‘No Hanky Panky:’ Minister Breaks Silence on E-books Scandal

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Education Minister Michael Browne has assured the general public that he did not receive a kick back during the procurement of E-books for the nation’s children.

Browne addressed the issue directly for the first time since prime minister Gaston Browne pointed to serious procedural breaches in the million dollar transaction.

“There was no hanky panky,” Browne told the 2019 budget debate.

He said he heard rumors that he stole $10 million for the transaction and took it to the Cayman Islands.

The minister said he was taking full responsibility for the breaches which has left the future of the e-books scheme uncertain.

“I want to apologise to the honourable prime minister,” Browne told the Lower House.

He assured his colleagues and the general public “there was no kickback.”

“There was no attempt to deceive, there was no attempt to cover-up, there was no effort to hide.”

Browne said in the future he will be more careful to highlight such important details as a licencing fee.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne said the minister would have ultimately be held responsible for the matter but to date has taken no action against him.

On Monday, opposition leader Jamale Pringle called on Browne to be removed as education minister.

But Browne told parliament today that it was just an “irregularity.”

The alleged error could cost government US$ 5 million annually in a licencing fee that was never brought to the attention of the Cabinet.

PM Browne maintains that it was the Board of Education and not the ministry that should have handled that transaction.

The e-books were procured from an indian firm which is now demanding its money.

The minister says negotiations continue to reduce the $250 user fee per person annually.

Once negotiations are finished the minister said he wants to move on with “what is overall a cutting edge initiative.”

28 COMMENTS

  1. Michael Browne as Education Minister cannot continue to preside over the ebook scheme. Ok you have now accepted responsibility for the goof and the Prime Minister must move you further away from this mess.

  2. My observation at a shallow surface level, Cut losses and move on. No negotiations. This was a fail and all that can be done now is to cut losses and move on. The total costs over the years will be simply too much. Unless of course wr will no longer have text books in print. In that case, there will always be a annual or periodic fee no matter where you get the ebooks from. But on deep dive into the details, maybe a better deal can be negotiated than going to a new vendor. This is a real mess.

  3. This was no “irregularity”. It was pure incompetence and negligence at best. He has no shame and if he was a man who was honorable and accepted responsibility, he would have resigned long ago. But not in Antigua. Government Ministers accept responsibility for nothing. They do as they like and feel no shame at all for their own ineptitude.

      • So who pays for this fiasco? Everyone but the minister apparently. The service provider will no doubt be stiffed by the government just like many unpaid contractors and service providers who wait indefinitely for payment of services rendered to government entities. If this were to go to court it is hard to see how the government could avoid payment under this contract.

  4. I and I do not know what “Hanky panky” is, (IS THAT A NEW WORD WHEN THE HAVES COUBIE MONEY?) however in the scheme of things I totally agree that there were no irregularities…
    WHEN IRREGULARITY IS THE NORM HOW CAN YOU STILL CALL IT IRREGULARITY?
    THIS IS BUSINESS AS USUALL STRAIGHT FROM THE ENRICHMENT TEXT BOOK SEE PAGES ONE TO THE END.

    How can any right thinking person blame the dudette? He is a victim of his cabinet.

  5. After the Data Tan rip-off , the Tourism portal ripoff et al, it is inexcusable that the government has not put mechanisms in place to prevent savvy international business from taking advantage of naive and incompetent members of parliament.
    Fortuna Pix should have made a presentation to cabinet in the first instance so that all ministers with differing perspectives and responsibilities could pose questions resulting in a higher level of scrutiny. This being the case the ministers of finance surely would have identified the total cost of ownership which eluded the clueless minister in question and be in a better position to determine whether we get value for taxpayers money. To make matters worse this was a Board of Education initiative and not the ministry. No government official should be able to piss a way 10 s of millions of taxpayers money and say ooops I didn’t read the fine print and be allowed to carry on. Off with his head.

  6. He forgot to offer to resign. Whether or not the offer is accepted would be up to the Prime Minister, who is a very fair-minded man. He has to look at the whole picture very carefully. Likely he is doing just that.

  7. Remember it does not have to be wanton and willful for there to be wrong doing, there can be gross negligence. However, you may want to do an intense investigation because there could also be fraudulent concealment or intentional or negligent misrepresentation that the minister may have been a victim of.

    also, the Indian company may have a duty to ensure this small country with minor technological experience understands what they are getting into and make all clauses obvious and clear. Antigua is not a technological country and do not know all or a substantial amount of details and requirements of having ebooks and what is needed to run them. They knew Antiguan government lacked this knowledge and use this to get such unconscionable contract. The contract may be procedurally and substantively unconscionable, it is also shocking of the price of these ebooks and other fees.

    • In total agreement with this comment. The Indian company needs to be asked why something as substantial as a 10 million dollar fee was never discussed? Were they deliberately trying to dupe little Antigua? Having said that, I also agree with Sensible. All Mistakes have consequences. Those consequences need to be felt by both the tax payers and Minister Browne. From reading the story, he is behaving like this is no big deal. He should be moved from that ministry or be a back bencher for now. We expect when Doctors make mistakes they are held responsible so to when a minister makes a mistake he should be held responsible. When I make a mistake I am held responsible. That’s how life goes. Guess what?? I made a mistake voting for Mr. Browne so now that my vehicle mash up on the non-road and I have to dig and throw material in the trenches so I can drive, it is my fault. I must bear the consequences for the choice I made……

  8. Can you IMAGINE what US$5million a YEAR could do to transform education in Antigua? Repaired school plants, hiring specialized teachers and paying them well to retain their talent, building new schools, new science equipment, extending school hours…

  9. why does mp browne have that i got caught with my hands in the cookie jar look? anyone can look at that pic and tell he lying through his teeth.

  10. Why was only one supplier contacted, rather than inviting bids from several suppliers as is the norm? Strike #1

    How come the Education Minister was not aware of the tender process? Strike #2

    Why did he withhold information from Cabinet of the licensing fee, which will cost the Treasury US$5 million per year, which sum exceeds what we paid for text books? Strike #3

    Three strikes and you are OUT!

    How come the Education Minister pressed to have someone prosecuted for corruption because they accepted an increase in salary, approved by the Board of Directors of the Board of Education, but now all these irregularities involving the minister have come to light, it is being dismissed as an oversight? What an expensive oversight!

  11. Minister Browne, I like you, but you should go. You will do the Education Ministry more harm than good if you stick around. Your credibility has been shattered. Go please!

  12. How does one know when a politician is lying? A: Every time they open their mouth. If he wasn’t traveling that much, maybe there would not be such a breach: PM cannot do anything as he set the stage for conflict/corruption when it is alleged gave them the ok to get rich quick. Where can one think they will “get rich from? Not the private sector but through the government SC and government entities. Absolute wickedness!

    • This guy is a clown how people voted for this garbage……when you play with poor people money member time will tell ….investigation is needed

  13. In total agreement with this comment. The Indian company needs to be asked why something as substantial as a 10 million dollar fee was never discussed? Were they deliberately trying to dupe little Antigua? Having said that, I also agree with Sensible. All Mistakes have consequences. Those consequences need to be felt by both the tax payers and Minister Browne. From reading the story, he is behaving like this is no big deal. He should be moved from that ministry or be a back bencher for now. We expect when Doctors make mistakes they are held responsible so to when a minister makes a mistake he should be held responsible. When I make a mistake I am held responsible. That’s how life goes. Guess what?? I made a mistake voting for Mr. Browne so now that my vehicle mash up on the non-road and I have to dig and throw material in the trenches so I can drive, it is my fault. I must bear the consequences for the choice I made……

  14. THIS NEEDS TO BE INVESTIGATED RIGHT NOW ….QUESTIONS WHICH COMPANY WAS FORMED TO GET THE EBOOKS ,WHICH FAMILY MEMBER OF THE MINISTER DID THE PURCHASING?,DID THE MINISTER RECEIVED A CUT ?….. IMAGINE TO KEEP THESE BOOKS REGISTERED U HAVE TO PAY 300 THOUSAND US PER TAB EVERY YEAR SO THE MAKING OVER 13 MILLION A YEAR TO KEEP THEM WORK 5 MILLION MORE THAN THE INITIAL COST YOU THINK THEM SERIOUS ……GASTON WE NEED AN INQUIRY

  15. Would u say u got kick back wait u might be the first to go prison…..your time will come you f ……poor people have to always suffer because you want get rich quick

  16. GASTON FIRE THIS CLOWN NOW OR ITS BETTER U GIVE ASOT HIS JOB BACK THIS IS CRAZIER THAT ASOT CASE THIS MONEY IS POOR PEOPLE MONEY MEMBER GOD NOT SLEEPING AND U WILL PAY

  17. I am surprised at My Fellow Antiguans. They are just responding out of hatred. It was en error. Now it is taken care of . With wonderful negotiations the licencing fee is now $80. This is great work. So please stop the PARTISAN politics. ABLP will govern ANIGUA AND BARBUDA for the next 30 years.
    BIG up the WORLD BOSS(Hon. GASTON BROWNE).Hon. Michael Browne best Education Minister ever in Antigua/Barbuda.

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