By Royston Jones
NASSAU, Bahamas — The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in The Bahamas is expected to meet on Tuesday of next week to determine whether it has grounds to commence scrutiny of all matters related to the Oban Energies refinery project in Grand Bahama.
A motion by the opposition for the appointment of a select committee to investigate the project was defeated in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.
When contacted on Thursday, opposition leader Philip Brave Davis said he advised PAC members to meet next week and a determination will be made on how to approach the controversial matter.
He indicated that opposition members are also in talks about the appointment of a commission of inquiry, under a Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration, into the Minnis administration’s handling of the deal signed in February.
“As far as we are concerned, we are exploring the role of the Public Accounts Committee to see whether our mandate could have us to inquire into those dealings with Oban, [and] we think we do have that, because concessions are being granted by the government,” Davis said.
“If that is the case, that impacts revenue, and of course, expenditure will likely be impacted as well.
“By virtue of that fact, we may have jurisdiction to look into it.
“That is now being explored by us and I am convening a meeting of the PAC next Tuesday.
“We will make that exploration and make a determination then, as to what we will do or not do.
“Other options, of course, will be [to] continue to keep the matter in the consciousness of the Bahamian people and to call on them to insist on this government being more transparent and accountable in respect to what they have done or not done.
“And lastly, we may seek some other means to find a way to make an inquiry on this.
“We could explore the possible commission of inquiry.
“That is something we could talk about going forward.
“But again, discussion will be had with my parliamentary colleagues and other leaders in our party to define and adopt the option that will bring to light the true facts of this matter.”
Davis added, “We cannot let it rest there.”
He said he does not believe the government appreciates the seriousness of its conduct.
The PLP leader also called the recent statements of Cabinet ministers contradictory.
It was a reference to minister of education Jeffrey Lloyd, who said this month that the government did not follow the law in how it handled the Oban project.
However, attorney general Carl Bethel said the Minnis administration did not break the law in its approval process for Oban.
The government signed heads of agreement with Oban to build a $5 billion-plus oil refinery and storage facility on East Grand Bahama.
The project has been widely criticized since it was revealed that the deal was signed without an environmental impact assessment.
In March, Save The Bays attorney, Fred Smith, QC, said he intended to file for a judicial review of the project.
Recalling this, Davis encouraged the group to proceed.
He said, however, if it does not follow through, the opposition could follow that course of action.
“We encourage them to proceed if they are still minded; otherwise we will give further consideration to that part of it,” Davis said.
The opposition maintains that the government should back off the project, saying it is “shrouded in misrepresentations”.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian