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Fitzgerald Insists His Hands Are Clean

Former Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald.

Former Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald.

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter 

krussell@tribunemedia.net

FORMER Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald yesterday accused Works Minister Desmond Bannister of making “defamatory” statements, while insisting he did not benefit from a Bahamas Power and Light Company Ltd brokerage contract awarded to Bahamas Courier & Logistics (BCL), a company owned by his father.

He said the minister’s reference to him in Parliament on Wednesday was “gratuitous” and not protected by the privileges of the House of Assembly.

He also threatened to bring legal action for “defamation” in reference to newspaper headlines and “skillfully misleading information” in the publications regarding the matter.

Rejecting the assertion contracts were given to BCL because of familial ties, the former Marathon MP pointed to “a longstanding commercial” relationship with his father’s company and the government owned electricity provider dating back to the 1980s.

This comes the day after Mr Bannister revealed to parliamentarians a forensic audit by Ernst & Young into BPL that unearthed glaring infractions of the tender process, showing BCL was awarded a contract for brokerage work in the absence of participating in the tender process. The electricity provider spent $2,626,001 with BCL since 2012.

It was done against a recommendation that Pinder’s Customs Brokerage, a company with the best bid, should be awarded the contract.

Mr Fitzgerald was minister of education in the last Christie administration.

“I understand that the minister of works, the Honourable Desmond Bannister, made certain comments about one of my father’s companies and its relationship with BPL in the House of Assembly, gratuitously interposing my name in his statement,” Mr Fitzgerald said yesterday in a press statement.

“I have made it unequivocally clear both inside and outside the House of Assembly on numerous occasions, that I do not own any shares in any of my father’s companies and this most recent assertion, in light of all that has been previously communicated, is defamatory and is not protected by the privileges of the House of Assembly.

“I am not a beneficiary of any of the proceeds of any such contract, if indeed there was one.

“I am advised that Bahamas Cargo and Logistics, formerly Global Custom Brokers of which my father is the beneficial owner, has maintained a longstanding commercial relationship with BEC/BPL which dates as far back as the late 1980s. The inference that the familial connection with me was the reason for the contract or that I influenced or benefitted from the contract are both false and defamatory.”

Earlier in his statement he said: “I wish to advise the public that upon review of the headlines of the local dailies, September 21, 2017, and the egregious and skillfully misleading information contained therein, I have consulted my attorneys, with the clear objective of bringing a legal action for defamation.”

The audit, Mr Bannister said Wednesday, identified numerous irregularities in the manner in which the contracts were awarded since 2012, when the PLP took office. The document is dated August 15, 2017 but has not been tabled in Parliament as a police investigation into its findings are ongoing.

“First the report identified numerous instances where the tender process was not followed,” the Carmichael MP told parliamentarians. “Many contracts were awarded in excess of $100,000 for which no formal tender had been performed. In other instances, there was no evidence of any procurement analysis or of other quotations being obtained.

“There were also instances where contracts were awarded to vendors who had not been selected in the tendering process, thereby rejecting the companies that had actually submitted better bids and in one egregious case, a company that did not even bid was awarded a contract over the company that had followed the process and to whom the tenders committee had approved the award of a contract,” he said.

It is ironic the former MP has argued he was defamed and the comments read into the record of the House of Assembly by Mr Bannister were not protected by Parliamentary privilege.

In a landmark ruling last August, Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles declared that Mr Fitzgerald was not legally justified when he tabled the private emails of environmental action group Save The Bays (STB) in Parliament, and therefore could not be protected by parliamentary privilege.

Justice Charles, who presided over an historic constitutional motion, ruled that the former MP’s actions were an infringement of the constitutional rights of the applicants and ordered Mr Fitzgerald to pay $150,000 in damages for the breach.

Mr Fitzgerald was permanently banned from disclosure and publication of any further material belonging to Save The Bays and was ordered to delete all electronic and hard copy material within 14 days.

The Office of the Attorney General, under the former Christie administration, said it would appeal the ruling and was granted a stay pending the appeal.

It stemmed from Mr Fitzgerald’s accusation that STB was a political organisation seeking to “overthrow” the Progressive Liberal Party government under the guise of an environmental group. In the House of Assembly in March 2016, Mr Fitzgerald read private emails from STB members and others, which he said bolstered his claims.

However, in July of this year the parliamentary privilege appeal lodged by the Crown under the former government was formally withdrawn and dismissed in the Court of Appeal.

Comments

Honestman 3 weeks, 5 days ago

His hands are as clean as the soil at Marathon.

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Tarzan 3 weeks, 5 days ago

This is hilarious. This is the guy that could see nothing wrong with demanding business from Baha Mar when he was a serving cabinet member. This is the guy who proudly stated "we look out for our own, so what?" This is a guy who thinks stealing from the public purse is his right, and if you give him another chance he will steal more. What a joke!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 5 days ago

There is overwhelming evidence in the public domain that Toxic Fumes Fitz repeatedly abused his public office and the public trust for his (and his family's) wrongful personal financial gain. Once the ongoing investigations have been completed and properly documented, and all of the relevant evidence gathered and secured, appropriate charges need to be pressed against Toxic Fumes Fitz.

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DDK 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Perhaps Bahamas Cargo and Logistics, formerly Global Custom Brokers of which his father is the beneficial owner, should be audited as far back as the late 1980s. Pillaging, Looting and Plundering has been going on for a l-o-n-g time.

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Craig 3 weeks, 5 days ago

This guy expects us to believe that he had no influence over the awarding of the contract with a higher bid. Please we all aren't that stupid.

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proudloudandfnm 3 weeks, 5 days ago

This is one crooked, deranged human being....

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themessenger 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Hilarious, this coming from a guy who perfected the art of character assassination and dumpster diving when he was in the HOA............now the shoe wedged in his bungy he wan holler.

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DreamerX 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Not saying that this wasn't political influence to enrich, but dollar value of a bid is not the prime factor. There are times existing relationships, qualitative ease of addressing issues and other things out the difference of a dollar value in savings. However, as we learned, I hope the due diligence documents the key areas of performance and quality assurance were in reasonable range. If not it's hard to deny wrong doing.

But my people, do not let partial disclosures and big numbers confuse you. These journalists and the people at large get tunnel vision and refuse to learn or understand financial data or accounting. Such as many auditor general findings fail to be covered honestly. The best parts to spark out rage gets published, but the relevant cautions and qualifying statements on the implications of these reports are rarely discuss or even published. Do not become a mob frothing over blood when you don't possess the relevant appropriate understanding to judge the results of these professionals. The same way you hire a lawyer to review legal issues, apply some of the same safeguards to being misled. Because you will only be puzzled and upset when the final results can't live up to your orgasmic idea of what this information means.

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sheeprunner12 3 weeks, 5 days ago

His hands are clean .......... his accounts are full ....... Go figger

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TalRussell 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Comrades! It's good know that some former governing PLP's, believed in fiscal responsibility.... and that they equally just hate it if reports are true that taxpayers monies were spent (divided up) among PLP's, and in questionable ways.There's no downside to this for the PLP's future ahead as a political party. Right?

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SP 3 weeks, 5 days ago

FORMER Education Minister Jerome Horn Nosed Fitzgeralds' hands are as clean as diarrhea soiled toilet tissue!

This arrogant, bad Junkanoo dancing pirate is the competing most reprehensible individual associated with Pillage Loot Plunder with Allyson "Da Witch" Maynard Gibson.

A forensic audit of the ministry of education might reveal the whereabouts of any number of millions!

Most Bahamians eagerly wait to see Jerome's bad Junkanoo dance integrated with the Bank Lane Shuffle.

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alfalfa 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Why does the Tribune still entertain and publish comments from this despicable con man?

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Baha10 3 weeks, 4 days ago

I think it is now obvious who we will next see brought before the Court in irons, as this is obviously merely the tip of the proverbial Iceberg ... and from there, who knows where things will go, as clearly he was not alone. Nonetheless, sad, sad, sad, as he used to be a respectable Lawyer, now simply a disgrace to Nationality, indeed would not be surprised if he flees the Country before the inevitable.

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baldbeardedbahamian 3 weeks, 4 days ago

The PLP Comedy Show continues. These persons are funny as evil.

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truetruebahamian 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Rather than defamation of character this reference is more definition of character!

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