NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Press Secretary within the Office of the Prime Minister Clint Watson said yesterday there have been still concerns related to the previous administration’s food assistance program in the course of the pandemic and the way the cash was spent, as he called on his colleagues within the media to “ask individuals who were in control of this system”.
“And I said it last week, and I repeat it again every week, we keep asking the Davis administration to offer an account for monies and spending, but we don’t put that very same sort of measure of accountability to individuals who [were] entrusted [with] the people’s money and I might hope that my colleagues would take up the challenge to research it and to ask questions,” Watson said.
“And as an alternative of, you recognize, doing other things, dancing around, ask people: you were in control of this system, you were a part of this system, what did you do with the cash that was given to you?
“How much money was given to you?
“It’s a public program, so it’s not a personal discussion.
“It’s best to have the opportunity, as a journalist to go to any of the individuals who benefited from this system so far as being contracted and ask them how much were you given, how much did you spend?
“Who were the vendors you spent it with? It’s not a personal matter. It’s the people’s funds and so they should have the opportunity to reply you publicly on that.
“Government continues to be baffled by it as well, however it’s something the federal government will not be reneging on or going back on.
“We proceed to research until we get some answers with the payment people. We are going to proceed to pursue it.”
During his mid-year budget communication, Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis said the review of the COVID-19 feed program “produced some startling results”.
Delivering his budget communication for the 2022/2023 fiscal period on Wednesday, the prime minister said the audit of the food program showed there was no accounting for sizeable portions of the funds allocated to help residents in the course of the pandemic and his administration plans to take the vital steps to “avoid a repeat of this consequence in the long run”.
The audit underscored quite a few deficiencies, including a scarcity of evidence that controls operated effectively for financial reporting and monitoring.
The federal government has allocated around $25 million for the food assistance program within the upcoming budget and increased social services assistance and its allocations to quite a lot of non-governmental organizations.
In keeping with the budget, $25 million was allocated to the Department of Social Services for ‘social assistance advantages’, and one other $25.2 million was allocated for the ‘food assistance program’ for a combined $50.2 million.
The road item ‘social assistance advantages for the upcoming fiscal period is zero.
Asked whether the funds were reallocated, Financial Secretary Simon Wilson said: “That wasn’t transferred. Apparently, that was the true money for the food program.
“That was the remaining money, that $25 million. That was put there to fund the food program last yr or this current budget that was put there to fund the food program.
“It was not utilized as a food program resulted in October as you recognize.”
Wilson explained that the majority of the funds were allocated back to Social Services and “the remainder allocated elsewhere”.