The plight of our statutory bodies

“What goes around really comes around”.

It is rather interesting that nearly a quarter of a century later, the status of our state-owned bodies are coming right back to occupy centre stage in our national discourse.

Too many Grenadians are just too young to be familiar with the one-man Commission of Inquiry into the operations of several statutory corporations in the 1984-90 period of the first New National Party (NNP) government of the late H.A Blaize.

Current Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell was then Minister of Works and was the line minister for a number of these bodies that came up for review – Gravel & Concrete, Central Water Commission which has since been renamed NAWASA, as well as the now defunct Central Garage Corporation, and the Grenada Rock Asphalt and Concrete Products Limited which has since gone out of existence.

Former Prime Minister Blaize invited retired high court judge of Barbados Lindsay Worrell to investigate the happenings in these state-run bodies.

Commissioner Worrell mentioned in his report that there were “malpractices” including the disappearance of several key documents at Gravel & Concrete as disclosed by the evidence presented to the commission by several witnesses.

He said he was clear in his conviction that “the disappearance of these documents was a deliberate attempt to conceal the extent of misappropriation of the funds of the Corporation and maladministration”.

Dr. Mitchell has been in charge of this country for longer than any other Prime Minister in the history of Grenada – 15 years as opposed to approximately four for Nicholas Brathwaite and Tillman Thomas, both of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

What did he do in light of glaring reports of wrong-doing that took place in these statutory bodies by persons highlighted in the report for suspicious activities under his watch?

Can he now be surprised at the financial disasters of these statutory bodies and the strain on the Treasury.

The truth of the matter is that the NNP which has been in charge of Grenada for most of the years since the demise of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution of late PM Maurice Bishop has used the statutory bodies as “Happy Hour” for many of its supporters.

It was not uncommon to hear reports of known party supporters and loyalists getting short-term contracts to work at Gravel & Concrete for three months but 20 years later these persons are still on the wage bill earning thousands of dollars.

Even the Group of Consultants hired by the present NNP government of Dr. Mitchell operating under the banner name, CARTAC, alluded to the fat salaries paid to some Managers of state bodies as compared to existing salary levels in the Public and Private sectors.

It is doubtful that these same managers can get a middle-level job at a reputable private sector business paying them that amount of money.

THE NEW TODAY is hearing reports that one of the managers of these loss-making statutory bodies is even making demands for an increase in his salary which is already over the EC$10, 000 a month mark.

There is no escape for Dr. Mitchell this time around as he would finally have to address the issue of these state-controlled entities in light of the “demands” of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the so-called self imposed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).

With the exception of the Grenada National Lottery Authority (GNLA), all the other statutory bodies are facing different levels of financial constraints.

There are no easy solutions to the problems like the mass sending home of workers to cut cost because that in itself can impact negatively on the economy.

Will a private sector entity come to the rescue of some of these corporations and take over the compensation packages running into millions that might be due to workers as part of their union contracts?

Does any of the corporations have sufficient financial resources at their disposal to sever ties with a number of workers?

It is believed that the situation on this score is rather bleak for workers at the National Water & Sewerage Authority who will be entitled to payments running into millions.

This newspaper is happy that it is Dr. Mitchel who is back at the helm to deal with a problem that started under his watch and was allowed to get out of hand for political reasons.

The only problem is that Dr. Mitchell has aged and questions are being raised about his current energy levels to tackle the myriads of problems affecting not only the statutory bodies but the country’s economic revival.

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