Opposition Leader asks: What did the Prime Minister know, and when did he know it?

Dr. Hubert Minnis now tightens rope on Christie Government on Wells matter.

FNM Press Conference RE: Renward Wells – July 27, 2014

Garbage Gate: What did the Prime Minister know, and when did he know it?

I have invited members of the Press here today to emphasize the most recent example of Perry Christie’s failure as Prime Minister and the extent to which his continuing failure compromises the very last shreds of integrity cloaking his ineptitude or mis-government.

A few weeks ago the Government of The Bahamas number one trading partner, the United States, issued a scathing indictment of the Christie Government. The report, with its emphasis on trade, made it abundantly clear that the Christie Government was conducting its affairs with potential foreign direct investors (particularly US investors) in a way that was potentially damaging to this country’s good name—and the FNM adds, to the good relationship we have with the US. The report made it clear that allegations of double standards in the Government’s dealing with potential investors gave the distinct impression that the processes had been contaminated by corruption and that the taint of corruption appears to go all the way to the highest levels of government.

Rather than taking the US Government’s report to heart and looking inwardly to examine and correct the problems, the Christie Cabinet and more specifically the Prime Minister, went into full attack mode. I thought then, and now, that he reminded me of the Shakespearean quote: “the lady doth protest too much, methinks”!

Scarcely two weeks later there was a jaw-dropping report that a Letter of Intent had been signed on behalf of the government for the building of a waste-to-energy facility at the dump site on Tonique Williams Darling Highway, which would sell energy to BEC for half the current cost of fossil fuels, and would generate nearly 30% of electricity demand in New Providence.

It was later confirmed that the letter of intent had been signed by Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Renward Wells, MP for Bamboo Town; but that the Minister of Works, and Deputy Prime Minister (along with two other Ministers) had denied having prior knowledge of it and that Wells had no authority from the government or Cabinet to sign the letter.

The Bahamian public and even a former PLP Minister believe that Wells’ execution of a letter of intent to commit the government of The Bahamas to a $650 million contract with a company called Stellar Waste to Energy Ltd., had breached the code of conduct that we all accept as part of our Westminster system of government.

It was then reported that Wells had been asked to resign by the Prime Minister; an assertion made repeatedly by journalists since that time which has never been denied by the government. The very next day the Deputy Prime Minister, Philip Davis, defied his own Prime Minister when he said about Wells and the Letter of Intent that: “From all accounts there ought to be concern; but the question is whether he (Renward Wells) did anything wrong or whether he did anything that is in any way contrary to established protocols.”

As we all now know, Renward Wells has not resigned, and Renward Wells has not been fired.

This sequence of events reveal that the PLP government of Perry Christie is now caught in a sordid web of conflict, confusion and cover up.

Mr. Davis says “there ought to be concern”. We agree. The vast majority of Bahamians also agree. Bahamians are very “concerned”. We too, the FNM are very concerned.

Mr. Davis then suggested that there was some question as to whether or not Mr. Wells had done anything that “is in any way contrary to established protocols.”

Mr. Davis is a very senior Attorney and politician. He knows the Rules. He knows exactly what the “established protocols” are. And he knows too that Renward Wells has indeed violated “established protocols”.

The Manual of Cabinet Procedure which is issued to and which binds every Minister AND every Parliamentary Secretary states about the duty of a Parliamentary Secretary (Page 9) that: “within the Ministry to which he has been assigned a Parliamentary Secretary may handle such matters as may be assigned to him by the Minister to deal with on his behalf.”

The signing of a letter of intent for the use of the Dump Site for

waste-to- energy production by Parliamentary Secretary Renward Wells directly interfered with the Portfolio responsibility of another Cabinet Minister, Kenred Dorsett, Minister for the Environment.

Under the Manual of Cabinet Procedure not even the Deputy Prime Minister could have authorized Wells to sign a letter of intent which impinged upon the portfolio responsibility of a different Cabinet Minister and Ministry without full Cabinet approval.

Mr. Davis is well aware of this Rule of Procedure which binds every Parliamentary Secretary. For some reason the Deputy Prime Minister is “playing cute” with the Bahamian People, as if there were any real “question” whether or not the “established protocols” were violated. There is no question. The established Rules of Cabinet Government were violated.

Minister Kenred Dorsett announced in June of this year that the government had agreed a deal for a previously unknown foreign Company, Renew Bahamas, to manage the Dump site and to set up a waste recycling facility. After the revelation of the Letter of Intent Minister Dorsett stated to the media that, despite the letter of intent, the deal with Renew Bahamas was “still in force”. In the same article the owner of Stellar Waste to Energy contradicted the Minister and said that he would move ahead, based on the letter of intent, and that Renew Bahamas conflicted with his plans.

There is a clear conflict between the plans of two separate Ministries for the use of the Dump site, as each plan is in total conflict with the other.

The ONLY question is whether Renward Wells acted alone or whether he was given instructions to act and, if so, by whom?

The Prime Minister, in his characteristic style, now says the government will provide answers in due course. This is insulting were it not so embarrassing.

If this Prime Minister was worth his salt, he would have FIRED Wells within an hour of Wells’ refusal to resign. The fact that he did not fire Wells raises more questions, but we return to the aforementioned: what did the Prime Minister know, and when did he know it?

The people of The Bahamas surely deserve a full explanation, but then can we really expect more from a government that has suppressed full disclosure and transparency on every other matter of public trust, whether it was a true inquiry into the apparently questionable issuance of a Nolle Prosequi to accused gun smugglers, or the secret dealings surrounding the proposed BEC privatization, or the apparent subservience of the PLP to a host of election financial donors and foreign financiers such as the Web Shops and the Nygards of this world.

The entanglement of this PLP government in this sordid web of conflict, confusion and cover up must be cleared up to the satisfaction of Bahamians. This secret and sordid mess must be cleaned up. There must be full and frank disclosure of all the circumstances and facts which led to this apparent and embarrassing conflict between two Ministries of the same government, between a Parliamentary Secretary and two Ministers of the same government, and between two foreign investors doing business with the same government.

In the event that the government, as it has done all too often in the past, thinks that they can use their Parliamentary majority to crush and to stifle debate and full disclosure on this embarrassing instance of  “lack of Transparency” , “government interference” and conflicts of interest, then they are sorely mistaken.

Bahamians can “connect the dots” and in the absence of a full and frank explanation by the government they will, indeed, continue to connect the dots in this sordid web of conflict, confusion and cover up.

More than half a Billion dollars to invest is an awful lot of money to be touted by an Investor who has obtained some obviously spurious permission, evinced by something called a Letter of Intent, in such shady and obscure circumstances. Bahamians will connect the dots.

The Prime Minister must do his duty, if Renward Wells will not. The Prime Minister must fire Wells and fully explain this sordid situation to Bahamians.

The Opposition will NOT let the matter rest because it may be indicative of larger issues that are being kept from the sight of the Bahamian people.