By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
EDUCATION Minister Jerome Fitzgerald yesterday denied a conflict of interest in issuing school repair contracts while taking the FNM to task on alleged abuse of his ministry's Loan Authority Division.
However, he later clarified that his comments on the Loan Authority referred to former FNM ministers and not those currently sitting in the House.
Mr Fitzgerald was responding to Opposition Leader Dr Hubert Minnis who questioned if the Education Minister had issued contracts to a company that he owned to carry out repairs.
"The FNM leader comes in this House talking utter nonsense,” said Mr Fitzgerald. “Mr Speaker you would have to excuse me as I took great offence to the Member for Killarney, who implied through his line of questions, that I would have an interest in any company doing business with my ministry.
"In fact I am extremely disappointed with the Member for Killarney. The member knows me well. He knows my mother and father extremely well. He knows that my family guards our character and integrity jealously. In fact he should be ashamed of himself for attempting to muddy up my name in this place.
"Had he done his homework, as he should have, he would have known that the company JFK Construction and not JFK Painting was one of the 74 companies that received contracts for repairs."
Dr Minnis had referred to the company by the latter title in his questions.
Mr Fitzgerald later said that members had been awarded education loans despite being prohibited from doing so.
He said he would not have brought the matter before parliament had it not been true.
"I could come in here," Mr Fitzgerald said, "And talk about why the education loan authority is in such trouble for all the loans that were given to members on the other side and to their children. If you want me to lay it on the table, I'll lay it on the table."
Standing on a point of order, FNM Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant called for the Minister to clarify the comments stating that he had not been awarded any scholarships to fund his children's education. The speaker did not order a withdrawal or an expunge.
"I wish he would lay all those names because I can say emphatically that Neko Grant or no relative of Neko Grant has ever received a loan or any grant whatsoever from the government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
"I have had the good fortune to put two children through university with funds earned by me, so I would be pleased if he could lay those names because I don't appreciate my character being impugned," Mr Grant said.