PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts.
By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
BRADLEY Roberts. PLP chairman, accused the Free National Movement of making public portions of a forensic report into Bahamas Power and Light to “deflect” from the fact the government and Works Minister Desmond Bannister have “no plan” for the utility provider.
In a statement, Mr Roberts also said the FNM is “hypocritical” for accusing the PLP of handing out no bid contracts, as he accused the government of not using the tender process in certain cases.
A forensic investigation into BPL unearthed glaring infractions, revealing a company owned by the father of Jerome Fitzgerald was awarded a contract for brokerage work despite no participation in the tender process and a recommendation that another entity should be given the approval.
According to the Ernst & Young audit into BPL, Mr Bannister told the House of Assembly that in one “egregious” instance, Mr Fitzgerald’s father’s business, Bahamas Courier & Logistics (BCL), was awarded a contract over Pinder’s Customs Brokerage, a company with the best bid. Mr Fitzgerald was minister of education in the last Christie administration.
The electricity provider spent $2,626,001 with BCL since 2012.
The audit further found in two separate instances, Mr Bannister said last week, J S Johnson was the winning contractor in the bidding process for insurance coverage, but both contracts totaling $14,183,159 were ultimately issued to Sunshine Insurance, the company of Franklyn Wilson, a Progressive Liberal Party supporter and financier.
Mr Roberts defended the actions of the former administration saying “trading goods and services for money is not a ‘gift’.”
“Former Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald responded that the inference by Bannister that his familial connection was the reason for the contract award to Bahamas Cargo and Logistics, formerly Global Custom Brokers, or that he influenced or benefitted from the contract were both ‘false and defamatory.’ Fitzgerald said he would file a lawsuit and we agree,” the statement said.
“Sunshine Insurance for its part responded that at no stage did they ever use any political effort or leverage to seek to influence the outcome of any tender process; we believe them. This insurance broker participated in a sealed tender process for the provision of captive insurance coverage for BEC/BPL in 2013; they won the bid and was awarded the contract. In 2017, four years later, Sunshine Insurance again participated in the same process and the contract was renewed in June 2017 to the period June 2018 under the superintendence of FNM Minister Bannister.
“The contract award begs the question of why Minister Bannister refused to intervene in the public interest if he had evidence of impropriety on the part of Sunshine Insurance that he felt corrupted the process. Impropriety is sufficient cause for cancellation and I charge that Bannister has no cause or evidence of impropriety and his posturing and charade in the House were cowardly abuses of parliamentary privilege.”
Mr Roberts said if Mr Bannister’s sole aim was to malign the character and reputation of political personalities aligned with the PLP, then “the FNM is fair game.”
“We know the FNM has no plans to govern; no plans for BEC and after being scammed out of $2.8 million, we know the prime minister has absolutely no intentions of tabling that letter from CCRIF he promised three times to table,” Mr Roberts said, referring to the $2.8m premium the Minnis administration paid to the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility to renew the country’s tropical cyclone policy.
“Deflections, however, through... the flagrant abuse of parliamentary privilege are unseemly even for a FNM minister,” he said.
On Thursday, PLP Leader Phillip “Brave” Davis told The Tribune he sees nothing wrong with awarding contracts to party supporters or the justified circumvention of the tender process.
The audit has not been tabled in the House of Assembly as police investigation into its findings are continuing.