Caribbean News

PM and former minister at odds

Former agriculture minister Dean Jonas has denied statements made by Prime Minister Gaston Browne hinting at the possibility that he may have been involved in an illegal act.’

Browne, who dismissed Jonas as his agriculture minister last week, told radio listeners over the last weekend that he has asked Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin to investigate a recent contract entered into by Jonas to determine whether it was illegal.

Browne told radio listeners that he was at constant loggerheads with Jonas to prevent his persistent attempts to breach the country’s tendering laws and policies and that he took no joy in dismissing the former minister.

“And the persistence got to the stage in which there was a violation within the last week that I felt we had reached the rubicon and action had to be taken.

“Now I have asked the Attorney General to look at his actions in that particular transaction that took place a week ago, to determine whether there is any illegality and if that is the case the minister would have to suffer the consequences because law enforcement would get involved, and in that case he would not have the opportunity to return to my government.”

But Browne said that if there is no illegality Jonas could return to the Cabinet after six months provided “an adjustment in his behaviour, to ensure that he adheres to the policies of my government and to give a commitment to that effect”.

But Jonas told the Observer newspaper here Monday that there’s no truth to the statements being made by Prime Minister Browne, adding “it’s not factual, it’s not true”.

Jonas said he has never bribed anyone “never asked for a kickback, never gave any kickback, never requested any bribe.

“My hands are clean and my heart is pure,” Jonas told the newspaper.

While Prime Minister Browne did not specify the alleged breach by Jonas he said under the policy set down by his government and passed into law, any contract that is issued within the public sector that exceeds EC$1000,000 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) must be approved by the Tenders Board.

“We put a new mechanisms in place where those contracts of 100 thousand (dollars) had to be approved by the cabinet and then there would be a recommendation to the tenders board. I have said to all of my colleagues that those policies should not be violated,” Browne said, adding that violation of those policies could lead to corruption in government contracting.

“In the case of former minister Dean Jonas, who I still consider to be my colleague and friend, there were persistent violations.”


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