Junior Natural Resources Minister Simona Broomes has made it clear that as a minister of Government serving the people of Guyana, the Administration under which she serves has a responsibility to provide a home for her.
Broomes’ comments were made on Tuesday, in what is said to be a “silence breaker” since the issue was brought to the fore less than a month ago.
The Minister came to the spotlight after it was revealed that some $500,000 was
being dipped from the public coffers and spent monthly on rent for a house she was occupying.
Broomes, who hails from the mining district of Bartica in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), said when she accepted the governmental post, she was already living in her own home.
“I avail myself for people and the people of the country. Concerning the renting of a house, Government gotta find a place to put me in. Government brought me from my home, not a house; I don’t live in a house,” Broomes said in an online recording released by a government information outfit.
She said she came from a home where she has her family.
“It’s not a walk in the park. A government that is standing up against corruption and fighting corruption, I don’t want nobody build no house and give me as a gift. We know in the past, people get a whole house in the name of a gift. I am not in a supermarket; I am not up for sale. I have been listening and reading the rumours; they have not touched me. I don’t have anything in my closet. I am that ordinary woman (Simona Broomes) and I would maintain that. I just ask God every day to keep my heart in the right place. He bring me here to serve the people. I’m a humble servant,” she said in the online video.
Only on Tuesday, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), a junior partner in the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) coalition, condemned Government for splurging such hefty sums on rent for a minister, when the ordinary public servant
is struggling with minimum wage.
But Government last week distanced itself from the fiasco, saying that the responsibility fell in the hands of the National Assembly. And amid the ongoing difference of opinion on the matter, the Parliament Office is maintaining its silence, after an initial press release.
On Tuesday, when asked about the fact that Government has distanced itself from the matter and has left the Parliament Office to explain itself, Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs said he has no further comment on the issue.
“I did say in my last press release that I have nothing more on the matter. Any news could run in what direction they want to run,” he told Guyana Times. “I said nothing more, nothing further on the matter,” he added.
Isaacs’ statement came days after Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said the matter was not addressed at the level of Cabinet but Parliament and such funds come from that budget.
Harmon said he could not give specific details about the rent, as it was a matter for Parliament and the Clerk of the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, Isaacs had denied that there was an increase in all housing allowances for Ministers.
In a previous interview with this publication, Isaacs asserted that housing allowances were enshrined in the law and remained set at $25,000. However, he has admitted that a monthly sum of $500,000 was paid for Minister Broomes to rent a house, since she lives “out of town”.
He noted that if State-sponsored housing could not accommodate any other persons, then they would have to rent. Isaacs noted that the housing allowance was separate from the rental. He added that there were two Ministers who had their rent paid in full. Those Ministers are Simona Broomes and Valerie Patterson.
The issue of Parliament paying the rent for Minister Broomes came to the fore when she became the subject of a court action initiated by her former landlord, who had taken her to court for rent owed.
This newspaper obtained a copy of the lawsuit, which had the Minister as a co-defendant in the matter brought over a default of $1 million plus in house rent, reportedly incurred between November 2016 and January 2017. The legal suit has since been withdrawn.