Smokescreen! - McNeill says claims by Matthew Samuda will not deter his PAAC work
Chairman of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) Wykeham McNeill has dismissed as "palpably false" suggestions by Government Senator Matthew Samuda that McNeill's relative was a director of a travel agency who benefitted from a contract to secure travel bookings for the Ministry of Tourism when he was minister.
During yesterday's sitting of the Senate, Samuda asserted that the PAAC chairman "must tell this country and the Parliament whether it is true that a relative of his is a director of a travel agency that secured all the travel bookings of the ministry he led".
Opposition Senator Lambert Brown sought to shut down Samuda as he rose on a Point of Order. "The member is assuming that the former minister had anything to do with the procurement. Even questions can impute improper motive," said Brown.
President of the Senate Tom Tavares-Finson said that Samuda did not breach the Standing Order, noting that he was only asking questions. Samuda said that McNeill must answer these questions before he presided over further sittings of the PAAC.
However, McNeill told The Gleaner yesterday that Samuda's comments were a smokescreen to divert from the "rampant nepotism and negative issues that are now being uncovered at the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Energy".
McNeill said that procurement at the ministry was done by the permanent secretary, noting that it was ironic that the ministry made that position very clear in a response in The Gleaner of June 15, 2018.
Samuda had also questioned McNeill about his stewardship as state minister of tourism between 2002 and 2007.
"The current chairman of the PAAC must tell the country whether it is true that during his tenure as minister of tourism that his sister racked up millions of dollars as part of the administrative staff between 2002 and 2007. If that is true, that is nepotism. He must come to the country and tell us where he stands on that matter," Samuda said during a debate in the Senate on 'An Act to Amend the Procurement Act', which was passed with three amendments.
In recent times, the PAAC has been probing a number of issues at the state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam, and the Ministry of Tourism.