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Saturday, 04 December, 2021
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Auction scandal cover-up?

Gaston Browne, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance has been accused of covering up the scandal of the $119,866.50 that went unaccounted for within his ministry after said funds were taken into possession by one of his senators.
Yesterday Browne dismissed a litany of questions on the scandal sent to him via email and replied that “this matter is now settled” as according to him, Michael Freeland, the senator in question, has paid back the total in state auction proceeds which he initially failed to surrender to the government.
The Freeland auction scandal has already seen Joanne Massiah, independent member of parliament (MP) in recent weeks calling for Freeland to resign and Dr. David Hinds, political analyst, just two days ago calling for the prime minister to summon a public inquiry.
Massiah yesterday said she was “totally disgusted” with Browne’s statement accusing him of a “cover up.” She criticised the prime minister for treating the issue “in such a flippant and dismissive manner” which she said made a “mockery” of good governance principles. She has again called on Freeland “to tender his resignation immediately,” and failing that, she said that the prime minister is obligated to boot him from the senate.
Dr. Hinds also spoke to our newsroom yesterday from Guyana and he too said that there was seemingly an effort to “cover up” the scandal. He said that Browne could not be “the accuser, the judge, and the jury” and reiterated his suggestion that there be an “independent commission of enquiry” into the scandal.
Massiah, a practicing attorney, echoed the same outrage as Dr. Hinds as she queried, “What gives [the prime minister] the power of judge and jury?”
The MP said Browne himself must answer to the public about when he was informed about Freeland and the money, what actions he took immediately, and why nothing has been said or done by him since he revealed the scandal to the public in November.
The scandal at the Customs and Excise Division has also brought that department under scrutiny as both Massiah and Dr. Hinds are questioning whether it has been the scene of prior incidents of large sums of state funds going unaccounted for and replaced at the leisure of public officials.
The attorney and the analyst have also shared the same views on Raju Boddu, Comptroller of Customs who has simply refused to disclose the details of the scandal. They are on record as saying that he too must account publicly for his role in responding to the scandal.
In his response to questions from this reporter, Browne simply said, “Senator Freeland is better equipped to answer most of these questions.”
Among many others, the prime minister did not answer the questions of when the actual auction took pace; whether Freeland had provided him, Browne, with an explanation for failing to surrender the funds, whether any action had been taken to reprimand the senator and whether Freeland would be fired.
Browne also chose to ignore other questions such as that of whether or not Freeland’s failure to surrender the funds for a yet undisclosed reason, was reported to the police or advised upon by legal counsel in order to determine whether the senator had offended any laws by his conduct.
Meanwhile, Freeland refuses to speak about the scandal and remains a Gaston Browne-appointed senator and parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Works and Housing. There has not even been any information to suggest that Freeland is no longer an auctioneer at Customs. If he remains there, he remains in the face of a scandal which Dr. Hinds has called an “embarrassment” and a testament to “mediocrity” in government.

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