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Former Cabinet Minister Bradley Roberts says “the decision of the government to lease the premises of the Town Center Mall from one of its senior cabinet minister, Immigration and Financial Services Minister Brent Symonette, is just the latest in a number of naked and unbridled corrupt practices of this FNM government.”

In a  statement yesterday Mr. Robert said,  “this should come as no surprise because the Prime Minister himself gave himself a lease contract for one of his buildings while he sat as Health Minister.

“Symonette sat in the cabinet and chaired a committee that presided over the relocation of the container port and the development of the northern shores. As a land owner and landlord, he conveniently dismissed the obvious conflict of interest.

“Prime Minister Minnis was quick to dismiss and sweep under the carpet the fraudulent OBAN deal, even after admitting that the signing ceremony was ceremonial; there is a view that he misled Parliament on the OBAN deal.

“Minnis said that awarding that lease to Brent Symonette was the right thing to do,” said  Mr. Roberts.

He noted that  “Renward Wells, Agriculture Minister argued that it was not possible to make a rich man rich. I am not sure about the logic and relevance of such a statement. The FNM cabinet basically fixed up or enriched one of their cabinet colleagues, plain and simple.

“Brent Symonette used his position and influence as a cabinet minister to openly lobby for that lease, saying it was cheaper to place the post office in his shopping mall, the town center mall.

“The tone and tenor of the House resolution were decidedly craven and self-serving. The property that sat dormant for an extended period of time was suddenly a “gift” or “favor” to the Bahamian people at $12 per square foot which does not include CAM, expenses that will be picked up by the Bahamian tax payers.

“Senator Fred Mitchell, PLP National Chairman summed it up succinctly in the opposition’s response via a press statement released on Wednesday, 17thOctober 2018.

“We dispute the rate of 12 dollars per square foot as being a ‘generous and commercial concessionary rate’’ said the statement. “What looks like a gift, when examined may not be. For example, the building has been empty for years. Now it will be rented, so the Landlord immediately comes out ahead. In five years, Government will have improved the landlord’s property and instead of a depreciated asset, the Landlord will be left with an appreciating asset. So the Government is again arranging a benefit for one of its Cabinet ministers.

“Does the rate include the charges for other costs like air conditioning, parking and maintenance?”

“I agree with the Senator and raise further questions about this agreement:

1.    Who negotiated this deal?

2.    Will the government make available all relevant correspondences in the interest of transparency?

3.    In the government’s initial analysis, why was the Town Center Mall rejected as unsuitable in favor of the former Phil’s Supermarket on Gladstone Road?

4.    Why is the Town Center Mall miraculously the best option for the public post office?

5.    Is the Bahamian taxpayer picking up the CAM costs in this $150 million deal? If so why?

6. Has a structural engineering report being obtained by a qualified Structural Engineer?

“Roughly 203,000 square feet of urbane space is being leased at $12 per square foot. That works out to $2.5 million per month or $150 million over the life of the five-year contract. On the face of it Brent Symonette has to do nothing but sit back and collect another cool $150 million. Bahamians remember very well that Mr. Symonette declared in 2017 that his net worth had expanded by some $100 million, from $57 million to $157 million during one of the worst global recessions since the Great Depression, ” said Mr. Roberts who is Chairman Emeritus of the Progressive Liberal Party.

He said, “The optics on this deal is terrible. Governments are elected to empower the broadest cross section of the people they govern. Here you have a Cabinet Minister, one of the richest men in the country, being fixed up by his Cabinet colleagues as the contracts with bus drivers are being unceremoniously terminated in midstream, scores of contractors, lunch vendors and civil servants cannot get paid and thousands have been separated from the public service. These bus contracts do not expire until 2020.”

Mr. Roberts said “ Bahamians must say no to this sweetheart deal and in so doing, bring a halt to the naked and unbridled corruption of the FNM.”





Written by Jones Bahamas

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