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Gomez Addresses OAS Committee

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Declaring that the Government of The Bahamas is currently working on an Anti-corruption Action Plan which will build on existing initiatives, Minster of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez told a committee of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Tuesday, March 17, that the Bahamas Government is aware that the “attainment of values such as morality, trust and ethics in Government involves the integrated effort of the entire society and its constituent elements and institutions – legislative, executive, political, judicial, religious, and civil – all engaging with each other to ensure transparency, accountability, and good governance.”

Minister Gomez was addressing members of the full Committee of Experts of The Follow-up Mechanism for the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption (MESICIC) during a session held at the OAS to review and approve a report prepared by a sub-group of the Committee in the aftermath of its on-site visit to The Bahamas in September of 2014.

The Bahamas Minister for Legal Affairs expressed his “gratitude for the very kind invitation extended to me to participate in this dialectic on the fight against corruption in Caribbean societies as it relates to the implementation of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption.”

“The Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, recognising the scourge of corruption both domestic and international, is a signatory to two conventions which seek to promote and facilitate cooperation between States in order to fight against it,” Minister Gomez said. “The first being the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and the second being the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) to which The Bahamas signed and ratified on 10th January, 2008.”

Noting that The Bahamas became a State Party to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption in march, 2000, Minister Gomez added, “As you are all aware, the Convention establishes a set of preventative measures; provides for the criminalisation of certain acts of corruption, including transnational bribery and illicit enrichment, and contains provisions to strengthen cooperation on identification, tracing, freezing, seizure and forfeiture of property or proceeds obtained, derived or used in the commission of acts of corruption, among others.”

Referring to the on-site visit by the committee’s sub-group, the Minister of State for Legal Affairs said, “As a part of continuing peer review, The Bahamas hosted its scheduled On-Site visit in September 2014, following the completion of the Questionnaire for the Fourth Round Country review. During this visit, the OAS Representative and Reviewing Country were able to dialogue with representatives from the oversight bodies in The Bahamas that are relevant for preventing, detecting, punishing and eradicating corrupt acts.”

He noted that those Oversight Bodies included:

(1) Auditor General’s Department, which is responsible for financial audits of all Government Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Corporations.

(2) Public Disclosure Commission, which receives annual financial disclosure from Members of Parliament and Senior Public Officials.

(3) Office of The Attorney-General: with regard to corruption, its general responsibility is to prosecute criminal offences, including corruption related offences.

(4) The Compliance Commission, which supervises financial institutions in relation to the conduct of financial transactions to ensure compliance with provisions of the Financial Transactions Reporting Act.

(5) Financial Intelligence Unit, the agency responsible for receiving, analysing, obtaining and distributing suspicious transaction reports.

(6) The Royal Bahamas Police Force.

(7) Civil Society: Bahamas Bar Association, the professional body responsible for regulation of the legal profession and discipline of attorneys; Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants, the professional body responsible for the regulation and governing of the public accounting sector; Public Accounts Committee; Civil Society Organization.

“For The Bahamas, the On-Site visit formed an integral part of the process by which the implementation was analysed as our Oversight bodies were given the opportunity to refine, clarify and complement the information provided in our Questionnaire,” Minister Gomez said.

Addressing the issues of corruption and transparency, the Bahamas Minister of State for Legal Affairs said that although “corruption is a menace for both developed and developing countries alike, it is particularly relevant for small Island developing states where a lack of transparency can sometimes be systemic.”

“The Bahamas, however, armed with a charge for National development, is reviewing its Freedom of Information Bill to both ensure that transparency is inculcated in our society and to allow citizens greater access to Government information to provide them with the tools to keep public administration transparent and accountable,” Minister Gomez said. “Consistent with The Bahamas’ obligations under both the UNCAC and MESICIC Conventions, the Cabinet has mandated the establishment of an anti-corruption task force.”

He added: “The International perception of the levels of corruption in The Bahamas is found in the most recent global Corruption Perception Index (CPI), published annually by Transparency International. In its 2013 Corruption Perception Index, The Bahamas is ranked 22nd out of 177 Countries that were evaluate obtaining a score of 71/100. To put this number into perspective, this score places The Bahamas just two points behind the United States of America, and second to only Barbados in the Caribbean region.”

Minister Gomez, however, said that notwithstanding the relatively good marks The Bahamas “has garnered in the CPI, we readily confess that there is still a great deal of work to be done and much ground to cover.”

“The Bahamas does not have a comprehensive anti-corruption framework with a single watchdog agency or oversight body (i.e. an Integrity Commission or an Anti-Corruption Commission),” Minister Gomez said. “Instead, corruption has been addressed through a range of measures, including strong democratic traditions, good governance policies, legislative initiatives, vibrant political and civil institutions, a free and vigorous investigative media (including internet media) most of which is under private ownership and control, and a bevy of anti-corruption initiatives nationwide.”

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Cuban Nationals Apprehended in Bahamian waters

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#TheBahamas, June 24, 2021 – A group of Cuban Nationals are currently being detained at the Carmichael Road Detention Center after they were apprehended in the south west Bahamas by a US Coast Guard vessel earlier this week.

The fifteen individuals were captured after being sighted on Anguilla Cay on Tuesday 22 June. They were taken aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter, CHARLES SEXTON, and handed over shortly after 7:00 pm to the Defence Force patrol craft, HMBS DURWARD KNOWLES, under the command of Senior Lieutenant Jataro McDonald.

The Cubans were subsequently brought into the capital early Thursday morning, where they were handed over to the relevant authorities. The Cuban Embassy has since been notified. 

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force continues to maintain a vigilant presence while patrolling and protecting the territorial waters of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and working with other law enforcement agencies.

Photos shows: Cuban nationals shortly after their arrival at the Defence Force Base, Coral Harbour on Thursday June 24, 2021. (RBDF Photo by Petty Officer Al Rahming)

 (For further information please contact the RBDF Public Relations Department or visit our website: www.rbdf.gov.bs, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and view our Youtube channel)

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U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS GOVERNOR ASKS FLORIDA COUNTERPART TO CONSIDER VACCINATION CHECKS FOR CRUISE PASSENGERS

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Governor Albert Bryan Jr. cites concerns around unvaccinated cruise passengers arriving in the Caribbean

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (June 11, 2021) – Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands Albert Bryan Jr. has made a plea to his Florida colleague, Governor Ron DeSantis, to honor Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and reconsider the state’s legislation, which could impact the health and wellbeing of millions of Caribbean residents when cruises to the region resume.
As increasing numbers of Americans receive COVID-19 vaccinations, Governor Bryan believes that ensuring the cruise industry reopens with vaccinated passengers is essential to the tourism economies of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean.
Congratulating the Florida governor for his commitment to health, civil liberties and economic revitalization, Governor Bryan called for an exception – one that would enable vaccination checks for outbound passengers on cruise ships, which do most of their business on the open seas and directly impact the multiple Caribbean islands they visit.

“The bill you signed into law (which goes into effect July 1, 2021) may negatively impact the United States Virgin Islands and other port of call destinations in the Caribbean region,” said Governor Bryan, who highlighted CDC approvals for cruise ships to begin sailing this summer from U.S. ports with strict health and safety guidelines, such as the vaccination of 95% of passengers and crew members

With Florida serving as the nucleus and biggest embarkation point for cruises in the United States that dock in the U.S. Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean, the Governor indicated that “our ports … are in direct line of fire,” adding that while the two hospitals in the U.S. Virgin Islands are equipped to care for the Territory’s residents, they lack the resources to address a potentially larger public health crisis. “The lack of infrastructure puts us at a disadvantage for any crisis – health or mother nature. This is true of not only the Virgin Islands but most of the countries in the region,” the Governor penned.
With this reality, the governor expressed his concern for all citizens in the Caribbean region: “This is why I implore you to reconsider with a lens to the negative impact that your legislation may have on residents in the Caribbean … the cruise line and tourism employees, many of whom are of Caribbean descent, are now almost fully vaccinated and ready to get back to work.” 

“Please consider the exemption proposed above so … Caribbean (destinations) can feel safe on arrival and disembarkation of cruise passengers and crew. This will be a big win for the people of the Caribbean and the Caribbean expatriates that live in your state. It is my hope that you can assist us in moving in the same direction while respecting regional health liberties,” he affirmed. Governor Bryan has also shared a communiqué with the leadership of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) inviting support from regional leaders to work with the USVI in finding an agreeable path forward to welcoming cruise ships and their passengers back to the islands in as safe a way as possible.
About the U.S. Virgin IslandsFor more information about the United States Virgin Islands, go to VisitUSVI.com, follow us on Instagram (@visitusvi) and Twitter (@usvitourism), and become a fan on Facebook (www.facebook.com/VisitUSVI). When traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. citizens enjoy all the conveniences of domestic travel – including on-line check-in – making travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands easier than ever. As a United States Territory, travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands does not require a passport from U.S. citizens arriving from Puerto Rico or the U.S. mainland. Entry requirements for non-U.S. citizens are the same as for entering the United States from any foreign destination. Upon departure, a passport is required for all but U.S. citizens.

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Turquoise Gold; how TCI’s slice of the Atlantic Ocean does more than boost Tourism

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#TurksandCaicos, May 18, 2021 – Dig ten feet down and you will find turquoise gold!  Hidden in the porous limestone bedrock of Providenciales is same stuff which has rocketed Turks and Caicos Islands to superstar status when it comes to luxury tourism.  It may surprise Provo residents that the enveloping commodity and pristine natural resource serves another practical purpose; it is the same safe, tasty, reliable drinking water flowing from our taps.

Turks and Caicos’ slice of the Atlantic Ocean is also the life sustaining water used to clean, cook, drink and grow gardens thanks to Provo Water Company, which has been supplying city water since 1997.

As the company commemorated its 10th year of Drinking Water Week, executives agreed to a throw-back to a decade ago with Magnetic Media and it is a refreshing story.

“Ten years ago we had probably 120 miles of pipeline, currently we have 136 miles and there is additional pipeline scheduled for the next two to three years in various areas. Communities like Five Cays, Blue Hills, Chalk Sound – just about everywhere and that is just additional pipeline that we’re putting in to make sure we can connect new customers,” said Robert C. Hall, the personable Managing Director of Provo Water Company.

Mr. Hall, during the interview, often referenced the company’s 20-year development plan; a plan which embraces the liberties of being wholly, a privately owned company. 

Just under a decade ago, Provo Water Company bought the Turks and Caicos Islands government’s 46 per cent stake in the water company for a reported $7.5 million; today it is a healthy set-up which in 2018 peaked at distribution of two million gallons of water in a single day.   

“We are looking at how we are going to supply the islands for the next 20 years and the major component of that plan is a second water plant on the northwest side of the island,” explained Mr. Hall at the Provo Water Company’s accredited laboratory overlooking western Leeward Highway. 

The 20 year plan obviously does more than look at expansion, it also considers contingency.

“The objective is to be able to supply the island from either director if that need arises.  So if we had a catastrophe in Grace Bay, we would be able to supply the island from northwest end and vice versa,” said Mr. Hall, who is an engineer by profession.

Ten years ago there were 3,500 consumers in the system; today there are 5,500 and technology is helping to manage these customers in Providenciales.  Provo Water Company does not tally per recipient of the service; they count their consumers by how many subscribers are signed onto the service.  Which means, there are far more households and businesses than reflected in 2021cumulative customer figure.

“We are able to produce just under four million gallons of water per day.  Currently we are using about – in this particular time – 1.1 to 1.2 million gallons per day.  So we’ve got built in capacity obviously to accommodate any growth in the short to medium term.”

Reverse osmosis of the salty ocean water is the process used to transform our turquoise gold into nourishing, drinking water; a process which requires its own story.  Suffice it to say, what is produced by source and sister company: Turks and Caicos Water, would be meaningless if there was nowhere to store it.

Right now, there are 2.5 million gallons stored at the plant in Grace Bay.  Another one million gallons is held at the storage tank near FortisTCI, the electricity supplier, off Leeward Highway.

“We are currently the owners of the land on the roundabout near CIBC, and there are some additional storage and pumping facilities that will be built there very shortly; we are hoping to start that this year. So that is a part of the project of trying to get water to and from both ends of the island.

We always have to be ahead of the curve, because the demand will always be there and the capacity to supply that demand has to always be ahead.”

In our series, we explore more advancements in the past ten years; including the biggest splash for Provo Water Company:  the introduction of artificial intelligence and technology.

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