Minister in conflict of interest?

 


Barbara hanna, the virtual complainant in the Frank Smith bribery and extortion trial, donated money to Health Minister Dr Duane Sands’ election campaign less than a year before Dr Sands approved a 1.8 million contract for her company to provide cleaning services for Princes Margaret Hospital (PMH), it was revealed in court on Thursday.

Hanna’s son, Andy Hanna, also volunteered on the health minister’s 2012 and 2016 election campaigns.

It was previously reported that Hanna received a second contract for cleaning services of the Critical Care Unit (CCU), less than three months after bribery and extortion charges were brought against former Public Hospital’s Authority (PHA) Chairman Frank Smith.

Hanna allegedly paid Smith $65,000 in bribes.

The revelation came on day two of Dr Sands’ testimony, where he was called upon to explain why he gave Mrs Hanna the million-dollar contract without board approval.

Dr Sands explained that while the standard procedure for approval of contracts over 250,000 goes through the tenders committee, on to management and then to the board for approval before moving on to the minister’s office, there are exceptions to the rule.

This was the case, Dr Sands testified, when he circumvented the process and approved the new contract because the hospital was in a crisis and the new PHA board was not appointed as yet following the 2017 general elections

The health minister said the person who had the cleaning contract at the time was not doing a good job in his view and the PHA had received numerous complaints, prompting the need for a new service provider.

Dr Sands testified that he met with the incoming PHA chairman and the managing director of PHA, and they discussed the urgency of the contract being awarded. However Dr Sands could not provide any proof to the courts that the meeting took place.

Sands acknowledged that he had a personal relationship with Hanna and admitted that he spoke to her several times before she was granted the contract as she called him to complain that Frank Smith was forcing her to pay him 5,000 a month. Dr Sand said he told Hanna to contact the police but she said she was afraid for her life and did not trust the police.

Dr Sands testified that after numerous calls regarding the alleged bribery involving Smith, he passed the information on to Minister of National Security Marvin Dames.

He said he also met with Hanna in June, one month before Smith was arrested, and he told her she should apply for the cleaning contract.

Recognizing the relationship between Mrs Hanna and himself, Dr Sands said, when the contract came to his desk for approval, he forwarded the matter to the Attorney General’s Office for advice because he was aware of a potential conflict.

Dr Sands testified that the AG’s office advised that, notwithstanding the controversy surrounding Hanna, that she should be awarded the contract.

During cross examination by Smith’s lead attorney Keith Knight, QC, Dr Sands testified that he did not tell Hanna to bid for the contact, however it was pointed out that in an earlier statement, Dr Sands said, he did tell her to apply and he would “ensure the process would be fair”.

The trial continues on Saturday morning at 10am.