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Former minister cries foul on PAC report

A fabrication!

That is how Denis Kellman, the last Minister of Housing and Lands under the former Freundel Stuart Administration, described the findings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament which accused him of intruding in the day-to-day affairs of the state-owned National Housing Corporation (NHC) to the financial detriment of the corporation.

The 74-page 2013-2018 report which was laid and debated in the House of Assembly Tuesday said Kellman – and his predecessor Michael Lashley – over-reached their authority by micro managing the operations of the NHC, including the award and oversight of contracts.

“Anybody who knows this minister would tell you that that is not true. I did not get involved in the day-to-day management. The comment was made that I am not one of the ministers who did anything like that. You would not find me down at the NHC doing this or doing that,” said the former St Lucy Member of Parliament under the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).

“So whoever made the charge did not know what they were talking about or were fabricating. But it is something I need to check on because it is a very unfair and a very serious charge,” he added.

Kellman told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that if one checked with the staff of the state housing entity, they would confirm his position.

The former Minister of Housing also defended himself against the position taken in the PAC report that he swapped Crown lands at Lancaster No 2, St. James with C.O. Williams Construction in order to satisfy an outstanding debt with that company and while doing so caused the NHC to take a financial hit.

Contending that Kellman’s “intrusion” in the every day operations of the NHC is reflected in the minutes of the 451st board meeting of the 14 August, 2013, the PAC report said the directors of the NHC had recommended a price for the land in question to be $65 per square foot based on valuations received.

“The general manager informed the board that the Minister of Housing Denis Kellman indicated that a price of $35 per square foot was ‘feasible’ to erase the outstanding debt,” the report said. The debt owed by the NHC to C.O. Williams Construction Limited was $1,145,357.56, plus interest of $500,000. The land in question was 3,021 square meters or 32,291 square feet, at a value of $2,098, 915 as opposed to $1,130,185, according to the report.

“To be more precise, the NHC received $968, 730 less, given the lower valuation imposed in this transaction as a result of the directive of Minister Kellman,” revealed the report.

But Kellman suggested that Barbados TODAY should ask for the minutes of the meeting.   While not identifying the meeting to which he referred, Kellman said “because that decision was sent to me”.

“Not only that. I also saw that a valuation was done and nobody asked when…the impression was given that that valuation was at 2013. That is not true. That valuation that they are speaking about was when they were in Government in 2003 when land prices were ridiculous. So I must ask whether that price remains there because they want a particular person to buy the land,” he argued.

The ex-minister said he recalled being accused by the Member of Parliament for the area of selling the land at too high a price.

“And he said that I sold land at $35 per square foot that should have been sold at $10, even though the decision to make it commercial was made by the Barbados Labour Party in 2003. So when you look at the facts…and that is why I don’t worry myself about these things…cause the facts are there and they are in black-and-white,” he told Barbados TODAY.

Kellman stressed that the decision to turn Lancaster into commercial land was made by the BLP in 2003, claiming the BLP sought to sell it to the rich and famous at $65 per square foot to exclude the “normal” man.

In further defence of his decision to sell it at $35 per square foot, he contended that the DLP however sought to include the average man by bring down the price to a reasonable level.

Persistent efforts to reach Michael Lashley, the other minister identified in the report, for comment proved futile.

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