Housing and Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira. (File photo)
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ENVIRONMENT Minister Romauld Ferreira spoke yesterday about the controversy surrounding a gazetted document the Minnis administration says wrongly transferred functions from him to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, although he mostly avoided giving direct answers to reporters’ questions.
The document, which Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis dismissed as “fake news” before the media revealed it was legitimate, transferred seven functions from Mr Ferreira to Dr Minnis even though the administration has since claimed six of the matters were transferred through an error made by the Cabinet Office.
Asked for his reaction to the error, Mr Ferreira said: “All of that has been sorted out now. The Office of the Prime Minister has spoken. It’s a done deal so not quite sure I’m understanding your question.”
Asked to address concerns the administration was not transparent about the initial transfer of the BEST Commission from his purview to the prime minister, he said: “It’s been sorted out now. The Office of the Prime Minister has spoken to it. All interactions like that have to be gazetted.”
Asked if he believed a bigger deal was made out of the controversy than necessary, he repeated his refrain: “Well I think it’s all been sorted out now. The Office of the Prime Minister has commented on it. I’ll say nothing further beyond that.”
Asked to respond to the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) scepticism of the administration’s explanation, specifically Official Opposition leader Philip “Brave” Davis’ contention that all the matters transferred according to the original gazette fit naturally in a package alongside the BEST Commission and therefore should logically be attached, he said: “Do I dispute anything that the leader of the Opposition says? All of this has been sorted out. The Office of the Prime Minister has dealt with it. I’m perfectly comfortable and functioning in my capacity. If you want to inquire about what the Leader of the Opposition means or thinks, I think you should ask him.”
Asked to respond to concerns about whether he had legal authority to deal with matters that were “wrongfully” transferred from him to Dr Minnis, he said: “…The Office of the Prime Minister has cleared that up. There’s nothing further I could say. We’re working in the Ministry of Environment on behalf of all the people. At the end of the day, the Bahamian people will be satisfied with our performance.”
Asked why he said nothing about the matter previously, the Marathon MP said: “I wasn’t here. You talking to me now. The Office of the Prime Minister has addressed the issue. I’m perfectly satisfied with that.”
Asked if he saw the gazetted document prior to the eruption of controversy, he said he was “not sure” and added: “I know that after the events hit the news the Office of the Prime Minister spoke to it. We were working nonetheless. It was no diminish in enthusiasm in my responsibilities. We look to work on behalf of the the Bahamian people.”
Asked if he and Dr Minnis spoke about transferring the BEST Commission out of his portfolio before the transfer occurred, he said: “I’m sure that you can appreciate that the Office of the Prime Minister has spoken on it. I’m satisfied with the explanation. We’re pressing on. We’re working on behalf of all Bahamians making it a better country. I really want to talk about the expression of interest (at the New Providence Landfill) actually; talk about what’s happening in the ministry. This expression of interest is actually very important. It’s a key component. It’s a cornerstone of what we want to achieve in the big three, which is remediation in the landfill, remediation at Clifton Pier and addressing the legislative gaps in our legislation. Those are the big three so I’m also available to talk about those three.”
Asked if he wants the matter to be probed to determine how the gazetted document contained errors, he said: “You know what I’m interested in? I’m interested in carrying out my mandate as the minister of environment. I’m interested in dealing with the three pressing issues that the country is facing, that is remediation of landfill, the Clifton Pier site and the legislative vacuum that exists.”
Asked if he was concerned the functions were wrongly transferred, he said: “Was I concerned? I always knew that the Office of the Prime Minister would address these matters. I’m satisfied that they’ve been addressed. I don’t see how I could help you further.”
The document in question showed that in August, seven matters had been transferred from the portfolio of Mr Ferreira to the Office of the Prime Minister. Portions of the three page document were circulated on social media at the end of last month.
Last week, Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said Dr Minnis had not seen the document when he dismissed it as “fake news” in a short interview with reporters on Saturday, November 25, but had merely assumed the document claimed there was “wholesale transfer of responsibilities from Mr Ferreira to him with the intent to demote (Mr Ferreira).”
Mr Newbold said the only function transferred to Dr Minnis is responsibility for the Bahamas Environmental Science and Technology (BEST) Commission. The other matters - the Plant Protection Act, wild animal and bird protection, natural history specimens, relations with national and international organisations on matters relating to the environment, international convention, treaties, protocols and agreements relating to the environment and reef and blue holes - were not transferred to the prime minister as the gazetted document says, according to Mr Newbold.