BY BRADLEY B. ROBERTS
FORMER CABINET MINISTER AND MP
9TH SEPTEMBER 2018
Last week was a particularly bad week for Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands. His court testimony under oath was riddled with so much inaccuracies, inconsistencies, conflicts, abuse of power, case fixing, bribery, misrepresentation and the rank abuse of the office of a Cabinet Minister that many were left with no choice but to wonder out loud when a halt will be called to this madness, circus and charade that is the Frank Smith bribery case.
The Vascular Surgeon initially recruited by former Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham some seven years ago to contest the Elizabeth Constituency in a bye-election and was touted as a potential leader of the FNM and Prime Minister one day.
In opposition, he opposed and heavily criticized NHI; he accused the Christie cabinet of intentionally suppressing crime statistics, especially murder and slavishly parroted the corruption narrative. As a Cabinet Minister, he turned his attacks and venomous insults on nurses, young doctors and senior consultant surgeons to the point where health professionals threatened to strike and union bosses refused to negotiate with them, opting to speak directly to his boss, the Prime Minister.
Sands was also seen on the television news gloating and smugly forecasting to the public that there were more prosecutions to come (of former PLP Parliamentarians). Little that many Bahamians knew was that Dr. Sands, not the police, or an independent commission, was the chief prosecutor, or persecutor of his political enemies.
Dr. Sands broke with Cabinet protocols and guidelines when he secure cabinet approval to perform surgeries within the Public Hospital Authority (PHA) system of health care facilities. He was both regulator and service provider in the healthcare industry. He went beyond the terms of his authorization and provided health care services, surgery allegedly, at the private Doctor’s Hospital. He never provided the authorization for that or whether the services were gratis or paid for.
It is alleged that Minister Duane Sands’ new wife is a representative of a major drug company and visits government clinics and hospitals which fall under the ministerial portfolio of her husband. Surely this places the minister in a fundamental conflict. Dr. Sands should not use his office as a Cabinet Minister to accrue to himself or any member of his family an advantage or an unreasonable benefit.
It has become very clear that there was no law, no regulation, no cabinet guideline, no convention and no protocol for Duane Sands or selected members of his family as he is the law unto himself.
On Wednesday, 14th June 2017, Dr. Duane Sands said the following from his feet in House of Assembly:
“We have already gotten evidence of improper behaviour in the Ministry of Health. It has been referred to the appropriate authority and at the appropriate time I will advise the public of the findings of those investigations. I invite the public if you know of any malfeasance in the Ministry of Health please let me or any of my senior officials know,” Dr. Sands told House members.
Who would have thought that the evidence to date of improper behavior and malfeasance surround the professional conduct of Dr. Sands as Cabinet Minister. Why was he calling the virtual complainant and star witness in a criminal case at least 15 times, inclusive of Election Day? Why would Sands defy legal advice and “sweeten” the pot by awarding the virtual complainant a $1.8 million knowing of her involvement in a criminal case? Why was the board not notified? Why did Sands not turn the matter over to the police when it came to his attention? Why did he give the virtual complainant his cell and home number then testified that he was not sure how she got it? Why did Sands testify about evidence he omitted in his statement to the police?
The information in the public domain about the conduct of both Ministers Marvin Dames and Duane Sands warrants a response from the Prime Minister who remains silent. The audio tapes circulating on social media about a senior police officer allegedly coaching witnesses coupled with the admission by the prosecution that phone records were altered by the police call the integrity of the police force into serious question. The government’s inaction and deflection in the face of all of this smack of political interference, political pollution and case fixing because the government cannot speak out against itself; the government was simply complicit from start.
Meanwhile on the policy front, Dr. Sands has recorded zero accomplishments, just one crisis to the next and now this major scandal. The hospital beds shortage, the conch poisoning epidemic, the disruptive malfunctioning of the air conditioning unit in the Critical Care Block, unresolved labour disputes and complaints of deteriorating working conditions are just some of the crises that leave much to be desired about his ministerial performance.
Dr. Sands is a liability and a distraction to the government and decisive action must be taken by the Prime Minister as public confidence in his government erodes by the day. Time is running out for this government as the public holds its breath for the next breathtaking debacle by this government of folly.