Symonette: Resignation has nothing to do with recently issued contracts

Immigration Minister, Brent Symonette.

Says he vowed that he would not be in Cabinet a day past his 65thbirthday

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Former Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry, Brent Symonette, expressed on Monday that his recent resignation has nothing to do with two government contracts that were recently issued.

Last October, conflict of interest claims were leveled against Symonette when the government announced plans to move the General Post Office from East Hill Street to the Town Center Mall, of which Symonette is a shareholder.

Also, last month, a $20 million contract was awarded to Bahamas Hot Mix by the Nassau Airport Development Company to carry out rehabilitation work on the runway and taxiway at Lynden Pindling International Airport. Symonette once owned shares in Bahamas Hot Mix but they were later transferred into a trust for his children.

When asked Monday if his resignation was related to these two contracts, Symonette said, “absolutely not”.

And while he declined to directly address the reasons for his resignation, he offered this brief explanation.

“The prime minister and I have been talking about this for some time,” Symonette said. “And it’s the beginning of the new budget year today [so] it is best for the new minister to takeover and I will be 65 in December and I vowed that I will not be in Cabinet a day past my 65thbirthday.”

Sunday’s resignation marked the second time Symonette has stepped down from a post under the Free National Movement. In 2001, he resigned as chairman of the Airport Authority after it was revealed that Bahamas Hot Mix was awarded a contract at LPIA without approval from the board of directors. At the time, Symonette owed shares in Bahamas Hot Mix  but they were later divested to his children’s trust.

As for the controversy that continues to surround his resignation, Symonette told Eyewitness News yesterday, “I will deal with the controversy after the PLP [Opposition]  make their comments tomorrow (Tuesday).”

Elsworth Johnson, who has served as Minister of State for Legal Affairs, assumed Symonette’s portfolio as of yesterday.

In a statement, prime minister Dr Hubert Minnis thanked Symonette for his years of service.