Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Jaipaul Sharma is “thanking” former President Bharrat Jagdeo for further opening up the way for him to be charged with crimes that were allegedly committed while he was in office.
Jagdeo completed his constitutional two terms in office back in November 2011, with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) recently blocking him from running again.
One of the arguments used by Jagdeo’s party, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), against criminal prosecution is that ex-public officials, including the likes of Winston Brassington, former head of the Privatisation Unit, were covered under the protection of the Cabinet of Ministers.
It was contended by the PPP several times that a public official acting on the instructions of Cabinet is merely a “creature” of that Cabinet.
However, legal minds had different views on that matter.
Minister Sharma said that he has taken note of recent statements of Jagdeo, now the Opposition Leader, on the $148M contract to Dutch firm, LievenseCSO, for a feasibility study on a new crossing for the Demerara River.
A recent report of the Public Procurement Commission was critical of the process used by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure to award the contract to the firm.
According to Jagdeo, the award is a documented case of corruption of unbelievable proportions, directly involving a Minister of the Government who bypassed the laws and the designated authority according to our laws, to a Cabinet, to approve an illegality.
Jagdeo was speaking to reporters on Thursday.
The Opposition plans to test a call made by the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) for evidence of Government corruption. They want to send the report there.
However, according to Minister Sharma, the statements of Jagdeo speak volumes,
“Mr. Jagdeo has sunk himself. He is saying that Cabinet protection does not cover a minister whose actions have been approved or an official who has received approval from Cabinet. Then this opens the way for Mr. Brassington to be investigated and charged also. So too are other former ministers who believe that they can escape investigations for wrongdoing.”
An accountant by profession, the minister pointed out that the Marriott Hotel transactions, including award of contracts, never made it to National Procurement and Tender Administration Board.
“We can point to the Marriott Hotel and of course, the Pradoville Two/Sparendaam land, in which state monies were used under opaque circumstances to build for Mr. Jagdeo himself and other close party members.”
According to Sharma, there are mechanisms for dealing with sitting ministers in the House.
“We can’t take the former ministers to the House for any illegal actions they would have carried out during their term in office. The appropriate forum is the police. In the case of the sitting ministers, the law says that the matter may have to reach the Public Procurement Tribunal, which still has to be established. Mr. Jagdeo should know this, instead of talking about handing the matter to SOCU. We thank him for admitting that persons cannot be covered by the illegalities of Cabinet. He has convicted himself too.”
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