Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis on Wednesday defended the government’s decision to lease the Town Center Mall for more than nine hundred thousand dollars, to house the general post office, even though it is partially owned by Brent Symonnette, a sitting Cabinet Minister.
During his wrap-up of debate on a Resolution to formalize the move, the nation’s leader said despite the public outcry and criticism that the proposed move is a glaring conflict of interest, it is not against the law as Symonette has declared his shares.
“The Constitution under the rules allow for a member of parliament to hold a contract with the government,” Dr. Minnis said.
“We are only being transparent so that the entire Bahamian populous can see why we made such a selection. constitutionally it is legal.”
Four Free National Movement Members of Parliament, Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller, Bain and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson, Pineridge MP Fredrick McAlpine and Centerville MP Reece Chipman, joined the four Opposition members in voting against the resolution.
In an impassioned contribution to the debate, Miller stressed that Cabinet ministers should “check themselves” and the post that they hold.
“Taking money out of the people’s treasury so boldly and without shame is wrong,” he said.
“All the rules make it clear that Cabinet ministers must have one stream of income and that is their salaries along with the benefits that accompany it. Check yourselves, Ministers, if you have more than one stream of income you are breaking the rules.”
Miller said the disregard of the Minnis administration of which he is a part of is a brave error of immorality, corruption and thievery.