NASSAU – 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.
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.