It’s now official – government has decided to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to look into the bankrupt state of affairs of the Marketing & National Importing Board.
The announcement was made at Tuesday’s press briefing by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The decision came against the backdrop of a report carried in last week’s edition of THE NEW TODAY newspaper in which the outgoing Chairman of MNIB, Simon Andrew literally threw the former Chief Executive Officer of the state-owned body, Ruel Edwards under the bus for the “the parlous state of finances at the MNIB”
The blazing attack on the former CEO just fell short of accusing him of gross mismanagement of the enterprise that was set up back in the days of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution to give a boost to agriculture and to guarantee the nation’s farmers a market for their produce.
Mr. Andrew said in part: “Initially, the parlous state of finances at the MNIB was only revealed to me when a colleague telephoned me to indicate that a foreign sugar supplier was seeking redress for the payment of outstanding amounts for sugar supplies after numerous successive undertakings to pay from the CEO were not honoured.
These facts of financial expose were previously concealed from the Board for almost two (2) full years.
Upon receiving the query from the supplier, I requested a full report on the financial status of the MNIB; the Board was stunned into silence, regarding the extent to which the true financial status of the MNIB was concealed.
As Chairman, I took the responsible action of bringing this development to the attention of the Minister with Responsibility for Economic Development at the time, Minister Oliver Joseph. I kept Minister Oliver Joseph continuously appraised of the situation at Marketing Board, at times even drawing the ire of the CEO.
There is nothing that the Board or the Chairman could have done differently in circumstances where they were denied critical financial information.
It was the duty of the CEO to report, honestly, accurately, timely and objectively, on the operations of the Organisation to the Board of Directors following the unwritten but agreed protocol of full engagement and full disclosure.
Realistically, the Board can only function effectively and make effective decisions based on full disclosure of information and sound information coming from top management via the office of the Chief Executive Officer”.
Given the above, it is clear that the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Mitchell knew of the situation existing at MNIB when he reassigned Mr. Edwards to another top-paying job at the expense of the taxpayers of the country.
THE NEW TODAY is doubtful that Minister Oliver Joseph would have hid the information provided to him by the Board of Directors of MNIB from the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers about the perceived mismanagement of this vital state body under the stewardship of Mr. Edwards.
There must be some underlying reason why Dr. Mitchell, armed with such information, would still employ Mr. Edwards and give him another lucrative contract.
Is it politically-related? Does it have anything to do with the fact that Mr. Edwards is considered a key man for the Mitchell-led government in the passporting selling scheme known as the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme?
Mr. Edwards comes from a strong and active NNP household in the St. George North-east constituency where his late father popularly known as “Waist” in the area served for many years as a key political activist for the Prime Minister.
NNP insiders have said that Mr. Edwards was being considered as a possible candidate for the constituency in the lead up to the 2013 general election as the party strategised on how to defeat the Congress leader, Nazim Burke at the polls.
His name was eventually removed from the short list of potential candidates as NNP supporters in the constituency did not give him a nod of approval on grounds that he was considered as too aloof and did not mix with the ordinary man on the ground.
Mr. Edwards was viewed in some quarters as a useful tool for the NNP when he assumed the position of Manager at the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) and then later on as President of the Grenada Chamber of Industry & Commerce (GCIC).
This newspaper got a hint that something wrong was happening at MNIB under Mr. Edwards’ watch about 3 years ago when we picked up more than credible information that he was seeking to leave Grenada for a job in the region.
The NNP regime has had a rather checkered past when it comes to setting up Commissions of Inquiry to look into sordid affairs in the country.
The most notorious was the Cheltenham Inquiry into the infamous Briefcase scandal following the David Marchant expose of Dr. Mitchell allegedly receiving a briefcase containing US$500, 000.00 in 2000 from convicted fraudster, Eric Resteiner in Switzerland as a bribe to obtain a diplomatic passport and position.
The local media was threatened to feel the wrath and full might and power of the government if they carried the report.
Although Cheltenham did not put the PM on the witness stand and concluded that nothing wrong was found, the Prime Minister has not up to this day sought to challenge a report from the
U.S government that it has in its possession the videotape of that transaction involving Dr. Mitchell and Resteiner in Switzerland.
The taxpayers money was also used to facilitate a Commission of Inquiry into the 2017 Panorama fiasco and one year later the people of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique are still kept in the dark on the outcome of the investigation.
Would the MNIB probe be anything different? Let’s wait and see.