 per cent support in pursuing this matter. We do not condone corruption.”
Dr. Minnis has become known for criticizing anything related to the PLP, but I happen to agree with him on this one.
PLP Administration On The Hook
The majority of scandals in The Bahamas are usually hearsay, or he say she say arguments. This is different.
For instance, the Shane Gibson/Anna Nicole Smith scandal involved allegations that Shane Gibson rushed through Mrs. Smith’s immigration papers and that they had a special relationship. He said that was not the case, she was a family friend. If I recall correctly, that was that.
Nevertheless, people talked and many innuendos were made. But ultimately it was all speculation and idle gossip.
Not so with this BEC scandal.
The guilty party here, Alstom, actually admitted IN LEGAL DOCUMENTS that they bribed BEC officials to win contracts. They listed payments made, to whom and when. They also provided correspondence between ‘Consultant I’ and their staff.
So although this happened during the Ingraham’s Administration, The Christie Administration is on the Hook.
This cannot be business as usual; another investigation that goes nowhere.
Someone must face charges.
Someone must go to jail. In fact, all guilty parties must face the music no mater who they know or are related to.
Anything Less Is A Failure and an Endorsement of this kind of activity by local and foreign companies in The Bahamas!
Opportunity To Define The Future
This is an opportunity to make a bold statement about the type of country The Bahamas is and how we’re going to operate in the future.
Are we a country for sale, where under the table deals are the norm? or are we nation of laws and integrity? How we handle this incident will tell.
Not only should we find the people responsible and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, we need to go further.
We need to look into all consultants and establish a policy on how they are verified in the future.
We need to finally enact Freedom of Information to promote accountability and transparency in all dealings
We need Anti-corruption legislation that is aligned with international standards and best practices.
We need a Whistle blowers protection bill to encourage people who know of corruption to come forward and report it.
We need an ombudsman so that we can point out and challenge the slackness that seems inherent in all government run organizations.
It’s Up To Us
With all that said, it comes down to the citizens of The Bahamas.
We cannot continue to sit on the sidelines and grumble while politicians, their family, and associates bankrupt this country.
We need to speak up, loudly and clearly with one voice saying, enough is enough! we demand better from our leaders.
It doesn’t matter which party is involved. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past and who got away with it. We need a change moving forward to save this country. The time is now.
Your Turn: Comment Below
- How Do You Feel About The BEC Bribery Scandal?
- What Do You Think Should Happen In This Case?
- Do You Agree That The PLP Is On The Hook?