Kenneth Russell clarifies salary given to Laing and throws Hubert Ingraham under the bus…
Nassau, Bahamas – A former Cabinet Minister and BP’s Man of the Year, Kenneth Russell, is speaking out on the developments surrounding the pay of former minister Zhivargo Laing and is joining the voices of persons around the country calling on the former Prime Minister to explain the matter.
Last week, as the budget debate wrapped up in the Parliament, Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Perry Christie pointed to the fact that Laing was being paid more than his fellow Ministers of State in the former Ingraham administration.
Byron Woodside, Loretta Butler-Turner and Phenton Neymour were all paid $93,000 per annum, but Laing had an additional $6,000 in his paycheck.
Concerns as to how this happened without having proper budget approvals was raised by former Attorney General Tennyson Wells this week. But it gets worse.
After reading into the claims, Laing sought to clarify the matter by telling the Nassau Guardian in its Monday morning edition that the additional six thousand dollars paid to him was for Housing Allowance.
Laing added, “From time immemorial if you are a minister who is domiciled in the Family Island, not New Providence, you get a housing allowance to assist with your living expenses in New Providence, because you now have to spend lots of time in New Providence attending to ministry affairs. So what happened was similar to Maurice Moore and C. A. Smith, those in that first Ingraham administration, in that Neko Grant, Larry Cartwright, Kenneth Russell and myself, all of whom were domiciled in the Family Islands, received a housing allowance, so it wasn’t anything special for Zhivargo Sean Laing.”
But was this true? Was it true that six thousand dollars executed by the Treasurer for housing allowance was the amount? NO! It was a BIG FAT LIE told to the Guardian and today we know even more.
In fact, Bahamas Press added in a story later that Monday morning after reading Laing’s excuse that if that was the case, all ministers with Family Island seats would have been paid the additional six thousand dollars. And as we explored the case, digging deeper into the records of the Finance Department, we uncovered that Ministers who resided on a family Island seat collected a cheque for an additional sum of three thousand dollars [$3,000] per month, or thirty-six thousand dollars a year [$36,000], which confirms Laing was telling an untruth about the additional six thousand dollars paid to him over other Ministers of State.
Bringing greater clarity to the matter tonight and raising concerns about the decision to pay Laing the excess salary was former Minister of Housing, Kenneth Russell.
Russell in explaining the situation added that calls should be made to the Former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Hubert Ingraham to come out from under his hiding rock and explain to the Bahamian people what happened here.
Mr. Russell noted, “What essentially happened is that Mr. Laing was actually paid the salary of substantive minister with portfolio when he was only a junior minister.
“The salary of Ministers are sixty-six thousand dollars a year, and if you check the record, Neko, Dr. Minnis and others having responsibility for a ministry were paid that amount. How did Laing end up being paid the same as us is news to me, and the former Prime Minister should come forward and explain this.”
Laing in the Senate today denied he was paid some one hundred and twenty thousand dollars, a claim hurled at the former Minister by Senator Frank Smith during his budget contribution.
The former junior Minister then asked the Vice President to stay the matter without clarifying the charges.
The Senate meets in the morning [Thursday, June 21st] at 10am when Laing is expected to speak to the Budget.