Opposition to question Broomes’ $500,000 rent at next house sitting

The APNU+AFC government will, at the next sitting of the National Assembly, be called upon to answer questions about the decision to rent living quarters for Junior Minister of Natural Resources Simona Broomes at a price tag of $500,000 per month.

The public became aware that the property was rented for Broomes from public funds after Landlord Peter Ramsaroop instituted legal action against Broomes and the Parliament Office for breach of contract. That action has since been withdrawn.

Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs had publicly indicated that an administrative decision was taken to rent the building for the minister who is entitled to $25,000 in housing allowance. However, he did not identify who made this decision.

He has since indicated that he will no longer be addressing the issue publicly and has also not responded to a request from PPP/C Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall for the decision maker to be identified. Nandlall will be tabling the questions once crafted. Speaking with Stabroek News on Friday evening, he explained that he was drafting questions in relation to the issue, which will be tabled at the July 27 session.

Nandlall had first requested answers on June 27. In correspondence addressed to the clerk he asked for the statutory/constitutional provision which allowed such expenditure to be made. The request was met with an immediate response which explained, “The rental of house for a minister is not an allowance. Therefore, there is no statutory/constitutional provision or order authorizing same.”

However, a subsequent correspondence received only an acknowledgment of receipt. This letter specifically questioned: “In the case of Minister Broomes’s rental accommodation to which [the] letter refers, please indicate who made the ‘administrative decision’ to rent at a rate of $500,000 per month? What factors were taken into account in determining such a rate of rental of living accommodation for a Junior Minister, having regard to the fact that the law provides only $25,000, as a housing allowance for the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and senior ministers of the government?”

Nandlall also drew a parallel between the consideration offered to Broomes and that he claimed to have been offered by former president Donald Ramotar over the ownership of 15 Commonwealth Law Reports. Nandlall’s ownership of these reports is now the subject of a criminal case as the present government contends that they are state property which he has stolen.

Both Minister of State Joseph Harmon and Minister of Finance Winston Jordan have refused to respond to enquiries on the rental issue, while Broomes has said that government was responsible for providing her with somewhere to live in the city.

“…Government got to find a place to put me. Government brought me from my home, not a house. I don’t live in a house I come from a home where I have my family,” Broomes said in a short video posted on YouTube, which was shared by Director of Public Information Imran Khan.

Broomes did not address the price of the rental made available to her and has refused to accept calls from Stabroek News.

Meanwhile the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), a member of APNU, said it could not support such a high rent.

“We are alarmed at the news that the government has been paying rent for two government ministers to the tune of $500,000. The WPA cannot in all conscience defend and support government payment of half a million rent for ministers when one places this fact against the 50% rise in salaries that was given in 2015,” WPA executive member Dr David Hinds had told a press conference.

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