ROSEAU, Dominica, CMC – Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has denied ownership interest in a property development project and that he welcomes an Integrity Commission probe into the matter.
The Integrity in Public Office (IPO) Commission is to investigate a complaint that the Prime Minister as Chairman of Cabinet used his official influence to secure concessions for Blaircourt Property Development Ltd, a business venture north of here in which he is alleged to have an ownership interest.
“The Commission has not reached a conclusion that I own or have an interest in the Blaircourt villas. I have no interest in those villas as I have said before and I have not acted in any way in breach of the code of conduct under the act,” Prime Minister Skerrit said.
“The issue of a conflict of interest in Cabinet does not arise because I have said on countless occasions that I am not the owner and do not have money invested in Blaircourt,” he added.
The issue has dominated public debate here ever since a local talk-show host filed complaints with the IPO alleging that Skerrit owned a stake in villas in the north of the island.
The complaint states in part that the “Prime Minister is in breach of section 47(1) of that Act [Integrity In Public Office Act 2003] by virtue of his possession of unaccounted property, namely eight Ocean Front villas at Guillette, Savanne Paille, with an estimated market value of over 8 million EC dollars which cannot be explained by his legal income…”
But Prime Minister Skerrit maintains that the allegations are false.
“I never used my office for personal gain or in the furtherance of any alleged interest in villas as alleged or at all and I have no doubt that this will be satisfactorily established. I welcome the opportunity to clarify this matter once and for all,” he said.
The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has welcomed the probe with former prime minister and UWP president Edison James telling the state-owned DBS radio that the matter needs to be dealt with in the interest of accountability and transparency.
“Well the question is unaccountable property. The IPO was set up to deal with these sorts of issues to safeguard the country against people in public life abusing their authority and taking personal advantage so that this is happening now I think it is important.”
James said while the Prime Minister has said categorically that he does not own those villas “obviously the Commission has seen a basis for them to be suspicious that he owns the villas”.
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