General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Clement Rohee firmly believes that Minister
of Public Health Dr. George Norton should be fired from his position for his actions concerning the Sussex Street storage bond issue.
Rohee made this assertion at his Party’s weekly press conference at Freedom House yesterday.
He told media operatives that the Public Health Minister deserves to be sent packing for “the lies which he told in Parliament”. Rohee described Norton’s actions as most disgraceful.
The former Home Affairs Minister said that he finds it even more dreadful that during Norton’s presentation last Monday, the Government side in the National Assembly found the situation humorous.
Rohee explained that when Norton was asked to give a specific location of the bond, he began making a mockery of the issue by giving confusing and inaccurate directions.
“That is not a serious Government and a serious Minister. You ought to answer questions in a responsible manner.”
According to Rohee, the Minister then proceeded to tell “a host of blatant lies” regarding the bond. One such untruth, he highlighted, concerned the certification of the Sussex Street bond owned by Linden Holdings Inc.
“He (Norton) said that the place was certified first by PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) and then he changed his mouth and said that it was certified by the Ministry of Health. He said that drugs were already stored at the bond. He also said that there was no rental paid for the bond, and later on as the truth came out, it was a totally different story.”
The General-Secretary reminded that his Party had strongly suggested that Norton should go before the Committee of Privileges.
“This slap-on-the-wrist… apology is unacceptable. Lies in the National Assembly and making statements like that in the National Assembly should be taken seriously.”
The storage bond fiasco began last Monday when Norton was grilled in the National Assembly to provide details on the matter. During his presentation the Minister informed the House that he withdrew $25M from the Contingency Fund to be used as a security deposit to use the bond. However, money from that fund is only to be used when there is an unforeseen circumstance. Norton was asked to inform the House about the urgent situation which required withdrawing the large sum.
To this inquiry, he said, “This has never been paid before because we, only during this year, were asked to pay for rental of a particular storage facility.”
Norton was then reminded that there was already $31M provided for in the budget to be used for the rental of buildings. Moreover, it was unclear why Norton chose to use money from the emergency fund, since such use had to be approved by Parliament before it is spent by a Ministry or budgetary agency.
Regarding the rental of the facility in Sussex Street, Norton said that it is $12.5M. He explained that the Government was paying NEWGPC $19.2M per month for rental storage “so we had to find another means of storage.”
However, NEWGPC disproved Norton’s statements, saying that the Company did not charge the state $19.2M, but in fact had offered its warehouse for free over the last 10 years.
Norton had claimed that the exorbitant price by NEWGPC created a situation whereby a new bond had to be found with haste, and he proceeded to use this as an excuse for not having a public tendering process.
President David Granger recently weighed in on the matter in his weekly show, “The Public Interest.” He defended the Minister’s actions saying that Government found it impossible to afford the new rates being charged by NEWGPC.
He said, “That caused the Ministry of Public Health to seek a new bond. That is how it all started and in seeking that new bond, the government obviously had to think about timing, it had to think about the short term storage of drugs and it led to the adoption, or the quest for a new bond that is under Linden Holding, a new company.”
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