The Integrity Commission and its head, Anande Trotman-Joseph are facing a serious question about their own integrity following a press conference held last week Wednesday to brief the local media on their role in a controversial Inquiry into alleged wrong-doings at the state-owned Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB).
THE NEW TODAY was able to extract certain information from Trotman-Joseph which now cast dark shadows over any investigation to be carried out by the Integrity Commission into the alleged financial mismanagement of this national treasure that was created by the 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG).
One of the most revealing things which this newspaper was able to ascertain from the head of the commission is that one of their own, Accountant Rupert Agostini is on record as being the Auditor for the very MNIB that her body is now investigating.
Trotman-Joseph missed two golden opportunities during the Press Conference to inform reporters up front about Agostini’s involvement in the MNIB as a paid and hired hand of the state enterprise.
The first came when she was asked to name the members of the Integrity Commission and the other occasion was in addressing the issue of Michele Emmanuel-Steele, the wife of Health Minister Nicholas Steele who resigned from the Integrity Commission in 2013 when her husband decided to get involved in frontline politics.
The Integrity Commission Chief was forced to spring into action when it was pointed out to her at a later stage of the press conference that the Integrity of the Integrity Commission was on the line as the body was now engaged in investigating a state body in which one of its members was deeply involved and was on its payroll.
Mr. Agostini’s membership on the Integrity body was a controversial one from the onset of his appointment.
This gentleman was known in the 1990’s to be openly appearing on programmes in the media to promote the ruling New National Party (NNP) and current Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
As the Auditor for MNIB, the unfolding events now raise serious questions about his competence in handling the MNIB books and preparing financial statements to be presented to Parliament in keeping with the law.
Mr. Agostini is the Auditor for the Marketing Board since 2013 and apparently did not discover anything that would have raised a single red flag about the financial mess that this critical state-owned enterprise had found itself in under the watch of former CEO, Ruel Edwards and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Samuel Andrew.
Secondly, Mr. Agostini is known to be the Auditor for several other state-owned bodies like Gravel & Concrete and the Grenada Airports Authority.
As Chairman Trotman-Joseph indicated the goodly gentleman has decided to recuse himself from the ongoing probe into MNIB by the Integrity Commission.
Is he going to remove himself from future inquiries to be conducted by the Integrity Commission into problems that might be discovered in other state-controlled bodies where he serves as their Auditor?
The Integrity Commission needs a member who is not tied up in such a manner as Mr. Agostini but someone who can serve with honour and without fingers being pointed at him/her.
Mr. Agostini should do the decent and honourable thing and remove himself permanently from the Integrity Commission at this stage.
Trotman-Joseph should also do the same in light of her own statement that Michele Emmanuel-Steele took the high ground where integrity is concerned and resigned from the Commission when her husband took the decision to get involved in politics with NNP.
In response to a pointed question as to why she did not follow the example set by Emmanuel-Steele given the role of her own husband Dr. Lawrence Joseph as the island’s Acting Attorney-General in the current NNP regime, she dismissed it by referring to him as a “Professional” AG.
THE NEW TODAY wishes to remind the Head of the Integrity Commission who is Guyanese that she can be excused somewhat about the political developments in Grenada in the 1990’s and Dr. Joseph’s own involvement in partisan politics as she was not yet living in the country.
Are we not talking about the same Dr. Joseph who contested the St. Andrew South-east and the St. Andrew’s South-west seat as a candidate for NNP in two successive elections in the 1990’s?
Isn’t Dr. Joseph the same person who held political positions with the NNP government as Minister of Legal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister of Labour and President of the Senate?
In light of this disclosure Trotman-Joseph should follow the worthy example of Michele Emmanuel-Steele and remove herself from the Integrity Commission to save its integrity.
Half of the persons serving on the Integrity Commission fall into the category of politically-exposed and as such this body cannot be trusted with carrying out any meaningful and proper investigation into the alleged wrongful acts at MNIB.
An independent and Public Commission of Inquiry as provided for in the laws of Grenada is what should be taking place in MNIB after certain things are done including an independent audit of its finances and a criminal investigation by FIU.
Prime Minister Mitchell might be on trial as much as Ruel Edwards in a serious inquiry given the amount of contradicting statements made by him at recent press conferences.
A case in point is Dr. Mitchell’s assertion last month that he did not know of the alleged wrong-doing at MNIB under Ruel Edwards when he was given the top-paying job in the Ministry of Finance this year in which he is the Line Minister.
This is what PM Mitchell told reporters at the end of July: “I am one who is convinced that we must all be accountable to the people of the country and if mistakes were made, wrong doings were made, then it has to be exposed accordingly and no one is above the law, I am not above the law. 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 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”.
Can anyone trust the current Integrity Commission as led by Anande Trotman-Joseph to put PM Mitchell to the sword since that statement brings into serious question his competence as the MNIB Line Minister as he is admitting that he did not know what he took over from then Economic Development Minister, Oliver Joseph in terms of the wretched state of the finances of the Marketing Board?
Samuel Andrew said publicly that he told Minister Joseph a number of things about the handling of the MNIB affairs and its finances by Ruel Edwards – so is the Prime Minister speaking the truth when he implied to reporters that he did not know anything about the alleged misdeeds at MNIB when the job was given to the former MNIB CEO in his own ministry?
When did Dr. Mitchell know of the Court Order to garnish the government account as obtained by a local lawyer due to MNIB’s failure to make payments on an outstanding debt of close to one million E.C dollars?