Government Refused to Answer Questions on the Gaston Browne III Rental Deal in Violation of the Law


On the 2nd of April, I wrote letters under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2004 to the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Housing, Lands and Urban Renewal, the Ministry of Works, and West Indies Oil Company (WIOC), formally requesting answers and documentation on Government’s rental deal with the Prime Minister’s son, in the public’s interest.

The 20-working-day period within which I should have received the information requested, as stipulated in Section 18 Subsection (1) of the FOIA, ended on Tuesday 30th April, with no answers to the questions.

I have also received no notices advising of the extension of the period for furnishing the requested information to the 40-working-day maximum, as provided for under certain strict conditions in Section 18 Subsection (3) of the FOIA. Any such notice should have been provided within the initial 20-working-day period, as stipulated within the same section.  The government therefore has no intention to provide the information requested, and no commitment to transparency and accountability.

I have therefore written to the Information Commissioner to ask for urgent interventions to ensure compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. 

I also call on Prime Minister Browne, once again, to come clean on the rental deal, and to ensure that government ministries provide the information requested, in compliance with the laws of Antigua and Barbuda.

My freedom of information requests asked for easily obtainable information and answers to very simple questions.  The requests asked for records on the manner of WIOC’s sale of the property, records of all rent payments, and expenditures to repair and upgrade the property, the re-negotiated lease terms (agreed to after the expiration of the initial 18-month term), the tendering process, and correspondence between the property owner, the ministries and WIOC.

Refusing to provide such basic and easily obtainable information is an admission of guilt, and obviously driven by the desire to keep the public in the dark.  This is the clearest indication to-date that the rental deal was improper.

Additionally, I call on Mr. Gregory Georges, the CEO of WIOC, to reconsider his refusal to cooperate with the freedom of information request.  Mr. Georges asserted in a letter of response that WIOC does not fall within the scope of the FOIA.

This is an unreasonable position for two reasons: 

(i) The Government of Antigua and Barbuda (GOAB) appoints 4 of the 8 members who sit on the WIOC board, therefore exerting substantial control.

(ii) The Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda collectively hold a majority of the shares, after the targeted 10% divestment in 2021, with GOAB still retaining 45.9% of shares, which is the single largest shareholding. GOAB therefore, once again, exerts substantial control.  Further, the people of Antigua and Barbuda have a moral entitlement to have their questions answered, based on the majority shares that they and GOAB hold collectively.

The Gaston Browne-led administration continues to run from accountability and transparency. It has clearly refused to facilitate, or deliberately frustrated, the provision of credible answers to the public’s questions on the government’s rental of Gaston Browne III‘s Friars Hill Road property.

I will relentlessly continue to pressure the Gaston-led government to tell our people the truth. The public has a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.  And they are particularly concerned right now, while they are suffering under Gaston Browne’s high cost of living, with no meaningful relief. 

We all have a responsibility to demand Government’s transparency and accountability, in keeping with the principles of good governance. I urge all members of our society to stand against all attempts to hide information on how the government is being run, and how their tax-dollars are being spent.

Richard S. Lewis MP

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  1. Well highlighted your Honourable Richard S Lewis.

    The Freedom Of Information act is supposed to allow those of us to ask procedural questions on how matters of importance to the public is conducted.

    There should be no hiding place or obfuscation.

    Yet, time and time again when the FOA is applied to those in power and prominence, they refuse to reveal how they enacted their powers.


    • @ Richard Lewis

      Well articulated. For a government that says its the most transparent government ever.

      Maybe they talking of the ‘RENT’ in transpa’rent’…………because it all points to BLATANT CORRUPTION AND NEPOTISM.


      What about when UPP was in power , no information was given when requested.

      Brixtonian the clown.

      • “What about […] UPP”, whataboutery, what about damn what @ INGRAM?

        Explain your fool fool self nah!

        At least when I scribe, there’s a BEAUTIFUL beginning, a MARVELLOUS center, and an ending that just DEFINES the art of talented writing.

        What’s your excuse? 😁

        All you ABLP acolytes are good for, is inane and mindless soundbites – at least Gassssston can rely on your EVERLASTING support.

  2. News on the street that Richard Lewis is NOT happy with the results of the convention. There is also news that He is thinking of forming His own POLITICAL party. UPP cannot run a convention honestly?

    This is for FRANZ..What do You know about the the LEEDS YOUTH ORGANIZATION ? This question has been on the radio all day. Please clarify.

    • Highly doubt it. Running independently hasn’t worked well. Asot is a big exception because he powered ABLP really.

  3. Your next step is to seek judicial review of the failure of their failure to respond given his duty so to do. Ignore the political web being introduced by some – thatz just a red herring to sidetrack you.

  4. The government does not run WIOC, a registered company, which is overseen by a Board of Directors and answerable only to its shareholders. That is basic company law. Are there no proper lawyers available to the UPP? Can you go amd demand of any limited liability company that they give you confidential information from their Board Minutes on decisions taken? I know this is now a political issue but we also have laws and precedents which cannot be accepted just to satisfy a political or ulterior motive.

    • Guy clearly there are none. RL pretends he does not understand the term
      majority share holder (more than 50 percent). He is so out of touch that he is even unaware that at the
      last AGM (Thursday September 2 2023) a 9th director was appointed by share holders present (The CEO)

  5. ” The Government of Antigua and Barbuda (GOAB) appoints 4 of the 8 members who sit on the WIOC board, therefore exerting substantial control.”
    RL as usual you are wrong. WIOC has 9 directors who sit on the board. The person you miss is Gregory Georges who also serves as a board member. Again your argument regarding government being the majority share holder is incorrect. since government does not own over 50 percent of the shares

  6. Mr. Lewis, expect nothing better from these parasitic, cool-aid drinkers. All they will resort to is mudslinging, personal attacks and”UPP did it to” as if that makes it right. Case in point, @Ingram( whom we suspect is none other than Gaston Browne himself), coming here to deflect.
    I don’t see all the big ado. A FOI was filed. If this government is so transparent, provide the damn information.
    Alas, the country is infested with spineless whimps in many key positions,scared of their own damn shadow, doing the bidding of this corrupt administration and not what taxpayers pay them to do.
    Let’s hope this is just the beginning of a barrage of FOI.

  7. @Watching, simply because persons do not wish to join you and RL in your witch-hunt does not mean they are spineless. Unlike your bunch it means they are fair, hence don’t have an axe to grind. Government has answered RL’s questions eg via the response from minister in parliament, yet for relevance he pretends he is deaf.

  8. With hunt@ Perhaps? What are you talking about? A FOI was filed and needs to be complied with according to the laws of this country. You are mixing apples with oranges. Nothing Gaston Browne says at anytime is trustworthy, so his incoherent, merry-go-round in parliament scarcely has anything to do with the matter at hand. What ax to grind? Wow! This government boast (and any patriotic citizens know better) of transparency, so there should be nothing to hide. Are you asleep? This is not the first time that this Gaston Browne led administration refuses to abide by the laws of the land.
    Maybe you have no problem with blatant corruption and nepotism, but some of us do

    • @Watching – The law requires the government answer the question and not tell you only what you wish to hear. The PM has answered your questions. Recall an article where public works also answered the questions. They can’t be blamed because you don’t like the answers. The buildings have been on sale for years. The PM son as all residents has a right to also make a living. Its telling that even though its been revelated that the lease calls for only a payment of $1.00 per month, persons like you still want to turn facts into fiction. In the meantime government finds itself in a quandary trying to find office space for some of its other workers (eg Min of agriculture) who are now “working” from home

      • And perhaps, perhaps @perhaps, “the government find itself in this quandary,” simply because of PPP – Piss Poor Planning and PPM – Piss Poor Management, of public/government properties, due to lack of simple maintenance to overall timely inspections, to address simple issues which are left, to fester thus causing irreparable damages, outside of a total rehab/renovation, and or demolition.

        I could never understand, how a Maintenance Department like PWD – Public Works Department could allow workers to clock/sign in at 7:00am, then sit around for the next EIGHT(8) hours playing WARRI and DOMINOES under a tree.
        Not even a baboon would try and make sense of this. So, please #HUEman don’t try. You’ll embarrass yourself.

        Jumbee_Picknee aka Ras Smood
        De’ole Dutty Peg🦶🏿Garrat_Bastard

        Vere C. Edwards

      • If I, or any other Antiguan not related to the prime minister, had purchased the building, would the government have spent almost a million dollars to renovate it. This is creative enrichment by Gaston Browne and his family. Now it is renovated, it is certainly worth a lot more and don’t be surprised if it is sold when the dollar lease expires. These are the schemes this family use to get rich. Gaston is playing Antiguans for fools. Some of us are. Why wasn’t the money spent on renovating government buildings?
        I can’t understand how people getting crumbs from the table can support Gaston Browne.

        • @Think about it – Public works has always paid land lords to customize buildings to meet government agency needs. If you took the time to read the ANR article ” Antigua Government spent Nearly 1 million dollars to Retrofit buildings including one owned by Gaston Browne lli” dated March 18, 202. you will note they listed other buildings they spent similar sums to renovate. Problem with you UPP supporters is you don’t read past the headlines

          • Is this why they moved government agency and departments into the building so they and you can claim ‘Retrofit’? What occurred in this situation is just creative enrichment and theft of the people’s resources. Now the property has been renovated and increased in value, wait for the flip. How much did junior pay for the rundown buildings.

  9. Are we surprised that Gaston and his gang did not provide the information? Antigua is not a democracy where laws are respected. Antigua is now a banana republic ruled by a dictator and his enforcers.

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