Currently, our people are crying out about how tough the country has become. All over: Sandy Bay, Barrouallie, Kingstown, Bequia, Union Island and Mespo, people tell me they have never met it so hard in their life!
Even ULP supporters, say so. Many even go so far as admitting that under the NDP government, things were better for them. They could comfortably feed their families. They could send their children to school properly dressed and eager to learn. They could fix the leak in their house roof and buy tires or spare parts to keep their vehicles on the road. But all that has changed. Under Ralph, the place has become as tough as stone. And life is hard.
The government continues to fail miserably when it comes to financial accountability. We have noted before how they violate the Constitution and Finance Administration Act by failing to do what is required to ensure public financial accountability. The leaders and apologists continue to heap scorn and contempt on the people, even when the most basic legal demands for accountability are made. Papa Gonsalves as Prime Minister and Baby Gonsalves as Minister of Finance bear the greatest share of the blame. They continue to flout their responsibility to uphold the nation’s Constitution and account to the people.
I have said it before: “In a modern democratic society, public funds cannot be spent in the dark. The law does not allow it and we, hand in hand with the Vincentian people will not allow the government to break the law with impunity.”
When our people of all walks of life take stock, they see gross mismanagement of their affairs by the government, they see violent crime threatening the fabric of society, they see nepotism, insatiable greed, corruption, exploited workers with no recourse (e.g. Ottley Hall), high unemployment, especially among the youth, bad roads, poor health services, schools in disrepair that’s putting it mildly, increasing taxes such as VAT, increasing electricity prices, increasing food prices, declining household incomes because so many are out of work, and businesses closing everyday.
Our people see their lives getting tougher by the day, while a privileged handful of people reap all the benefits. This is why we will continue to raise the accountability issue, and the day of reckoning is coming. Keep your ears to the ground, your eyes focussed and your pencil sharp. And when you get the chance, make it count by voting them out. That is the surest way to punish their violations and hold them to account.
Yarabaqua Project and the UnReliable Contract
Gonsalves has further shown his contempt for the people of this country in the recent Yarabaqua/CDB project scandal. We brought this matter to light and will continue to demand accountability for it from the government.
This involves the serious matter of the declaration by the CDB of misprocurement of contract in the work River Defense Works at Yarabaqua done under the Natural Disaster Management – Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (December 2013 Trough Event) Project. The value of the contract is EC$ 1, 421, 567.00. For a poor small country like ours, that is a lot of money.
You will recall that a year ago, on 14th September 2018, Mr. Cameron Balcombe managing director of Bally and Bally Investments Limited, wrote to the Chief Engineer in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Urban Development and Local Government objecting to the award of the contract in question to a company called Reliable Construction Services Limited. Bally and Bally was one of several companies that put in bids for the work because the winner of the contract was a company that failed to meet the criteria set out by the CDB for the contract, having necessary experience in gabion basket and river training work.
The government responded through the Chief Engineer, Mr. Alistair Campbell, saying essentially that they had hired a consultant, IBI Group of Canada to, “further review of the experience of Reliable Construction Services Ltd. And it confirmed the previous conclusion of the consultant and by extension, the MTW.” So, they refused to change their decision, to award the contract to Reliable Construction Services Ltd.
However, the CDB did not take their word for it, and conducted its own investigation. And what the CDB found was quite different from what the government found. They found that the procurement rules had been violated in awarding the contract and the CDB cancelled its financing of the contract.
Can you imagine that? The government reviewed the bidding process and said it found nothing wrong, so it said it would stick with its decision to give Reliable Construction the contract. The CDB, on the other hand, found the violation of the procurement (bidding) process was so serious that, for the sake of its good name and integrity, it had to withdraw from the project.
Then what was the government’s response to the CDB’s withdrawal? Instead of saying “Something stinks here” and noting that the CDB would not cancel without good reason, and then resolve to get to the bottom of it, the government went into damage control mode. And ultimately said to hell with the CDB, to hell with the other contractors who had an interest in the outcome to the matter, to hell with Friday and the NDP, to hell with anyone else who might question them: we are going ahead as if nothing is wrong and guess what: the money will come from government’s funds. The work would now to be funded by the government, not the CDB.
But where is the money coming from? Parliament did not approve any other money for it. So, the money will have to be asked for separately. Will this be another part of the spending spree where the government spends money without informing Parliament and seeking its approval?