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Darville defends PLP government on pre-election contracts

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Jun 19, 2017

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Senator Dr. Michael Darville yesterday defended the Christie administration’s award of healthcare contracts on the eve of the recent general election and rejected a claim made by Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands that the government did not get value for money in relation to the millions of dollars paid to consultants for National Health Insurance (NHI).

While contributing to debate on the budget last week, Sands said the former administration awarded $90 million worth of healthcare contracts — one of which was for the cleaning of an Abaco clinic that was closed — just two weeks before the May 10 general election.

Sands said the Abaco contract was worth $500,000.

He said, “We have contracts here, monthly cleaning services for the Exuma mini hospital, $424,638.84.”

Sands said another contract was for monthly landscaping services worth $126,000.

Additionally, he said the former government left millions of dollars in unpaid debt, including about $2 million in National Health Insurance (NHI) related costs.

In his response to the minister, Darville said, “Firstly, I remind Dr. Sands that the general election is over, that the honorable House of Assembly is not a rally stage, and all statements made therein must be substantiated with facts.

“I also wish to bring to his attention that tender documents are neither signed contracts, nor proof of payment.

“Dr. Sands should immediately move, therefore, to lay on the table of the honorable House, a copy of the said signed contracts to prove his claims, which is the transparent and accountable course of action, or he should apologize for misleading Parliament and the Bahamian people.

“This is not a political game we are playing and people’s reputations and livelihoods are at stake.”

Darville said, “It is a matter of public record that many clinics, as well as the three public hospitals, have been in need of repairs for many years.

“Therefore, putting the right infrastructure in place was part of the government’s plan to stimulate the economy of the Family Islands, bring islanders back home, and attract direct foreign investments to the southern Bahamas.

“For those reasons, it was very imprudent of the health minister to place a dollar value on the health of residents in these islands when he stated that $14 million was too much to spend on the upgrades and construction of the much-needed healthcare facilities in Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador.”

Darville added: “In our term of office, the PLP made a commitment to, and we offer no apology for launching NHI and carrying out this much-needed public healthcare initiative, which encompassed the upgrading of medical facilities throughout our country.

“Nonetheless, to effectively implement our transformative healthcare agenda, infrastructural improvements were necessary on every island and contracts had to be issued in order to get the job done. To date, just over 22,000 residents throughout the country have registered for NHI. The process was transparent and we are proud of this achievement on behalf of the Bahamian people.

“It is abundantly clear that the FNM came to office with a huge mandate but no plan, which is regrettable and a disservice to the Bahamian people.

“The FNM promised the Bahamian people catastrophic health care, but put [in] $15 million less than what the PLP was proposing for our selective catastrophic program, which was scheduled to be launched after the general election.”

In his contribution to the budget debate, Sands also said the Christie administration spent $14 million on consultants for NHI.

“As the program evolved over the full five yeas of the last administration, missing deadline after deadline, huge sums were spent on consultations,” he said.

Sands said these “big ticket” contracts for professional consultation and public relations will be dramatically reduced and redirected to utilize Bahamian expertise, and suggested the government did not get value for money in relation to the consultants.

But Darville said the PLP rejects this assertion “as empirical data from our global healthcare consultants and a landmark study verified that NHI would prove to have a positive impact on the country’s GDP in both the short and long-term”.

“Subsequently, we challenge Dr. Sands to provide his empirical data to support his opposing claim,” he said.

Darville said the FNM should “cease the political posturing and get on with the business of governance”.

Yesterday, Sands was a guest on ‘The Political Review’ with Quincy Parker.

“I have tabled the document that refers to every single statement that I made,” Sands said.

“Now, on Monday morning I will ask the speaker to provide some clarification, because one of the contracts for which I spoke, the contract was written but not executed.

“My goal is to ensure that what I say to the honorable House is true to the best of my knowledge.

“At the time I made that comment, it was indeed my belief that, that was true, because I was basing it on a document that I have in my possession which I tabled in the House, and if I follow that document to the letter, what I said was true.

“The day after I received a document saying that one of the contracts was not executed, it is being paid month-to-month.

“The face value is no different, but the contract hadn’t been executed.”


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