Nearly six months after the government announced it would spend $10 million on oil spill remediation efforts, petrochemical pollution remains a serious threat to the sensitive marine environment throughout The Bahamas, but particularly at Clifton Bay, environmentalists say.
Vanessa Haley-Benjamin, CEO of fast-growing social and environmental movement Save The Bays (STB), said recent complaints from divers visiting the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Gardens, who emerged from the water covered in oil, prove that whatever actions have been taken to date have been far from sufficient.
“We appreciate the government’s recognition that oil pollution in Clifton Bay is an issue that needs attention,” she said. “Unfortunately, whatever has been done so far has failed to produce timely results.
“Details of the remediation plan were not released to the public, so it is difficult to understand why, considering the reported financial commitment, a tangible solution has yet to be found.”
The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) is responsible for the sculpture garden, and executive director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert warned of the devastating impact this pollution is having on living coral reefs, fish and other marine organisms in the area.
Haley-Benjamin said: “We wholeheartedly support and second BREEF’s call for increased protection of the reef systems around western New Providence, which are critically important resources, ecologically and commercially speaking, and which have been under severe stress from industrial pollution for years.”
The area is vital to the local dive tourism sector, she said, as well as for recreational and commercial fishermen, with the sculpture garden in particular attracting interest from avid divers around the world.
Designed as a fusion of art, education, and marine conservation, the garden was created to provide a habitat for fish, corals and other marine organisms, divert snorkelers and divers away from natural reefs and thus providing space for restoration, and serve as an outdoor classroom for environmental education and citizen science.
“Quite aside from the dire environmental consequences, the ongoing pollution is threatening tourism revenue and doing untold damage to the country’s reputation abroad,” Haley-Benjamin said. “STB is calling on the government to make this issue a priority and give it the attention it deserves.”
According to Dr. Craig Dahlgren, a marine biologist and senior research scientist who studied coral reef ecology in The Bahamas and wider Caribbean for more than 20 years, pollution has already had a devastating effect on Clifton Bay.
“In surveys of coral reefs around New Providence conducted in 2011, sites near Clifton were among the lowest in terms of live coral cover, and had seen some of the greatest declines in live coral from previous surveys of reefs off southwest New Providence conducted in 2009,” he said.
At some sites, the researched showed this decline to have been as high as 43% in just two years.
In addition to coastal pollution, increased temperatures and overfishing have also had an impact. However, Dahlgren said, the sites closest to likely pollution sources were among those with the lowest live coral cover.
“It is clear that significant changes are happening to our coral reef resources,” Haley-Benjamin said. “It is imperative that we act now to prevent continued degradation.
“We and other concerned environmental groups stand ready to assist the government in identifying the origins of the oil spills and enhancing remediation efforts to accelerate meaningful results.
“To the extent that the $10 million plan announced in January may be working, it is clearly not working fast enough.”
Government, fulfilling commitment to provide housing for Bahamians
By: Kathryn Campbell
Bahamas Information Services
#TheBahamas, May 18, 2022 – The Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, has underscored the government’s commitment to “strengthening” and “deepening” its “unmatched” legacy of providing access to decent, affordable housing to Bahamians.
“Our BMC Executive Chair, Barbara Cartwright, is committed to expediting those applications and assigning without delay, suitably qualified housing applicants.
“I believe the number of applications at BMC in just the last eight months is in excess of 3,500. This housing demand suggests that we move with urgency and dispatch.”
In this vein, the government, Monday, along with stakeholders, unveiled The Renaissance at Carmichael, a housing sub-division on 70 acres of crown land off Carmichael Road in Western New Providence.
Executives of the government and public-private partnerships (PPP) participated in a ceremonial signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, May 16, 2022 at the Office of the Prime Minister, which will allow Bahamian families the ability to open the doors to 200 new homes.
The subdivision is being funded by a PPP arrangement between the Government, a $20 million backing from PROVEN Wealth Ltd. through Simplified Lending, the Mortgage Corporation of the Bahamas and financiers.
Dignitaries in attendance: the Hon. Jobeth Coleby-Davis, Minister of Transport and Housing; the Hon. Vaughn Miller, Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources; the Hon. Pia Glover-Rolle, Minister of State for the Public Service; Leroy Major, Executive Chairman, Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation; Nicole Campbell, Secretary to the Cabinet; David Davis and Antoinette Thompson, Permanent Secretaries; Barbara Cartwright, Chairman, Bahamas Mortgage Corporation; Oral Lafleur, Acting Chief Housing Officer; and Thomas Ferguson, Acting Director of Housing. Representatives of private sector partners: Robert Pantry, Founder and CEO, Simplified Lending; Johann Heaven, President and CEO, PROVEN Wealth Limited.
Prime Minister Davis assured that as the economy fully opens and grows, the government expects to expand PPPs in other areas of national economy including public infrastructure providing investments, ownership and job opportunities for Bahamians.
Minister Coleby-Davis said the initiative will set a new standard in affordable housing by which other housing developments will be measured.
“With this project we intend to create an estate where a sense of community thrives. There will be lit streets, sidewalks; a park where children can play safely and family gatherings can take place. Neighbors will be able to come together and interact as our families were able to do many years ago.
Formerly known as Carmichael Village Sub-division, the community will comprise 104 single family, two and three-bedroom residences, and eight two-storey condominium buildings with 12 units each.
In a video presentation Minister Coleby-Davis said, “Thanks to Simplified Lending, a Bahamian company which secured funding through a leading regional finance company called PROVEN. Many who only dreamed of home ownership will be able to walk through the front door to their new lives in less than one year.”
She informed that homes will be built to the highest quality with steel frame construction, storm-rated windows and doors, attractive facades and strong concrete foundations raised three feet above road level.
“Thanks to careful design, planning and exemptions on certain building supplies, every home will remain in the affordable price range opening doors to home ownership starting at $130,000,” she said.
Mr. Heaven said, “This transaction today will be primarily funded through the Bahamian portion of our Heritage education fund which is a regional education savings plan that is over 30 years old and is a household name for saving for your children’s tertiary education.”
The government broke ground for Pinecrest Sub-Division, a 43-lot community in Southern New Providence in January of this year.
BIS Photos/Patrick Hanna
Header: From left: Antoinette Thompson, Permanent Secretary; the Hon. Jobeth Coleby-Davis, Minister of Transport and Housing; Nicole Campbell, Secretary to the Cabinet and the Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
1st insert: The Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, is pictured speaking at the signing of Memorandum of Understanding for The Renaissance at Carmichael, a new sub-division in western New Providence.
2nd insert: The Hon. Jobeth Coleby-Davis, Minister of Transport and Housing and Johann Heaven, President and CEO, PROVEN Wealth Ltd., after ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Understanding.
PM Davis Tables National Food Distribution Audit Report
#TheBahamas, May 18, 2022 – During a Communication in the House of Assembly, by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis, tabling an Audit
Report into the operations of the National Food Distribution Task Force and the National Food Distribution Programme, on May 16, 2022, he said that his Government had found it “consistently difficult to obtain genuine answers”, about operations.
“In the case of the Food Programme, requests for credible documentation of how $53 million was spent have not been answered,” Prime Minister Davis said. “To be clear, documents have been provided, but they are not documents that answer the most important questions posed.”
He continued: “To make an analogy, if someone asks, ‘How much did your car cost?’, and the car owner answers, ‘My car is blue’, an answer of sorts has been provided, but not one of great relevance to the questioner.
“In the case of the Food Programme, some documents have been proffered up, but they do not provide answers to the Bahamian people’s questions.”
Prime Minister Davis said that the 138-page Audit Report “makes for startling reading”.
“In the General Findings of the Audit Report, 18 categories of major deficiencies were noted,” he said. “These ranged from a widespread lack of record-keeping, and widespread inconsistences relating to the sums of money handled, to a complete absence of minutes being kept of meetings, agreements and actions.”
“In other words, although tens of millions of the Bahamian people’s dollars were being spent, not even the most basic safeguards were in place,” he added. “A government that speechified about transparency at great length and at every opportunity did not conduct even the most basic oversight of a major government initiative.”
Prime Minister Davis said that the audit was astounding in documenting “the failures of the government” in establishing reporting and monitoring protocols, or internal controls. He noted that the Task Force could not provide the auditors with information that should have already been completed and readily available.
“Even in the instances where information was provided, only aggregate totals were offered, with none of the supporting documents that would be critical to corroborate the figures,” he said. “There’s no back-up provided: no contracts, no cheques, no receipts and no bank statements to support the information. No evidence, in other words.”
“It is noteworthy, too, that some organisations concerned have still refused to provide any information whatsoever,” he added.
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, given the sums of money involved, “the deficiencies are breath-taking”.
“Public Officers did not have oversight of the expenditure of funds,” he said. “Expenditure of millions of dollars remains unexplained and undocumented.
“No audited financial statements have been provided, so information provided by the NGOs cannot be confirmed.”
He added: “Information Dashboards presented by the Task Force did not reconcile to the information provided by NGOs. So, for example, just to highlight the point, if the
“In fact, numerous instances have been identified when the NGOs concerned did not account for the total amount funds received from the Government,” Prime Minister Davis continued. “As I said in the Mid-Year Budget, we uncovered $2 million that was sitting in an NGO’s account. I am happy to say that money was then recovered for the Bahamian taxpayer. Are there millions more sitting idle in other accounts?”
Prime Minister Davis noted that there was no consistent system of recordkeeping at the Task Force or NGO level; and it was simply not credible to believe that from May 2020 to October 2021, they were too busy to keep proper records.
“And some of the records which were kept, raise even bigger questions. Why were such exorbitant fees paid for some services?” he added.
Prime Minister Davis gave the example of one restaurant being paid $6 per box for the delivery of each food parcel. That, he noted, amounted to approximately $50,000 per month.
“Why did they pay $6 to deliver a single parcel of corned-beef, flour, rice and the other very basic items they delivered to families in need?” he said. “The delivery cost would have been more than the food itself.
“And to this day, despite numerous requests, two NGOs have still not provided any information at all, and combined, they received more than $10 million.
“$10 million of the Bahamian people’s money, has simply vanished.”
Prime Minister Davis also called on those with knowledge of the underlying facts to come forward. Those who had failed to provide answers and evidence still have an opportunity – and an obligation – to do so, he added.
“We do not prejudge the circumstances we have uncovered,” he said. “We cannot say definitively whether we are looking at jaw-dropping incompetence … or something considerably worse.
“For now, I encourage the Bahamian people to read the Audit Report for themselves.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis speaks during a Communication in the House of Assembly, tabling an Audit Report into the operations of the National Food Distribution Task Force and the National Food Distribution Programme, on May 16, 2022.
(BIS Photos/Ulric Woodside)
Denise Buck Family calling for information in her murder case and reward to help find the KILLER
By Deandrea Hamilton
#TurksandCaicos, May 18, 2022 – Royal TCI Police investigative techniques are again being called into question, this time, it is the sister of Denise Buck, a UK citizen and Grand Turk resident who was on January 3, 2022 murdered at her home who points to serious flaws and a sloppy probe.
“Clearly, probably they’ve never retrieved the phone and they haven’t found the murder weapon. So it’s probably in the creek, isn’t it, at the bottom? That’s where I’d dumped it if I was a perpetrator of such crime and what they have done, I couldn’t tell you to be honest with you.”
Nearly five months since the killing of Buck, 60 years old, who was bludgeoned with a hammer, and there has been little communication and very little progress in the investigation. There has also been no reward money offered for information in the crime.
Older sister, Lesley Campbell, a teacher still living in the UK explained even the notion of a reward being offered for information in the crime was snubbed, initially.
“I asked for a reward, before they agreed to doing it. They said that they wouldn’t because people would talk because they want the money. I said, but you want them to talk don’t you and you don’t give them the money until someone’s convicted.”
The appointed Family Liaison Officer informed Mrs. Campbell that there would be a reward offered in the matter; however, at no time has a reward for information in the case been shared with the public. It sadly is just as Buck’s sister had feared.
Have phone records been checked? How did the killer access the house? Why didn’t the killer take the money? Why didn’t Denise run and fight for her life? Why didn’t 9-11 recognize the call was from Grand Turk and why wasn’t the call recorded, Campbell said she was told the recording feature was broken.
In recanting one of the conversations she has had with police, there was this: “So you must have his voice then. Can you not get some of Denise’s friends or people to listen to his voice, maybe someone will recognize it. Guess what, the recording machine was not working!”
The questions from Buck’s family are many, and we are told they have been shared with family liaison officers, the Governor and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office. Still there has been little movement in the case, to the satisfaction of the family, no updates this month and no arrests.
“I have never learned what time the police actually got up to my sister’s house, nobody has ever told us that.”
There have been reports, which the police “categorically deny” which reveal that the attacker heartlessly called 911, using Denise Buck’s phone. It was redacted in a report to the family, but initially Lesley says they were told the man told the operator they could come and get Denise because he was done murdering her.
Royal TCI Police also came under fire for the extreme delay between getting that call and responding to it in person. An investigation into what transpired had been launched, however, there has been no findings published in the matter of the delayed response to the distress call.
It is also expressed by Buck’s sister that people in Grand Turk also know the killer and at one point, the relatives were contacted for a payoff for information; Lesley Campbell told us that she reported the attempt at blackmail. That probe too has gotten little traction.
Lesley Campbell described her sister as brilliant, in love with the island of Grand Turk, though a bit too trusting and a woman who was working hard, enjoying her life as an islander. Her thoughts are that Denise was “as tough as old boots” and believes Ms. Buck was caught off guard because she knew her attacker.
Lesley has vowed she will not give up on justice for Denise.
“I’ve not been able to have any kind of closure or be able to put anything to rest because I am that sort of person. I guess I can sort of park it somewhere and let other things cloud in… but all I want, I’d like the police to do a bit of work and find the murderer because I can’t imagine on a small island like Grand Turk, that somebody doesn’t know who it is, in fact I know that somebody does know.
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