Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr George Norton Thursday said the charge brought against him by the Parliamentary Opposition can be considered a “political witch-hunt”.
Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Vickram Bharat this morning filed a private criminal charge against Dr Norton in relation to the Sussex Street Drug Bond scandal while he was Minister of Public Health.
Dr Norton, who was removed as the Public Health Minister amidst the controversy, told News Room during a brief telephone interview that “if there is a case of political witch-hunt, this is certainly one.”
Dr Norton said the Ministry of Legal Affairs will advise him on how to proceed with the matter.
When asked if he thinks the issue regarding the Drug Bond scandal is tantamount to “misconduct in public office”, Dr Norton said, “I think that is Mr Nandlall’s opinion and he is entitled to that opinion and he is also entitled to take whatever action he thinks is necessary.”
Efforts to solicit a comment from the present Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence, who was also slapped with charges, proved futile. Her Ministry promised to return a call to the News Room.
Lawrence was charged in relation to the controversial purchase of drugs from Ansa McAl through sole-sourcing to the tune of $605M. This was filed by Opposition Parliamentarian, Juan Edghill.
The charges against the government ministers follow the move by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to charge former Minister of Finance, Dr Ashni Singh and former Head of the Privatisation Unit, Winston Brassington for “misconduct in public office, contrary to common law.” The allegation is that the former officials sold prime State land without conducting a valuation of the properties.
Drug bond scandal
In court documents seen by the News Room, MP Bharat is contending that Dr Norton “wilfully misconducted himself in a way which amounted to an abuse of public trust without reasonable excuse or justification”, when he authorised the rental of the property at 29 Sussex Street Albouystown from Linden Holdings Incorporated for $12.5M monthly.
Vickram, speaking to reporters after the charge was filed, contended that Dr Norton has failed to disclose how the company knew the Government was interested in renting a bond. He also contended that the property could have been rented for far less and that there are cheaper alternatives available.
$605M drugs purchase
Minister Lawrence is being charged because she authorised or caused the unapproved single sourcing and purchase of drugs and medical supplies for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, in the city of Georgetown from Ansa McAl Trading Limited, for some $605M.
The Public Procurement Commission (PPC) had launched an investigation into the matter and the findings had cleared Lawrence of any wrongdoing.
However, the investigation also had its own controversy as Commissioner Sukrishnalall Pasha did not agree with the findings of the probe. Reports are that Pasha presented a dissenting opinion on the matter but his views were not captured in the report which was tabled in the Parliament.