Trade union representative in the Senate, Rae Roberts has alluded to some form of corrupt practices taking place under the watch of the 18-month old government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
Roberts made the charge during his presentation in the Senate at a meeting called to pass legislation dealing with the Procurement of Government Services on the island.
The Trade union representative took up a challenge from Junior Minister of Information, Senator Sheldon Scott to point to any corrupt practices that was taking place since Prime Minister Mitchell returned to power in the February 2013 general elections.
In his previous stint between 1995 and 2008, Dr. Mitchell was often dogged by allegation of corruption including the infamous US$500, 000.00 briefcase scandal in Switzerland involving imprisoned fraudster, Eric Resteiner.
Sen. Roberts told the meeting of the Upper House that the husband of a senior Permanent Secretary was the one removing debris from the site of the Athletic Stadium that was being rebuilt by China.
He raised questions about whether a tendering process ever took place for the award of this particular contract.
“The rebuilding of the athletic stadium – more corruption – the task to remove the debris at the site of construction is the job of the spouse of another senior officer. This is the norm in statutory bodies in which the board is handpicked by the minister”, he told the Senate.
Following are highlights of some of the remarks made by Sen. Roberts on the Procurement of Services Bill:
“Mr. President, the one objection to this Bill, which will manage the Procurement of services for the state of Grenada, is how the Board of Directors is constituted. For us in the Labour Movement it needs to have greater transparency – and if that is done we have a perfect Bill.
The Bill gives the Minister the power to appoint up to seven members who shall include the Attorney General, the Permanent Secretary Finance – both functionaries of the state, along with five others in the deliberate judgment of the minister.
History shows that such a construction of a state board is generally a recipe for corruption. This Procurement Bill, which covers a wide variety of goods and services, consultancy and more is a money bonanza – and no doubt about it, money corrupts – very often who pays the piper calls the tune.
Mr. President, the government brilliantly demonstrate that it is the model of transparency and good governance by delegating two of the positions on the board to its Committee of Social partners – the grouping of Churches, Business, Civil Society and Workers – let them choose two persons and let the minister appoint them to serve on the Board.
Among other things, the government will be demonstrating to the nation its great confidence in the Social Partners apart from the praises in lovely speeches broadcast in the media.
Mr. President, I strongly challenge the Leader of Government Business here in the Senate to make this amendment to the Bill – – say to our Prime Minister – this is the right thing to do.
The public perception of statutory bodies is they are generally the playground of the government of the day – Chairman and members are mere actors – they do what the minister wants.
I did listen to the House debate and shockingly the Minister of Economic Development, Honourable Oliver Joseph and Minister of Health, Dr. (Clarice) Modeste were strongly in favour of amending the Bill, allowing public officers and that could include ministers to bid to provide services and goods.
Then there was North East St. George Representative Honourable Tobias Clement who disliked the word good governance in the Bill, and wanted it replaced.
The Prime Minister and his Attorney General intervened, telling his colleague parliamentarians that universally, legislation generally disallows public officers who are an integral part of the administration from contracting their services because it sends a message of insider trading and corruption.
Mr. President through you to my colleagues on the other side, open your eyes – corruption is visible in government – one senior officer promoted after February 19 had to be reverted – awarding a government consultancy contract to the spouse.
The rebuilding of the athletic stadium – more corruption – the task to remove the debris at the site of construction is the job of the spouse of another senior officer. This is the norm in statutory bodies in which the board is handpicked by the minister.
Mr. President, this Bill, the Procurement of Services ought to set high standards and it must begin with a board that has broad representation.
Minister Gregory Bowen is correct that the World Bank focuses on accountability and good governance which is for the greater good of society – people must be held responsibility for the use of public funds – we must not be allowed to use tax payers money to give our spouses and friends privileged choice because we have a position of state power.
Minister names are being linked to security companies and ownership of hardware stores providing services to the government – we hear of these stories in the media and read them on Facebook! People lose confidence in the system when such stories linger on and on.
Grenadians, this BILL formalises how business is done in the procurement of services – it is your tax payers money – already this year we are hit with more than 15 new taxes – we in the labour movement have supported the government SAP and we trust that this procurement legislation will ensure that we get money for value – accountability and good governance.
Mr. President, again I urge the Government to heed the recommendation of two representatives from the Social Partners to serve on the Procurement board – surely, it will help minimise corruption – therefore heed to wise counseling.