Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday that he is unaware of any circumstance in recent years where a large Cabinet has lead to corruption.
Bethel was responding to comments from House Speaker Halson Moultrie who said that an oversized Cabinet has over the years impeded the functionality of the legislative branch of the government and has led to corruption.
Bethel said the speaker should not deal in hypotheticals.
“We have 18 Cabinet ministers,” Bethel said when called for comment.
“There’s 35 members of Parliament, so where is this outnumbering of parliamentarians?
“You know, I think we shouldn’t deal with hypotheticals but with the realities. Yes, it is conceivable that that could happen but I’m not sure it’s happened in recent years and certainly that’s not the case in this iteration.
“It is good to speak about philosophy I suppose, but when you speak about philosophy and don’t make it clear you’re speaking about philosophy, as opposed to launching what can be interpreted as a criticism of the present structure of the government, then that’s something that you need to be careful of.
“I respect the speaker enormously. He has a very important and critical role to play in the management of the legislative branch and I commend him for his efforts. However, I think in his efforts, while speaking philosophically, he should be aware that there [is] a separation of power under the constitution.”
On Thursday, during a speech on civics to several teachers in the House of Assembly, Moultrie argued that: “As long as there is no separation of powers, and as long as there is executive control of the legislative branch, as a former chief meteorologist and hurricane forecaster, I forecast and predict that plunder and corruption will continue to be the order of the day.”
He also noted that when the executive branch outnumbers the combined number of opposition members and backbenchers in Parliament “then Parliament then becomes a rubber stamp of the executive”.
But Bethel said, “Merely because there are a number of ministers above eight, it does not follow that because you have a large Cabinet therefore you have corruption.
“That is such a non sequitur. That is just simply not a necessary consequence of largeness. Corruption depends upon the mindset of individuals; individuals, not a collective.”
Bethel added, “It appears to me that the speaker…is fully authorized to speak about matters pertaining to the legislature and he may be straying a bit to be commenting on matters that the constitution has reserved for the prime minister.”
The constitution requires that Cabinet consist of the prime minister and at least eight other ministers including the attorney general.
It does not limit the number of ministers in the Cabinet.
Following the 2012 general election, then Prime Minister Perry Christie appointed 11 ministers to his Cabinet.
In 2017, following the election, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis appointed 15 ministers to his Cabinet.