Former Minister of Eduction Desmond Bannister has challenged the government to table in Parliament school repair contracts awarded last year and contracts awarded this year so there could be a comparison of what was approved and to whom when he was minister and what was approved under the new administration this summer.
Bannister asked 16 questions about school repair contracts in the Senate on Wednesday.
He told The Nassau Guardian yesterday he has no interest in “dirtying anybody’s name” but is only interested in getting the facts out to Bahamians on matters of public interest — like the award of school contracts.
On the floor of the Senate, he questioned, in particular, the award of contracts to Carlos Lamm of JFK Construction. According to Minister of Education and Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald, the company received three contracts.
Bannister has questioned whether those contracts amount to almost $140,000.
“My purpose in public life is to get at the truth and to bring the truth to the Bahamian people and I’ve listened to the current prime minister in Parliament trying to guide his young members not to get into the mudslinging and all that foolishness, but to get to substantive issues that impact people,” he told The Guardian.
“That’s what I did with those 16 questions. We want the answers to them and the answers I think will speak for themselves.”
The Nassau Guardian reported yesterday that a contractor who got several school repair contracts this summer acknowledged on Thursday that he campaigned for Fitzgerald, and that he also has a pending drug matter before the courts.
But Carlos Lamm of JFK Construction told The Nassau Guardian that he is an honest contractor who does good work, and never received any contracts under the previous administration.
Bannister said yesterday, “I have no personal interest in Mr. Lamm or anyone else. My interest is in governance and how we follow the procedures of good governance.
“So if we are saying that we are for Bahamians and we are looking out for Bahamians and we give one person three contracts and we give other people two and three contracts, when we say that we’re out there looking out for Bahamians [what does that say?]”
Fitzgerald, who previously addressed the award of school repair contracts in the House of Assembly, told The Nassau Guardian he will provide Leader of Government Business in the Senate Allyson Maynard-Gibson with complete answers to Bannister’s questions.
Bannister insisted: “I will ask those questions no matter how anybody would try to dirty me up and personalize it.
“Those questions were not personalized to anybody. They were questions asked to a government and every minister of every government ought to feel that they have a responsibility to answer the questions that are asked about their administration.”
Asked if any contractor received multiple contracts when he served as minister of education in the Ingraham administration for two and a half years, Bannister said, “I can’t recall. I wouldn’t say that people didn’t get multiple contracts in the summers, but I can’t recall people getting them.
“There may have been one or two instances where persons finished their work and came back and got a contract because others did not complete their work.”
Referring to the contracts awarded this summer, Bannister said, “Just from my perspective, when you have the kind of economy we have now and you have all of those people asking for summer jobs and you give three to one person and two to another and that sort of thing you leave out a lot of people.
“I think you have to cut out giving multiple contracts to people and try to spread it around a whole lot more.”
Asked whether he was suggesting in the Senate that it was wrong to issue contracts to a contractor who has an outstanding criminal charge, the former minister said, “What I see as being problematic is this — when you hold public office and you give contracts out to persons, you know that these are the people who are going to be able to complete the work and these are Bahamians who need the work. “These other issues with respect to whether someone has a matter before the courts is something for the public to make decisions on.
“It’s not for me. I asked the questions, I put them in the public forum and I’m going to let Bahamians decide.”