MP Lewis asks whether Govt’s refurbishing of private property occupied by DCA went through tender process

MP Richard Lewis is calling for an investigation into Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s admission that the Government is occupying a building on Friars Hill Road in which his son has some ownership.

Lewis calls this is a clear case of nepotism and an unacceptable state of affairs.

In Parliament last Thursday, February 22, Lewis asked Browne for details about the occupancy of the property that now houses the Development Control Authority (DCA), the Ministry of Lands and Housing, and the Land Office – all of which fall under the ministerial responsibility of the prime minister’s wife, Maria Browne.

Browne also said his son is a principal in an unnamed investment group that owns the property.

The prime minister claimed that all three government offices were occupying the building rent-free.

Asked whether the Government had made repairs to the property, Browne said it had, and alleged that the improvements cost less than the value of the more-than-a-year’s rent.

However, when asked how much these repairs had cost the taxpayers, Browne – the minister of finance – claimed to have no idea.

According to Lewis, these revelations pose several important questions, including whether it is appropriate for the Government to rent property from the prime minister’s son, especially without disclosure to the public.

The Rural West MP also wants to know who negotiated the lease and what the terms of the  agreement are.

Lewis is also asking whether the rental of the building and its refurbishing went out to tender;  if this was the most reasonably priced space available; and whether the Government spent a fair amount on the repairs.

Another important consideration, he says, is the prime minister’s claim that what is owed in rent exceeds what the Government spent on repairs.  And, yet, he notes, Browne “is unable to give even an estimated figure on the cost to the tax-paying public.”

The MP says that government resources must be spent in a responsible and accountable manner, especially by an administration that is raising taxes “left and right and centre.”

Critics note that the tax payers  have improved a private property that another administration is unlikely to occupy.  Therefore, they allege,

this appears to be another enrichment scheme by the prime minister and his family.