(Excerpts of Dr. Friday’s Press Statement)
Fraud Against the CDB
The bank is headed by a Board of Governors, which is the highest policy making body of CDB. All of the powers of CDB are in the hands of the Board of Governors. The board of Governors delegates oversight of Bank operations to the Board of Directors, which is chaired by the President of the Bank.
You will note the reference above to “good governance”. About that particular subject, the CDB says that the bank “strives to ensure that its processes, practices and systems conform with, and adhere to applicable corporate governance standards.”
And as a result of its strict adherence to international standards of good governance, the CDB enjoys top of the line ratings on the international financial markets: “CDB is rated Aa1, Stable with Moody’s; AA+, Stable with Standard and Poor’s; and AA+, Stable with Fitch.” Indeed, the CDB is one of the most highly regarded institutions in the entire region, possibly the world, and justifiably so.
Finally, in relation to the CDB’s governance, you should note (from the CDB’s website), that Camillo Gonsalves, who was elevated to the position of Minister of Finance in SVG by his father, Ralph Gonsalves, is one of the CDB’s Governors. As Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves sits on the CDB’s Board of Governors; at the highest decision-making level in the CDB. Ralph was the on the CDB’s Board of Governors, for the previous 15 years or so prior to Camillo, when he was Finance Minister.
I make the point about Ralph and Camillo being at the highest decision-making levels of the CDB for the past 18 years, to put the matter into context. As members of the CDB’s Board of Governors, these two men were responsible for ensuring that, across the Caribbean, the CDB performed in accordance with the highest principles, standards and practices of good governance, as the CDB’s mandate says. That obligation comes with the position.
I invite you to check the CDB’s website, to see all of this for yourself. And I want Vincentians to reflect on this fact, because when you look at that in context of what Ralph is doing now, it demonstrates exactly what is happening here. I want to emphasize that the CDB did not take its decision to declare misprocurement lightly. It is not a small matter when the CDB declares misprocurement on a project being executed by one of the ministries of a borrowing member country and calls back for its money.
The action taken by the CDB has greatly displeased Ralph, whose son, as Minister of Finance of SVG, is on the CDB’s Board of Governors, its highest decision-making body. Ralph has made his displeasure public and he is using all sorts of tortured explanations and deflection to make it look like the CDB is somehow at fault or in error here. The CDB however has stood its ground, because they have a responsibility to act in the interest of the bank and the public. This is enshrined in their charter and their mission. But what we see, very clearly here, is that Ralph Gonsalves has absolutely no concern for the public interest, and no intention of being guided by the CDB’s best practices and good example.
What is Ralph Gonsalves’ interest? Let’s go to the heart of the process. On a properly organized public project where rules and ethics are being observed, several things must happen. First, there is a minimum number of bidders allowed, normally three. The reason for this is obvious. You don’t want a situation where only one company is allowed to bid for a large contract, because that encourages corruption. You need an element of competition, to protect the public interest.
Remember, this is not Ralph Gonsalves spending his own personal money on his estate. He is spending public money. Our money! The money provided to this government by the CDB under the terminated funding arrangement must be repaid, one way or the other, and this is done by taxing you the people… all of us. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance and Minister of Transport and Works can’t just decide to spend your money however they like.
But, that’s exactly the problem! Let’s get back to the process. After the bids are submitted, they must be evaluated. The bid evaluation or tender evaluation is based on technical and financial factors and the evaluation process results in a ranked list of bidders. The bidder who achieves the best overall score in the evaluation is invited to negotiate a contract. So, when the evaluation is complete, there is a ranking of bidders: Number 1, number 2, 3 and so on. If for any reason the number 1 evaluated bidder is removed from contention, the second-ranked bidder is invited to negotiate to perform the project.
The intervention of the CDB in this project in question (Yarabaqua River defense work) was decisive: it essentially removed the number 1 ranked bidder from contention; even though this happened after the contract was awarded. In this case, an ethical government interested in doing the right thing would have simply invited the next evaluated bidder, whoever that was, to come in and negotiate for a contract to carry on the works. There is no need for any “long tendering process” at this point, as Gonsalves has claimed. The tendering process has already taken place and it would be an automatic process. That is, it would be an automatic process if the people in charge are interested in following the rules, to move to the next evaluated bidder.
Any government having any interest in ethics, good governance or the public interest would have done this! But the behavior of Ralph Gonsalves in this matter confirms the fact that he is running a dishonest, unethical and corrupt regime, and they have no intention of following any rules, laws or code of ethics.