Contrary to what he seems to think, there is a $10,000.00 set of questions that Alvin Smith, chief councilor for the City of Freeport Council, is obliged to answer, and some of those questions are (1) was the $10,000.00 appropriated correctly? (2) Was there on record at the council’s office at the time, a proper paper trail with respect to an agreement between the Member of Parliament for High Rock and the City of Freeport Council for the partnership in the Arden Forest Park project? And (3) was there the usually required set of drawings for the park secured, in advance, by council? For Mr. Alvin Smith to ignore this debacle-this apparent act of miss-appropriating public funds, if you will-and to suggest, by his silence, that he has no case to answer, would be to do so at his own peril.
Alvin Smith is the council’s Chief Councilor and, as such, is responsible for the proper management and disbursement of the Council’s multi-million dollar, yearly, budget. To allow the disbursement of taxpayers’ money, requisitioned from the consolidated fund, without observing all governmental guidelines and procedures precisely, as a pre-requisite, is to do so illegally. The information which I have in hand and which, by the way, was given to all the print media by me, indicates that proper protocols were not followed in the authorization of $10,000.00 of the $20,000.00 paid to the contractor, on behalf of Kenneth Russell, FNM Member of Parliament for High Rock. The document, of which I speak, laying out the case against the council, is a memo sent to the City of Freeport Council from the Administrator’s office on 30th September 2009.
There is a culture pervading among these elected representatives of the people, which seems to telegraph the suggestion that they, and they alone, are permitted to do anything they feel like; that, when the political pendulum swing their way, they automatically assume ownership of both country and government; that they are beyond being questioned by anyone; that proper procedures are for other Administrations to observe, but not theirs. I should tell you that, in addition, I’ve seen copies of the two invoices sent to the council requisitioning the two payments of $10,000.00 each. The invoices were apparently sent from Kenneth Russell’s office, the member of parliament for the high rock constituency, albeit they did specify that the cheques should be made payable to the company which, I assumed, did the actual work. Notwithstanding this however, it is certainly my view a bad practice, bad policy and in bad taste, for the Member of Parliament to get involved in something like this, to this extent. For, at the very least, it leaves much room for charges to be made, against him, of rank conflict of interest.
I read, with some disgust, the minister’s feeble attempt at some sort of defense for Alvin Smith and his team, but the Minister should know that this kind of blatant disregard for the rules-knowingly or unknowingly-cannot be defended and only a fool would try to do so. I will tell you what a friend of mine would say to you at this juncture; “Fall on your Sword Minister,” this being interpreted, “Give up; admit your wrong-doings; stop trying to cover-up yours and the council’s sins and ask for the people’s mercy and forgiveness.”
It was interesting to note that the editorials of both the Nassau Guardian and the Freeport News have recently maintained the stance that you, Alvin Smith, chief councilor of the City of Freeport Council, do have an obligation to explain to us taxpayers what exactly went down with this extra $10,000.00 you disbursed to Kenneth Russell’s project in Arden Forest, if only for the sake of your credibility. Especially, the Editors opined, due to the fact that you have made it clear that your intention is to offer as an FNM candidate in the next general elections. I certainly concur with this view and call on you to come clean with the electorate and make it sooner, not later.
Forrester J Carroll J.P
Freeport, Grand Bahama
8th October 2009