Prime Minister Gaston Browne says he has asked the Attorney General to look into a recent contract entered into by former Agriculture Minister Dean Jonas to determine whether it was illegal.
The prime minister is detailing for the first time additional reasons behind his decision to fire Jonas days after he gave him a chance to improve.
Earlier Browne indicated that Jonas was underperforming and later that he had a toxic relationship with staff.
Speaking on his radio show on Saturday, the prime minister revealed at he was at constant loggerheads with Jonas to prevent his persistent attempts to breach the country’s tendering laws and policies.
Browne said he took no joy in firing Jonas but said an incident within the last week left him with no choice.
“And the persistence got to the stage in which there was a violation within the last week that I felt we had reached the rubicon and action had to be taken,” the country’s leader said.
“Now I have asked the Attorney General to look at his actions in that particular transaction that took place a week ago, to determine whether there is any illegality and if that is the case the minister would have to suffer the consequences because law enforcement would get involved, and in that case he would not have the opportunity to return to my government,” Browne told Pointe FM.
“If however, there is no illegality, the prime minister said Jonas could return to the Cabinet after six months provided “an adjustment in his behaviour, to ensure that he adheres to the policies of my government and to give a commitment to that effect.”
Browne did not specify the alleged breach by Jonas but hinted earlier that Jonas did not follow policy guidelines for the awarding of ministry contracts.
He said the attempted breaches by Jonas goes back to several years even when he served as chairman of the Transport Board.
Under policy set down by his government and passed into law, Browne said any contract that is issued within the public sector that exceeds 100 thousand XCD must be approved by the Tenders Board.
“We put a new mechanisms in place where those contracts of 100 thousand had to be approved by the cabinet and then there would be a recommendation to the tenders board.
“I have said to all of my colleagues that those policies should not be violated,” he disclosed.
He said the violation of those policies could lead to corruption in government contracting.
“In the case of former minister Dean Jonas, who I still consider to be my colleague and friend, there were persistent violations.”
“So we would have conflicts as a result of numbers attempts by the (former) minister to violated those polices of the government as agreed to and as established by law.
“So what would have happened for several months, perhaps years for that matter I would have had to intervene on numerous occasions to scuttle contracts that the minister would have negotiated without first getting the approval of the Cabinet and the Tenders Board in order to avoid any form of embarrassment for the government.
“There were consistent warnings, I would have warned him privately, in the presence of his colleagues.”
The prime minister said Jonas never listened.
“And I have to tell you I don’t know if is a level of obstinacy but it was like speaking to a brick wall,” he reported.
“Every time I intervened to stop the excesses the minister took it personally,” Browne added.
“I tried to explain to him that It is not personal, it is a matter of protecting the integrity of the government,” he said.
Browne said on some occasions public servants brought the breaches to his attention and Jonas made attempts to stop that by telling his staff do not report it to the prime minister.
“I have had a plethora of attempted violations by former minister jonas and I would pick up the phone and call him on each occasion to the extend that subsequently when he attempted to violate the policies he would advise the public servants not to inform me.”
“What I did not like were his persistent actions which were clearly against the policies of my government.
“He misconstrued my persistence in preventing him from violating the polices as a personal dislike.” Browne concluded.
We reached out to the former minister for a response, he read our whatsapp messages sent to his two known numbers and did not respond.