BY BRADLEY ROBERTS FORMER CHAIRMAN & CABINET MINISTER
17TH DECEMBER 2017
Works Minister Desmond Bannister was caught red handed telling two bold faced lies in his capacity as a Cabinet Minister on the Stephen Dillet repair contract and must immediately resign or be fired by Prime Minister Minnis. He has breached the public trust and must be held accountable.
What with all this public talk both nationally and internationally by Dr. Minnis about fighting corruption, restoring integrity in government and leading and open, honest and transparent government, PM Minnis must act decisively if he is to be taken seriously and not conveniently dismissed as a bag of hot air who is madly in love with the sound of his own voice and colored photo on the front page of the local dailies.
Already Minnis’ silence on the Stephen Dillet scandal in light of public revelations reeks of a cover up at the highest level in the Minnis government. To speak at this late hour would be seen as succumbing to public pressure instead of acting in the public’s interest. To remain quiet would heavily suggest that the Prime Minister has something to hide.
Now back to the lies told by Minister Bannister:
For the record, Minister Bannister conceded that the contract administration was mishandled, but blamed public servants for this failure:
“The project did not go out to tender the way it ought to have been to tender, public to tender. The manner in which the project commenced concerned the government and the government took appropriate steps in relation to that. I am not going to mention the names of public servants except to say that the government is satisfied that we have taken appropriate action in relation to those persons who are responsible.”
“It’s a project where somebody exceeded his boundaries” continued Mr. Bannister “and the project actually physically started, planned and started without ministerial authority. When that happened the minister had to act and Cabinet had to act…”
The problem with this statement is that the Prime Minister himself issued the $4 million no bid contract to Mal Jack Construction so why was Bannister telling a lie by using a lowly public servant as a scapegoat knowing full well that general orders prevent civil servants from defending themselves or speaking publicly on political issues? This is an act of cowardice. What was he trying to hide and cover up?
In telling his second unsolicited and gratuitous lie, Minister Bannister told the press that the Stephen Dillet project “started under the PLP regime. (It) started when the PLP was in power. They obviously were working on it and we were not aware of it. We came to power and met all of this going on and we had to deal with the individuals who were involved.”
This is a second bold faced lie as the contractor himself has admitted that the Prime Minister awarded the contract to Mal Jack Construction. Further, I know for a fact that the PLP government repaired the central air conditioning system, remedied the plumbing deficiencies and corrected challenges with the sewer system in addition to sprucing up the interior of the school. The contractor of record was not Mal Jack Construction. This huge $4 million no bid contract to so call “retrofit” the Stephen Dillet Primary school was started under the FNM administration.
So the Prime Minister, the Works Minister and the Education Minister were all concerned together and did gratuitously conspire to mislead the public and keep them in the dark on the school contract. This darkens and thickens the clouds of suspicion of wrongdoing, a coverup and secret government who spends public funds on a whim, believing they are not accountable for their actions. When they are questioned, they either remain silent or simply lie to deflect, but to deflect from what?
Minnis told the world at the swearing in ceremony at Government House just seven months ago that he will not tolerate corrupt behavior from any of his Ministers, will not give them cover and would act decisively in those circumstances.
To use an iconic Bahamian vernacular: “MOUTH COULD SAY ANYTHING, MONEY BUY LAND!”
The public is watching and waiting to see just how much political “currency” (pardon the pun) Dr. Minnis has.