Broomes to be removed if conflict of interest arises – President
…information confirms Broomes applied for and was granted
mining permit while at Natural Resources Ministry
President David Granger on Thursday rejected calls for Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources Simona Broomes to be transferred out of that Ministry, as conflict of interest concerns continue to rage over her current oversight of the mining sector, even as her children take over ownership of her mining operations.
There have been calls from several anticorruption and transparency advocates for the minister to be reassigned to another ministry after information surfaced that a Simona Broomes was recently granted a new mining permit.
But the minister quickly rejected those claims, noting that it was her daughter, also named Simona Broomes, who was named in those documents.
Commenting on the issue on Thursday, during the taping of his weekly telecast, The Public Interest, President Granger said Broomes will remain in her post until such time as there is a confirmed case of conflict of interest.
“We have a draft code of conduct and if any situation were to arise, I’m very confident that she’d either be put in another place or she would demit office but that situation hasn’t arisen at the present time,” the Head of State remarked in response to the calls for Broomes’s removal.
In fact, the President pointed out that the functions that the Junior Natural Resources Minister performs within the Ministry do not necessarily come into conflict with the fact that her children owning mining properties.
Granger went on to explain that when the matter was brought up, actions were taken by Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman to investigate the issue.
“Minister of Natural Resources is an experienced attorney and I’ve asked him for his views and I would be guided by his advice, but presently I do not see that there is any need to remove her,” the Head of State posited.
Minister Broomes applied and Granted Permit
But, while the president has said he awaits a clear case of conflict of Interest involving the Minister, Guyana Times was able to obtain a copy of an ‘application for permission to operate dredge or specified machinery’ dated March 4, 2016, in the name of Simona Broomes. The document contained National Identification (ID) Number 11383803.
Upon investigations this publication was able to confirm that the ID number is that of Simona Judie Broomes, the full name of the Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources, contradicting what Broomes had earlier said, that it was her daughter who was named in those documents.
Independent analysts are now challenging the president to match his words with action in face of this evidence which has emerged.
“If the President says he wants evidence and if the evidence is now available, it will be interesting to see what action he will take, because if indeed the minister applied for a permit and was granted that permit while holding political office, then it is clearly a conflict of interest. So let’s wait and see if the President will match words with action,” one analyst told this publication.
Only recently, newly-appointed president of the local corruption watchdog, Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI), Troy Thomas said the entire situation was embarrassing, and supported calls for the minister to be transferred to another ministry.
“(Government) might argue that she has expertise in that area, but I am not sure I will buy that, because ultimately she is working in that area and Guyana is a small country and the contacts with officials will be very close, so I think it does create a conflict of interest from a personal standpoint,” Thomas stated during a recent interview with this newspaper.
The TIGI President added that he supported the position that the minister should be reassigned to another ministry, which could significantly reduce the accusations of conflict of interest.
“It might indeed be better if she has to be a minister, to go somewhere else, because no matter how you turn, it doesn’t look good,” he opined.
Similar calls were also made by political commentators Dr Henry Jeffery and Raymond Gaskin.
But, Minister Broomes dismissed the allegations levelled against her as part of a “deliberate attempt to besmirch” her character and that of her children.
The minister, who spent some 28 years as a miner, further stated that while her children continue to operate in the mining sector, there is no preferential treatment as her children are “towing the line.”
Minister Broomes boasted that prior to becoming a minister, she maintained a spotless character and it is her intention to continue to maintain that character and leave a legacy of transparency and accountability.
“It is not an easy task but I have committed. I am one of the female ministers that will stand tall and I will not buckle,” she said.