Government launches investigation into MNIB finances

The Grenada government has agreed to launch an investigation into the grave financial situation now being experienced at the state-owned Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB), according to Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.

Prime Minister Mitchell – it is frightening at MNIB

Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the weekly Post-Cabinet Press Briefing at the Ministerial Complex at the Botanical Gardens, Prime Minister Mitchell said that no one will be “left out of the loop” as all who are involved in the affairs of MNIB must take some responsibility for what is happening.

He acknowledged that MNIB is “in a lot of problems” and a Commission of Inquiry is needed to fix the situation.

The Prime Minister disclosed that the investigation will cover only the last five years of the New National Party (NNP) rule and not the 2008-13 term of Congress under former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.

“The Marketing Board is such an important area for us. The Cabinet supported my recommendation on Monday to institute a public inquiry into the operations of the Marketing Board for the last five years.

We’re not touching NDC time – I’m dealing with our time. It tells you that our job is to find out the facts and let the chips fall where it supposed to,” he said.

THE NEW TODAY had broken the story about the dire financial strait that MNIB has found itself under the watch of former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ruel Edwards who has been relieved of the job and handed another lucrative posting in the Ministry of Finance.

Former Chairman of the board, Samuel Andrew has since accused Edwards of hiding the financial situation of the state enterprise from board members over the years.

Dr. Mitchell told reporters that the wrong doings that are now being exposed at MNIB are “extremely uncomfortable.”

He said: “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 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.

“I don’t like to tarnish people without the basis and facts but all I can say is that all of us have to accept responsibility. I cannot duck responsibility as the Prime Minister then because I appointed a minister and the minister cannot duck responsibility, the Chairman of the board and board members cannot duck responsibility, the manager cannot duct responsibility.

“So, we cannot say it’s one person or two persons or three persons, we all have to accept responsibility but we have to know who actually did what, and that is what we are going to find out from the commission.

A release was put out by government after the press briefing reiterated the administration’s intention to investigate the past dealings of the MNIB.

It quoted PM Mitchell as saying that the Marketing Board was established “to help the poor farmers, not satisfy the needs of a few”.

“You cannot care about a country and if you’re in a position of authority, you take a decision to garnish a Government account thereby putting the salaries of scores of workers at risk and jeopardising their ability to provide basic items for their families. I have a serious problem with that.

“Marketing Board was meant to maximise the production of the agricultural sector and put more money into the hands of farmers. It was not meant to become another Government bureaucracy that satisfies its friends and political affiliates.

Well-placed sources told THE NEW TODAY that a recent shortage of sugar on the local market was due to a key supplier refusing to hand over the commodity until payment was made for the goods.

The government release also said that PM Mitchell is concerned about wastage and corruption in the public sector.

He was quoted as saying: “While some persons in the public service are working extremely hard to protect the resources of our country, others tend to engage in practices that seem to promote wastage and corruption.

“We have to change the status quo; it is time to take a turn and I intend to lead that turn. If we do not get it right, the country will not make the kind of progress that it should.

The release did not pinpoint any specific case of alleged corruption and wrongdoing.

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