It’s now official that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has determined that monies earmarked for Grenada under a CARICOM facility financed heavily from funds provided by Trinidad & Tobago were not used for the intended purpose by a former New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
This is not new as it had surfaced during the previous 2003-08 rule of Dr. Mitchell.
It should be recalled that PM Mitchell was asked before about this money that came in the form of a loan to mainly retrofit a Coast Guard vessel.
He gave the impression at first that he did not know what had become of the funds and then said that it was probably used to do among other things meet the salaries of civil servants as the monies were lodged in the Consolidated Account of Government.
It was reasonable to assume that as the monies were not lodged in a Special Account, the Ministry of Finance and in particular the Office of the Accountant-General had easy access to the funds to make out cheques to facilitate the salaries of civil servants and to pay for other services and goods on behalf of the State.
The simple fact is that the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Tillman Thomas towards the end of its tenure in office was forced to sell State assets to meet the wages of over 5, 000 civil servants on the payroll while the NNP had used up monies obtained under the CARICOM facility to help pay salaries and meet some of the other expenses of the government of the day.
The individual members of our society would have to be the final judge about the actions of both NNP and NDC on their handling of the public purse.
Did NNP deliberately borrow the money from the CARICOM facility under the guise of assistance to the Grenada Coast Guard but knew that it was really borrowed to address among other things a lack of funds in the Treasury to meet a possible shortfall in salaries to civil servants?
THE NEW TODAY is, however, more concerned with our government finally coming up with a serious plan to address the huge wage bill paid out each month to civil servants.
Quite frankly, $25-28 million dollars is too much to be found each month by any government running a country the size of Grenada and given its population.
This become even more important given the fact that this island is forced to rely mainly on taxes and not the export trade to bring in the bulk of money needed by government to do the things that are expected of it.
The current rulers will have to seriously address this issue of the payroll as part of the so-called home grown Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that has the backing of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF).
This financial institution is known for its recommendation to governments that find themselves in similar hot waters like Grenada with a fiscal crisis to always look firstly as its wage bill in order to tackle the problem head on.
THE NEW TODAY is also concerned with the fact that hundreds of civil servants are getting thousands of dollars each month under false pretense whether deliberately so or through no fault of theirs.
A situation often surfaces within the public service every five years
where an incoming administration would purge several ministries of civil servants who are considered to be supporters of the previous regime.
Currently, there are credible reports of several civil servants in the newly created Waste Management Unit who are paid to do literally nothing or little of substance on a daily basis.
Can you imagine that some middle level civil servants can be seen on
desks on a daily basis doing only one thing – opening up incoming mails?
It happened to some extent under the previous NDC government but not as vulgar as what currently obtains.
Some known “NNP” supporters were sidelined while many others refused to work and co-operate with the Tillman Thomas-led administration and openly stated that they will only work when their party returns to power.
The politicians have not given any visible signs or evidence that they are prepared to address this vexing problem that is causing a severe strain on the nation’s financial purse.
Every succeeding government is leaving behind too many undesirables on the public payroll and at the end of the day Grenada ends up with a bloated civil service that can only be paid through higher taxes that are imposed on the backs of the population.
If the SAP fails to find a solution to the problem then the vicious cycle will continue and ten years hence it is more than likely that the country would be once more forced to go on its knees to beg our international creditors for another “hair cut”.
Finally, THE NEW TODAY would like the powers now in charge to come before the public and fully explain the agreement that was signed with the representatives of our foreign bondholders on the 50% hair cut that was agreed upon as part of the debt restructuring.
There is talk in the international community that one aspect of the deal is that the bondholders will be getting a slice of the proceeds from the sale of our passports under the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI).
Is this slice amounting to the 50% that the bondholders are giving up right now with the understanding that they will recuperate it down the road? If that is the case then there is no 50% haircut.
Our countrymen have been asked to make sacrifices including accepting a wage freeze in the public service and to pay more in many forms of taxes to the State and no one should hide from them the various aspects of the agreement that was reached with the bondholders.