Inquiry or sham?

The nation should follow closely the unfolding events surrounding the state-owned Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB) and the apparent misuse and abuse of its funds and resources within the past five years under the current New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.

The situation is even more alarming given the admittance to this newspaper by the controversial former Chief Executive Officer of MNIB, Ruel Edwards that he actually purchased one of the vehicles owned by the state body while serving as its boss.

Isn’t this clear evidence of open and vulgar insider trading that should never be condoned in a business environment?

THE NEW TODAY is warning Grenadians to pay particular attention to the kind of Commission of Inquiry that is set up by PM Mitchell and his government to investigate the affairs of MNIB.

The only inquiry that will make sense is the one provided for in the Commission of Inquiry act as anything otherwise will amount to a sham and attempt to cover-up by the current political directorate.

The people must pay particular attention to the composition of the members of the Inquiry and the terms of reference.

The Marketing Board is in a financial mess and heads must roll for the wanton abuse of the taxpayers money.

The little bit of information now out in the public domain would suggest that the Board of Directors did a poor job at looking after the state enterprise.

The outgoing chairman, Samuel Andrew has publicly admitted that the former CEO, Ruel Edwards hid the true financial situation of MNIB for years from the directors.

This is unacceptable on the part of the board. The MNIB Act is specific about the presentation of annual financial statement and report of the board has to go to the Director of Audit who will audit and sent to the Parliament, the highest decision-making body in the country.

This newspaper is making the bold statement that if Mr. Edwards was failing to have the reports done then the Board should have stepped in and reminded him of this major failure on his part.

The Board also had an obligation to recommend the dismissal of Mr. Edwards to the then line minister, Oliver Joseph (Minister of Economic Development) on the grounds of derelict of duties.

The firing of the CEO is not the responsibility of the board of directors but the substantive Minister.

In addition, there was a lawyer on the board in the person of Senator Kim George who is known to be very competent in the area of the law.

What was Ms. George telling other directors at board meetings in the face of the failure of the CEO to present to them the annual audited financial statement?

It is hard to believe that attorney Kim George would be part of alleged wrong doing as alluded to by former MNIB chairman Samuel Andrew in respect to Mr. Edwards conduct of the affairs of this state enterprise which was critical for farmers in the country.

Did Sen. George know anything about the sale of the MNIB vehicle to its CEO Mr. Edwards? A serious commission of inquiry would provide information on the board’s role in the sale of MNIB assets in what amounts to clear and illegal insider trading.

This is not a glass of mauby and a piece of cake being bought by the CEO from MNIB but the sale of assets belonging to a major state enterprise.

If the MNIB probe takes places under the Commission of Inquiry Act the Prime Minister will himself have to be called to the witness stand to give evidence of what he knew about the alleged wrongdoing at the state-owned corporation.

Dr. Mitchell has already made a public pronouncement at a recent press conference that he had discovered wrongdoing since he took over from Minister Oliver Joseph as the line minister for MNIB.

In his own words, he said the following: “As you know, I made the decision to take over the Marketing Board late October last year and re-appointed myself there (after the March 13 general election) and we made a dramatic decision of changing the board (of directors) of Marketing Board and then we found out a lot of things that we didn’t know or we are finding out some things that we were not aware of and some of them are very frightening and extremely uncomfortable, extremely uncomfortable”.

What is the “lot of things” that he found out at MNIB to the point that he deemed them to be “very frightening and extremely uncomfortable, extremely uncomfortable?”

These are very strong words from PM Mitchell who should be called upon in a properly constituted Commission of Inquiry to come out and tell all that he knows about the alleged wrongdoing at MNIB under the watch of Messrs Samuel and Edwards.

THE NEW TODAY also holds the view that the so-called Integrity Commission of Anande Trotman-Joseph if it really has teeth and clout should get involved in the MNIB saga and not only wait on the outcome of the Commission of Inquiry.

The commissioners have been telling us that they have their own mechanisms in place and work closely with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to investigate alleged wrongdoing by public officials including those linked to the MNIB situation.

What is clear at this stage is that there has been a complete breakdown in the running of the MNIB from the line minister, management, board of directors and the CEO of this vital state enterprise.

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