NASSAU – The government yesterday signed an amendment to the Letter of Agreement on Narcotics Control Law Enforcement with the United States, which would provide over $1.4 million to fight crime and corruption throughout the country.
The original letter of agreement was signed on September 24, 2010.
This would be the eighth amendment to this agreement.
“This most recent amendment will result in the United States providing over $1.4 million for law enforcement, professionalization support and rule of law, transparency and anti-corruption reform in The Bahamas,” said prime minister Dr Hubert Minnis, during a press conference at the office of the prime minister.
“Additional activities will include assistance with legislative reform, the creation of anti-corruption bodies and the provision of training, technical assistance and equipment to law enforcement and the financial, judicial, and civil society sectors.”
Minnis said the additional support from the US will also help to facilitate the advancement of the country’s national security strategies to reduce crime, strengthen the borders and reduce the recidivism rate.
“Moreover, the scope of the amendments to the existing agreement with respect to transparency and anti-corruption will support public sector modernization and the ease of doing business,” he added.
“This lends well to the aggressive targeting of systematic corruption by my government which aims to reduce the significant burden which corruption places on the public purse; to further stimulate foreign direct investment by enhancing confidence in our institutions; improve the quality of and standard of government services and to decrease the level in inequality.”
US Charge d’Affaires Stephanie Bowers also touted the importance of the agreement in the Bahamian government’s anti-corruption efforts and its ongoing relationship with the United States.
“When corruption leads to a failure to enforce the regulations or laws on the books, it is often the people who suffer,” Bowers said.
“Whether it is a firearm that makes it onto the streets because someone looked the other way, or a government contract that cost twice the amount it should, or even a good business idea squelched to protect an individual from competition; everyone feels the effects of a lack of transparency and accountability.”
Bowers noted that these issues also directly affect the United States and the security of its people.
“As the United States increases border security, we must also have trust in the systems of our partners,” she said.
“Liberal travel procedures are predicated on the integrity of our partners’ systems – whether travel documents, police records, or the justice sector.
“This signing ceremony today marks the seriousness of our purpose.
“The US government is now making available our foreign assistance funds to support transparency and anti-corruption initiatives in The Bahamas.
“We know that increasing transparency and tackling corruption take time and that a lot of hard work is required, as well as a lot of patience.
“However, the United States will be a steadfast partner to The Bahamas as it takes on these challenges.”
A 2017 corruption index published by Transparency International showed that The Bahamas was the top-ranking country in the Caribbean for the least amount of perceived corruption.
Results of a nationwide poll conducted in The Bahamas by market and opinion research firm Public Domain show that 54 percent of respondents believe the level of corruption increased in the country between October 2016 and October 2017.
The survey is a part of the Transparency International (TI) Global Corruption Barometer series and was commissioned by the civil society group Citizens for a Better Bahamas.
Since coming to office, Minnis has continued to tout an anti-corruption agenda.
The government has introduced a series of anti-corruption legislation in order to combat the ongoing problem throughout the country.