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JUST OLD DEBTS: Bethel insists money to contractor Ash ‘all above board’

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel confirmed instalment payments from the government are still being made to “whistleblower” Jonathan Ash for a debt the Minnis administration found on the books upon taking office.

“There is nothing untoward about these payments,” Mr Bethel said in response to a question from reporters yesterday outside Cabinet Office.

Mr Ash is the key witness for the crown in separate bribery cases against former Labour Minister Shane Gibson and former Housing and Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett.  

Mr Bethel’s comments come after an alleged document purported to belong to Ash Enterprises went viral on social media. The document itemised five payments of $30,000 to Mr Ash, totalling $150,000. The payments are alleged to have dated back to April 2018; however, it is unclear whether any payment was made this month.

While the document did not name Mr Ash nor his company, and does not say what any of the payments were for, Mr Bethel yesterday confirmed its contents.

The Tribune asked Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest to reveal the works for which Mr Ash was still being paid. He said these were “old bills”, but referred this newspaper to put the question to Mr Bethel who made the confirmation.

Mr Bethel said: “I have seen and heard (about) a post on social media calling into question certain instalment payments being made to Jonathan Ash who is a whistleblower and I have to say that there is nothing untoward about these payments. They are instalment payments on an acknowledged debt that the Ministry of Finance met on its books when we came to office.”

However, Mr Bethel said this matter gave rise to a wider question the country must come to grips with.

He was referring to the treatment of whistleblowers and a decision as to what should happen to these people who rely on government contracts as a way of life.

Recognising present legislation does not go far enough in protecting these people, Mr Bethel said the government intends to bring forward a full Whistleblowers Protection Act.

He further insisted these comments were general and not regarding Mr Ash’s role in an open case involving former Labour Minister Shane Gibson, or any other controversial matter being adjudicated.

Mr Bethel continued: “How do we treat whistleblowers? The whistleblowers protection provision in the Freedom of Information Act provides a measure of protection for those who are in some kind of gainful employment, settled employment.

“We have to decide what we do with persons who are whistleblowers who may have a different employment method whether it is by contracting with the government or otherwise.”

“The government will bring forward a full Whistleblowers Protection Act to clarify this because we have to decide as a people what society you want to live in. If we say that we are opposed to corruption then whistleblowers should not be given an economic death sentence when they step forward and reveal alleged acts of corruption, they have to live to.

“What I say is not directly related to Mr Ash or any matter of controversy in any court in this country it is a general statement gleaned from dealings in terms of experience in seeing what has happened to persons who have stepped forward broadly in our society.

“There have been persons who have been driven to the point of bankruptcy because once they reveal an alleged act of corruption they have been unable to secure any kind of contract or remunerative employment in this society.

“We can be judgmental as a people some times and this has adversely affected and proves to be a real disincentive in the effort to fight against corruption at all levels of our society.”

“So there has to be a clear signal by the government that we as a society must do what is necessary not to provide a disincentive to people who want to be honest and who want to help in creating we hope a more civil and just society.

He continued: “So those are my comments and I hope they will be understood as being necessary for us to have a reasoned mature and progressive view as to how we would wish to see the further development of Bahamian society.

“If we want to engage in a fight against corruption we must not make it absolutely impossible for persons who reveal it to survive,” he added.

The public first became aware of substantial payments Ms Ash was receiving ahead of the 2017 general election last year in a riveting speech by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis in the House of Assembly.

Dr Minnis at the time revealed he was “astonished” to learn that not only did Mr Ash receive more than $8m to clean up New Providence in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, but that he was able to receive multiple cheques in one day on two separate occasions.

There were 46 transactions made to this vendor through several of his companies and he also received $151,000 on May 9, just one day before the election, Dr Minnis said.

At the time he said this along with other “shocking” information, would be passed on to Auditor General Terrance Bastian for investigation. It is unclear if this actually happened.

Dr Minnis said Mr Ash pocketed a total of $8,113,908.24.

Comments

BahamasForBahamians 5 years, 5 months ago

This administration should just quit while they're ahead.

Resign.. Call the election... Do not accept nominations... just Leave.

Quickly this is turning on them.

I predict in about 4 years or so Bethel, Dames and Minnis will be in cuffs for this wanton abuse.

Selling a dream of transparency to The Bahamian people all while disregarding the law. Every day these cases against the previous PLP administrations smears more on Minnis and his minions face.

The irony behind this is crazy.. They are sinking them selves thinking they are sinking the PLP (not that the PLP shouldn't be sinked) but this administration is no better.

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TalRussell 5 years, 5 months ago

Much too confusing if it be that there was some buttering comrade's slice political bread - indeed if it be alleged case that both sides were being buttered payments from PeoplesPublicPurse - which totaled $150,000 plus the $8,113,908.24.... regardless which colour t -shirts does just happenstance hold governing power...... noticed how KP flipped answering simple where did peoples monies goner question over Carl Wilshire?

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John 5 years, 5 months ago

The greatest disappointment with this FNM is they appeared to come out the gate swinging in their effort to stamp out corruption. But it now appears that not only are these efforts falling apart but the FNM seemed to have their own set of money grabbers. And, even at this stage, there seems to be no clear plan for reviving the economy or no general direction for governing the country. Just one crisis after the other. Some starting to believe it is more than lack of experience that is causing the Minnis government to appear weak and failing.

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bogart 5 years, 5 months ago

EXCELLENT TO HAVE MORE PROTECTIONS FOR WHISTLEBLPWERS.....on dis small island whistle blowers must be given fullest protections so that illegal dishonest acts which costs the nation millions and millions in dollars...which costs unnecessary suffering to many innocent Bahamians ....unnecessary spending of millions and millions of pore taxpayers money......reveal curruption..reveal dishonesty...reveal bad practices.....reveal blatent ripoffs....reveal coverups....reveal criminal wrongdoings....reveal bad health practioners....corrupt officials.....reveal bad banking.....save the govt millions in providing resources unnecessary...wasting money...which could otherwise be saved....bring to STOPP ....IMMEDIATELY WRONGDOING......IMMEDIATELY....,!!..WAY PAST DUE THAT THE MAJORITY BE GIVEN AN CHANCE TO STOP SUFFERING ....BY THE DISHONEST ILLEGAL PRACTICES OF A FEW POWERFUL .... EXCELLENT MOVE BY THE GOVT AFTER DECADES TO HELP CUT DOWN ON CORRUPTION AND DISHONESTY..........EVERY MEASURE NECESSARY TO GIVE LAWABIDING CITIZENS CHANCE TO DO THEIR PART IN FIGHTING CORRUPTION...........INSTREAD OF LEAVING ERRYTING UPS TO THE GOVT AN POLICE....

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ThisIsOurs 5 years, 5 months ago

It would be wonderful to have a whistleblowers protection act. Mr Ash is no whistleblower. He was snagged in an alleged scandal, at best he's cooperating.

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tetelestai 5 years, 5 months ago

Persons who participated in the fraud, ThisisOurs, often make the best whistleblowers.

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ThisIsOurs 5 years, 5 months ago

Law is probably the only area where semantics is everything. A whistleblower comes to you to report issues before you have an understanding or knowledge of any impropriety because their conscience, character or ethics doesn't allow them to sit silently by while the crime is In progress. The PLP out of office, een nuttin to whistleblow on. Someone who is caught up in the dragnet and squeals is just trying to save their own skin. They're a "cooperating witness". Calling such a person a whistleblower implies a certain "upstandingness" that a crook who profited from the scheme simply does not have. And that is exactly why the AG used the term, to make Ash, whom the FNM is paying for work that can't be justified, "the good guy". No one would term Michael Cohen a "whistleblower". Nothing different here. Ash trying to save himself.

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DWW 5 years, 5 months ago

So a contract is obtained without a bid process. Without open transparency. Without proper RFP. Deemed to be fraudulent or overpriced at minimum but govt has to honour it because it has a signature? What load of horse dung. What are the payments for? If there is nothing to worry about then come clean.

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TheMadHatter 5 years, 5 months ago

"...for a debt the Minnis administration found on the books upon taking office."

We the public seem to be working 2 jobs each person struggling to pay VAT to pay for numerous SECRET DEBTS. Numerous we hear about, and that's just the ones we hear about.

No FOI for conch eaters it seems.

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TalRussell 5 years, 5 months ago

How does the saying go - if ya one previous comrade recipients PLP cash flow - whatever way you look - do not look Imperial red shirts Gift Horse in the mouth - the Imperial red shirts cabinet - goin' keep on PeoplesPublicPurse compensating you. (Just no making this up }.

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birdiestrachan 5 years, 5 months ago

doc in his usual big announcement said Ash received a cheque the day before the election May 9th 2017, but doc he is still receiving cheques April 2018.

How foolish do you think the peoples time voters are?

Are Whistleblowers paid ??

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ThisIsOurs 5 years, 5 months ago

The FNM, has turned out to be a great disappointment. Their consistent message is, who are you going to believe? Us or your lying eyes?

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John 5 years, 5 months ago

Their payments to Ash would've appeared more legit if they did not cancel the plan for the post office, without a good and workable plan to replace it. Work on the property for the post office relocation was already in progress. But nearly two years later no clear solution in site. Not even on the horizon. Too much cherry picking to boot.

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hnhanna 5 years, 5 months ago

The former government need to explain this ASH contract and all of that money they paid him before may 2017 election

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Bahamianbychoice 5 years, 5 months ago

This whistleblower protection act is just smoke and mirrors..Look at the BPL fiasco. The so called whistle blowers there all met with Minnis and provided support documentation..and he threw them all under the proverbial bus! So this FNM is no different from the past administration...sadly.

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bogart 5 years, 5 months ago

GIVEN SOME ....TEN ....OR SOMETIN.....CHANGES .....IN GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATIONS,.......FROM ROUND INDEPENDENCE TIME......AN NO WHISTLEBLOWERS ACT.......SHOULD TELLS YOU SOMETIN........BUT....ROC WID DOC HAS ...NO SHAME BOUT IT...DONE CALL ..CORRUPTION.....FER WHAT IT IS....CORRUPTION.....now waiting to see the AG...put it in action

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