NAMCo – politicians trade accusations of ‘lies’ and ‘hiding’

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne has accused Opposition Senator Damani Tabor,  of “lying” because Tabor attributed a statement made by Information  Minster Melford Nicholas,  to Browne.
Tabor, the public relations officer (PRO) of the United Progressive Party (UPP) was speaking on OBSERVER Radio yesterday morning, on the subject of transparency in the government’s management of the National Asset Management Company (NAMCo).
At a post-Cabinet press conference last week, in response to a query from OBSERVER media about when NAMCo’s accounts would be published, the minister of information said, “NAMCo is a private company and just like any other private company in the country … there will be no necessity for the publication of its accounts.”
Nicholas added, “I can say that it will be subjected to the normal tax filing and the normal audits and the government will be accountable to Parliament to indicate at periodic intervals how its investment through this particular entity have gone.”
It was unclear then whether the minister of information meant that there would be “no need” to publish NAMCo’s accounts outside Parliament, or that there would be no need to publish its accounts at all.
Yesterday, after Tabor attributed the statements to Browne, the prime minister told OBSERVER media, “This man is a compulsive liar. It would appear that he believes that speaking the truth is a criminal offence.”
In response to the prime minister’s response to his (Tabor’s) statements, Tabor has since charged that Browne is “in a grey area” where he is “playing word games”. The UPP PRO insisted, “He cannot hide behind this prevarication. Melford Nicholas articulated it as the official position and there was no statement at any point in any forum where Gaston Browne reversed that position.”
Yesterday, the prime minister said, “I am not privy to what [Melford Nicholas] said. But as an entity that is 100 percent owned by the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda, we must have audited accounts and the accounts will be filed with the Parliament.”
While the information minister had merely said, “the government will be accountable to Parliament” about NAMCo’s investments, the prime minister has gone further and affirmed that NAMCo’s accounts “will be filed with the Parliament”.
Browne’s recent statement is in fact a re-affirmation of a position stated by Sir Robin Yearwood, a member of Browne’s Cabinet and NAMCo’s chairman, in November 2016. Sir Robin appeared on OBSERVER Radio then and said, “All corporations must have audited financial accounts. Wherever the government has interest in anything – those accounts will be laid before Parliament.”
OBSERVER media again asked Browne when NAMCo’s accounts would be published in Parliament. He said the entity held no assets besides 37 acres of land at Valley Beach which is intended to be part of a joint venture hotel project and USD 15 million. Browne said that entity was in its infancy and there was “practically nothing to report on”.
His statement suggests that the government is yet to transfer its shares in companies shares such as West Indies Oil Company (WIOC), Caribbean Union Bank (CUB) and State Insurance Corporation (SIC) to NAMCo’s holdings.

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