Health minister testifies at Frank Smith trial

Health minister testifies at Frank Smith trial
Frank Smith, centre, with his legal team.

Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands reportedly approved a $1.8 million cleaning contract for Barbara Hanna’s Magic Touch Cleaning Company, without board approval, less than three months after bribery and extortion charges were brought against former Public Hospital’s Authority (PHA) chairman Frank Smith, according to testimony heard in court Tuesday.

Hanna allegedly paid Smith $65,000 in bribes.

It is alleged that between April 2016 and April 2017, Smith demanded and obtained $5,000 per month from Hanna, knowing he was not authorised to do so.

Concerning the bribery charge, it is alleged that Smith solicited $5,000 a month from Hanna for helping her to get a PHA contract.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Retaking the stand, PHA legal advisor and board secretary Leslie Isaacs confirmed, that the contract for cleaning services at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) was awarded to Hanna on October 30 2017 – months before the contract went before the PHA board for approval – a breach of procedure.

The contract was ratified by the board months later, however, the board was concerned about the level of impropriety and requested an internal audit of the process for the approval of the contract.

Isaacs testified that the tender evaluation committee recommended Hanna be awarded the contract, despite Magic Cleaning Company not being the lowest. In fact, another cleaning company bid $700,000 lower.

While Lead Crown Attorney Edward Jenkins, QC argued that there was nothing sinister in the awarding of the contract, and said the company that bid lower was not qualified as Hanna’s cleaning company, he did admit that it was not policy for the minister to approve the contract before it goes before the board.

Dr. Sands is expected to take the stand today when the trial resumes.