Calls for gov’t to answer on ‘Deluxe Deal’

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A good governance advocate on public policy has called on the government to answer some critical questions on the proposed deal to buy out the financially-troubled Deluxe Cinemas from the family of a Cabinet minister.

The government intends to purchase the property from the family of Foreign Affairs Minister, Charles “Max” Fernandez and convert it into a theatre arts facility for the Department of Culture.

Researcher in anti-corruption and Public Policy Tutor at the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine Campus, Josh Drayton suggested that the issue, in particular, has the potential to place the government in a negative light.

Drayton said there are some initial questions about the procurement process which may be important for the public and should be asked by the media.

Chief among them, he said, are what will be the process used to acquire the property; how was the decision taken; was Minister Fernandez present when this decision was taken; how much will the government pay for the property; will the necessary procurement rules be followed; and what documentation/evidence is there to provide to the public that this was not a “deal” between two public officials.

“Even if the process was above board, the public has to be given the necessary assurance that this is not another corrupt transaction. The government, in this instance, has to give that assurance by providing all the necessary details to the above questions in order to demonstrate its commitment to transparency and accountability,”

Up until yesterday the government was tightlipped about the proposed deal, despite confirmation from Culture Minister EP ‘Chet’ Greene.

Fernandez, who has shares in the Deluxe property, was not available for comment; neither was his colleague, Minister Asot Michael.

However, during the weekly Cabinet press conference on Thursday, Information Minister Melford Nicholas provided a bit more detail as he defended the planned purchase.

More in today’s Daily Observer.

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