Oswald Brown Writes…
By OSWALD T. BROWN
The Progressive Liberal Party’s Northern Bahamas Campaign headquarters issued a press release over the weekend that raised some serious questions about blatant nepotism within Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham’s Free National Movement (FNM) government. Given the implications of what has been alleged and the history in matters of this nature of the Minister involved, I think the Bahamian people should demand an official response from Prime Minister Ingraham and the FNM government. Here is the text of that press release:
Bahamas Customs officers reportedly are up in arms over the rumour being circulated that Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing’s brother-in-law Milo Stubbs will be promoted to Assistant Comptroller of Customs.
Stubbs reportedly is set to replace current Assistant Comptroller Lincoln Strachan, who is due to retire at the end of December, having reached retirement age.
With Strachan’s retirement imminent, well placed sources say the plan to fast track Stubbs’ rapid rise to a position where he would eventually assume control of Customs was hatched two years ago when he was promoted and leap frogged over several senior and more experienced customs offers. It was put in motion last year when he was reportedly given a double increment and promoted to Customs Superintendent in Grand Bahama.
“The fact that his brother-in-law is the Minister of State for Finance, who has responsibility for Bahamas Customs, certainly gives rise to charges of rank nepotism,” one source said. “This can’t be right, and it obviously has had an effect on morale in Customs.”
This is not the first time that charges of nepotism have dogged Laing. Back in 2007, questions were raised in the House of Assembly by Frank Smith, PLP Member of Parliament for St. Thomas More, related to the alleged intervention by Laing after the then Comptroller of Customs John Rolle changed the duty on the importation of Mona Vie, a nutritional drink, from 10 percent to 45 percent.
According to information that surfaced at the time, Laing’s sister-in-law, who was one of the importers of Mona Vie, complained to him about the change in duty, and Laing reportedly requested that the Secretary of the Revenue look into the matter. Subsequently, the Comptroller of Customs allowed the lower rate of 10 percent to remain in place until the new budget process.
Due to legal constraints that prohibit press reports on lawsuits still pending before the courts, press scrutiny and further investigation into mushrooming Mona Vie scandal were curtailed after Laing filed a defamation lawsuit against St. Thomas More MP Smith, retired Customs Comptroller Rolle, and Bain and Grants Town MP Dr. Bernard Nottage, then leader of the Opposition Business in the House, who conducted a comprehensive review of the allegations and concluded that “the Minister (Laing) is in a clear position of conflict of interest.”
However, Laing’s lawsuit is still among the backlog of cases still pending.