The auction scandal which recently saw a senator resign is still unresolved, having entered its third month since being public, and officials in Gaston Browne’s administration appear to be cautiously toeing the line of silence which Browne drew in December.
Yesterday, Melford Nicholas, Information Minister declared that it was important forthe government to demonstrate the “transparency and accountability that is necessary at all levels of government.” Nicholas however, speaking at Thursday morning’s post-Cabinet press conference, was not speaking in the context of the auction scandal, but rather, about the recent incident in which two persons were arrested for theft of relief supplies.
When asked whether Browne had as yet, explained what former senator Michael Freeland did with the $119,866.50 in auction proceeds which the former senator failed to turn over to the government in 2016, Nicholas was suddenly guarded and unforthcoming. According to him, it remains “the position of the government” that this question and others regarding the full details behind the scandal “are more properly put to Mr. [Michael] Freeland.”
Yet, Nicholas was merely reaffirming the position of his leader, Gaston Browne, prime minister. While the information minister was emphasising the “transparency and accountability” required at “all levels of government,” Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, attorney general, was unable to provide answers when a reporter stopped him yesterday to ask about the scandal.
Benjamin paused to speak while on his way out of an official function at the Trade Winds Hotel. Once he was aware of the subject matter, he swiftly departed saying that he had other pressing matters to which he had to attend. Both Nicholas and Benjamin appear to be in good standing with what seems to be the official position of the prime minister – that no one aside from Freeland should answer such questions.
At a press conference on December 20, 2017, Browne refused to say whether he knew what Freeland did with the money. He would only insist that Freeland had repaid the entire sum.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)