Former Minister of Housing Denis Kellman is challenging the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to prove he was engaged in corruption while in Government between 2008 and in May this year.
In this regard, Kellman encouraged the Mia Mottley administration to carry out its threat to investigate him and his Democratic Labour Party (DLP) colleagues, insisting he had nothing to hide.
It was during debate on the Integrity in Public Life Bill in Parliament on Tuesday that Attorney General Dale Marshall openly accused ministers in the previous DLP Government of corruption, and promised to do everything in his power to bring those culpable to justice.
Marshall did not name the suspected culprits, but said enough for people to deduce the intended targets.
Reflecting on the DLP’s ten-year reign before its spectacular ousting in the May 24 general election, Marshall said there were whispers of corrupt practices involving several politicians, as well as bribes that were paid by some individuals and business people for various services, “whether a contract, licence or permit”.
However, in an interview this afternoon with Barbados TODAY, Kellman described the allegation as “ridiculous”, and accused the BLP of going on a fishing expedition, which he warned could eventually “bite them in the behind”.
“Whatever I own before politics I still own today. As a matter of fact, I probably own less. So I have absolutely nothing to worry about,” the former minister said.
“These people have a way of doing and saying things [that] normally come back to haunt them. These things can come back to bite them in the behind because no one stays in power forever. So they may be playing politics without recognizing what they are doing,” he added.
The integrity legislation provides protection for whistleblowers; makes provision for those entering public life to declare their assets and do the same upon their exit; makes provision for an investigative staff to be put in place; and includes penalties such as jail time and fines, for individuals found guilty.
However, Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley questioned the level of seriousness of the law after some fines under the proposed measure were lowered from $500,000 and $250,000 to $20,000 and $10,000 respectively, although Marshall and Member of Parliament for Christ Church East Wilfred Abrahams later said the figures included in the bill were erroneous and would be corrected.
Kellman today suggested the legislation could be used later against the BLP after it is voted out of office.
The former Member of Parliament for St Lucy also rushed to the defence of his party colleagues, telling Barbados TODAY he had not known members of the then DLP Cabinet to be involved in corrupt practices. He therefore dismissed the “whisperings” referred by Marshall as nothing more than idle gossip.
“To the best of my knowledge no one from the DLP has anything to worry about. I am not that type of politician that believes in rumours. People say all kinds of things. Sometimes they say these things about yourself that would make you even second guess what you know to be true,” the former minister said.
“The bottom line is, I can’t tell them [Government] what to do, but they can bring whatever they want to bring. They are the Government and they are therefore free to do as they see fit,” he added.
In making the case for the bill, Marshall charged that under the previous administration several Government contracts were given without going to tender, despite costing in excess of $200,000. In this regard, he singled out multi-million-dollar contracts for the building of housing units and for the construction of a berth at the Bridgetown Port.
He also highlighted the contract awarded to a private firm to rebuild transmissions for the Transport Board, while insisting that “two ministers of the last administration were driving, and are still driving, two BMW 5 series vehicles that are registered to that company that received $28 million of Transport Board taxpayers funds within a contract and without going to tender over the last two years”.
Suggesting that these individuals were warned “time and time again”, Marshall also recalled that certain individuals were called before the Public Accounts Committee to give evidence in relation to the National Housing Corporation, but said nothing had come of that inquiry.
He also revealed that prior to the election, approximately 160 taxi and ZR permits were issued, with some people complaining that they had to pay out as much as $10,000 to get them.