BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - A controversy involving the Minister with Responsibility for Public Infrastructure, Posts, Urban Development and Transport, the Hon. Ian ‘Patches’ Liburd, has rolled over into the new year concerning allegations of a private company he had purportedly registered in August 2016.
In the latter part of December, word broke in the public domain that the Minister and Parliamentary Representative for St. Christopher One had allegedly registered a business on August 31, 2016 called Prime Building Depot Inc.
It is being bandied that Minister Liburd is the Director of the entity, which is purportedly registered “to engage in the business of shipping and distribution of building materials”.
It is further alleged that among the building materials would be cement, which means that the entity would be competing with other local establishments to win lucrative Government contracts.
A “blatant conflict of interest” was the term used by one caller to SKNVibes, since the Minister holds the portfolio under which such contracts are awarded.
Those allegations did not sit well with some members of the public and the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party and many of them had taken to the various social media platforms to voice their opinions on the matter.
Minister Liburd however rubbished the allegations and is adamant that they are being peddled by those who were ousted from government almost two years ago.
He stated that as a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis, there is an “inherent right” bestowed upon him to register a company.
“I hope that you haven’t in the media come like those people who believe in their own propaganda. What is a cement company? Whether I establish one is so far from the truth,” Liburd told reporters at the recent commissioning of a gift shop at Christophe Harbour Marina location.
He said that the company in question is not one that would be importing or distributing cement, since there are a number of businesses in the Federation currently providing the said service, but rather, his organization is one that would be providing consultancy service.
The Minister indicated that he has some 20-years experience in the area of Business Management and Consultancy and that he has now seen it fitting to venture into same.
“Yes, I can say to you that I have registered a company. It is a Business Process Management Consultancy company and I have a right to. It is registered under the Financial Services Unit. The next step has not been taken and I have a right if I feel to take the next step, which is to apply for a business licence,” Minister Liburd said when questioned on the registration of his company.
Taking a swipe at the Opposition, he stressed that those on the other side of the political devide “have no moral authority to peddle” such allegations.
He sent out a challenge to the Opposition’s MPs to present facts on the purported corruption in the creation of the new business establishment.
“Let them present to you the evidence of what I have done. They talking about corruption! Corruption as they are talking about...as I know it is the use of your public office for private gain. And if those on the other side, including the rejected leader, want to speak about corruption, let us have a discussion about it.”
When asked if it would not constitute a conflict of interest should he, as a Minister of Government, take the next step by applying for a business licence and gain from that, Liburd responded in the negative.
“If there is nothing that precludes me as a citizen from engaging in business, any business, as long as I do not use my office to bolster that business, then I have no problem.”
Minister Liburd categorically stated that “there is no conflict, there is no business licence procured, so to say that you are entering the cement business is rubbish”.