Bannister: No cap on WSC contract approval

FORMER Works Minister Desmond Bannister. (File photo)

FORMER Works Minister Desmond Bannister. (File photo)


Tribune Staff Reporter


FORMER Works Minister Desmond Bannister testified that the Water and Sewerage Corporation’s (WSC) board was not legally required to refer contracts over $250,000 for ministerial approval during his last day of testimony in the bribery and fraud trial of Long Island MP Adrian Gibson and five others.

Mr Bannister revealed this after claiming in court that the corporation’s board did not have a cap on contract awards.

Previous witnesses claimed that contracts over $250k required ministerial approval.

An email detailing contract approvals was also allegedly sent to Mr Bannister after he assumed office in 2017, the court heard last week.

 Acting Director of Public Prosecutions and lead prosecutor Cordell Frazier asked the former minister about the email under re-examination and whether his view supported the guidelines outlined in the email.

 In response, Mr Bannister acknowledged seeing the email and said it was “a view of the board” at that time.

 He said the law did not impose a $250k limit on the WSC board or any other boards and only on government departments, which he said was separate from entities like the WSC.

 He also read a section of the WSC Act and explained his interpretation in response to a question from Ms Frazier.

 “Based on this, it is not written in stone that if they say something now, that they have to stick with that for future,” Mr Bannister claimed, referring to the board’s actions.

 When asked whether he received a different communication from the board concerning contract approvals from what was said in the 2017 email, the former minister said he didn’t recall.

 He also claimed that many contracts exceeding $250k were awarded under the previous administration before he assumed office and was not approved by Cabinet.

 Earlier, Ms Frazier asked Mr Bannister about handover notes he claimed he received after assuming office.

 Mr Bannister claimed that he read the notes extensively, disputing online reports suggesting otherwise about his previous testimony.

 Ms Frazier asked if the notes included any information from his predecessors.

 He initially told the court that information about ministers before him would be included “if there were matters that were incomplete essentially or the decisions that were taken could’ve been controversial or problematic.”

 Mr Bannister asked if she wished for an example, but the DPP declined and directed him to answer her question.

 Mr Gibson’s attorney, Murrio Ducille, KC, accused her of being hostile towards the minister, but Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson disagreed with his assessment.

 She said they “did the same with those other witnesses and chided them for the fact that their answers were not simple and short. They feel the need to answer in a more long way so they can get their point across.”

 Ms Frazier also asked Mr Bannister about his relationship with Mr Gibson after he previously testified about his character.

 “Having met Mr Gibson from 2000 present, do you know him to be a wealthy person,” she asked.

 Mr Bannister said he couldn’t speak to his financial means entirely but had an idea of some of his assets.

 When asked about his assets, the former works minister mentioned Mr Gibson’s car rental company and later told the court he believed he rented from the Long Island MP during his personal visits to Long Island.

  After Mr Bannister concluded his evidence, two other witnesses –– the registrar general and a manager at the Department of Inland Revenue –– gave testimony about their involvement in the case.

 They testified how police requested certain information from them with respect to the trial.

 Mr Gibson is charged with WSC’s former general manager, Mr Elwood Donaldson, Jr; Ms Peaches Farquharson, Rashae Gibson, Joan Knowles and Jerome Missick.

 Together, the group face 98 charges, including bribery, fraud, receiving and money laundering. They have denied all of the allegations.

 Mr Damian Gomez, KC, Mr Ducille, KC, Bryan Bastian, Ryan Eve, Raphael Moxey, Christina Galanos, Mr Ian Cargill and Donald Saunders represent the defendants.

Meanwhile, the Crown’s prosecutors are Ms Frazier, Cashena Thompson, Karine MacVean and Rashied Edgecombe.

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