NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Former Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday denied knowledge of any “impropriety or irregularity” regarding his administration’s engagement of the Damen Shipyards Group for the construction of nine defense force vessels.
The Tribune reported last week that Netherlands authorities have been working with local officials on an investigation into alleged bribery involving the contract.
The government awarded the contract to the Damen Shipyards Group (DSG), based in Gorinchem, Netherlands, for the construction of ships and certain civil works for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) in 2014 as part of its Sandy Bottom project.
“Let me state at the very outset that I am not aware of any impropriety or irregularity of any kind in this matter,” said Christie, in a statement.
“Further that the result of the contract has been a transformative and defining improvement in the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in its policing of our waters and the protection of our marine resources.”
The Dutch investigation is reportedly probing $13 million in commissions the government paid to a Barbados-based company that served as DSG’s agent to the Bahamian and Trinidad & Tobago governments.
The contract raised flags among officials given that the commission fees represented more than 12 percent of the overall costs.
However, Christie maintained, “My government’s payment was to Damen Shipyard Group (DSG) and not to anyone else.
“The process was a transparent one involving a tender process and negotiations.
“Moreover, the attorney general’s office and our legal advisors in Washington, Hogan and Lovell, played major roles in the finalization of the contract for which I again thank them.”
The former prime minister noted that when he came into office in 2012, his administration met in place a recommendation from its predecessors that DSG be awarded the contract.
Christie said the scope of works for the project was expanded under his administration to include the construction of a specially designed landing craft for use in natural disasters and the major repair and restoration of two out of use defense force vessels at the time.
The costs also covered the provision of a simulator for training officers in command positions of defense force vessels and major transformative dredging works for the better berthing and accommodation at three locations used by the RBDF.
“It was that considerable expansion in the scope of the contract that accounted for the increase in cost,” he maintained.
In his statement, Christie also thanked then Minister of National Security, the late Dr. Bernard Nottage and his team for the execution of the contract.
He further called on the government, “which is in possession of the files”, to provide full information to the Bahamian public on the matter, “without delay”.
Christie added that the government should also co-operate fully with any investigation by the Dutch authorities because, “There is nothing to hide”.
“Secondly, I would suggest that the public officials involved in this matter be called upon to publicly confirm whether they are aware of any influence-peddling or politically-connected lobbying or other improper or irregular conduct involved in the contract awarded to Damen Shipyard Group (DSG),” the former prime minister said.
“In the meantime, I confirm, without any reservation whatever, that I am not aware of any such irregularity or impropriety on the part of either my government or the government that preceded mine, or on the part of anyone connected with either government.”