The New Today

Commentary

Squandermania again

When I was growing up in Grenada during my early teens I heard quite a lot about the term squandermania, connected with Premier Eric Gairy. It involved the crazy misuse of public funds, the waste and lavish, unauthorised dissipation of public funds contrary to law.

In this time when the NNP government is struggling to keep the roads in a good state of repair, when we have a major catastrophe on our western main road, when we cannot find the money to pay WRB/GPP for their shares in GRENLEC, when the COVID crisis has further crippled our national revenue stream, the issue of how we spend the little money that we have or is due to us is even more relevant.

Let me ring the alarm bell all over again! All the signs are pointing to the inevitable conclusion that there is squandermania taking place all over again in Grenada. As citizens, we must all be very concerned about the eventuality of monies being received by public officials, clearly on behalf of Grenada, and contrary to the established law in place in Grenada.

Further it seems to be quite apparent also, that monies are being paid out to persons and for purposes that are contrary to the clear direction of our Supreme Law, the Constitution of Grenada. I am making a sincere plea up front to the Governor General of Grenada, as the representative of Her Majesty the Queen, to commission an enquiry into the use of all Public Funds other than the Consolidated Fund, to ensure compliance with the dictates of the Constitution of Grenada.

What does the Constitution of Grenada say?
Sections 75 and 76 of the Constitution of Grenada squarely addresses the matter of public funds. The relevant sections are reproduced below.

75. Consolidated Fund
All revenues or other monies raised or received by Grenada (not being revenues or other monies that are payable, by or under any law for the time being in force in Grenada, into some other fund established for any specific purpose) shall be paid into and form a Consolidated Fund.

76.Withdrawals from Consolidated Fund or other public funds

(2) Where any monies are charged by this Constitution or any law enacted by Parliament upon the Consolidated Fund or any other public fund, they shall be paid out of that fund by the Government of Grenada to the person or authority to whom payment is due.

(3) No monies shall be withdrawn from any public fund other than the Consolidated Fund unless the issue of those monies has been authorised by or under any law.

(4) Parliament may prescribe the manner in which withdrawals may be made from the Consolidated Fund or any other public fund.

Again, I raise the Oath of Office that has been sworn to by the Prime Minister and other office holders.

Oath of Office I, Keith Claudius Mitchell, do swear that I will faithfully execute the office of Prime Minister without fear or favour, affection or ill-will and that in the execution of the functions of that office I will HONOUR, UPHOLD AND PRESERVE THE CONSTITUTION OF GRENADA. So help me God.

What our constitution says is communicated in very plain and simple English language. It needs no interpretation, but for the avoidance of doubt I will attempt to break it down even further.

(a) Money due to Grenada
It cannot be made any clearer, than to say that “all revenues or other monies”; so it does not matter if you call it a “contribution” or a fee that is set by law, whatever it may be, that payment shall be paid into the Consolidated Fund except if the Parliament of Grenada has passed a law directing the money into some other fund. There must be a law passed by Parliament that directs the payment of certain monies into identified public funds that have been set up by Parliament for defined and identified purposes.

Now I pose the questions and I demand an answer from this NNP administration on behalf of all the people of Grenada:

(i). Have all monies due to Grenada been placed into the Consolidated Fund?

(ii). If not, where is the law which allows the money received to be put into some other public fund?

When Keith Mitchell received the money in the briefcase it was not his money as he claimed later, it was money due to Grenada to assist Grenada in having its Prime Minister carry out his official duties, according to Keith Mitchell himself. Keith Mitchell was not on a holiday or on private business at the relevant time because he carried along several police officers who were on government time.

Here are questions to be asked on behalf of the people of Grenada:

(I). How many more of these so-called “gifts of money” have been received by our ministers of foreign affairs and other agents or servants of the people of Grenada from foreign persons or groups, especially those who have received our diplomatic passports from the NNP administration?

(II). Didn’t Resteiner, now a criminal convict, receive a diplomatic appointment from this NNP government too, with a diplomatic passport?

(III). How many diplomatic passports were given to persons associated with the Shrimp Farm project and other CBI projects like the Kitwana Bay project in Morne Rouge?

(IV). How much money was received from the recipients of the diplomatic passports?

(V). Where have those payments been deposited and can these payments be accounted for?

One of the obvious reasons why our constitution insists upon such an arrangement is clearly to avoid public officials from being accused of receiving bribes and thus having the name of Grenada ridiculed in the international community as it was in the briefcase scandal.

Money to be paid out:
Again, it is clear and obvious that our Constitution requires oversight of all the monies that form part of the Consolidated Fund or any public fund. As it stands at present, there is a huge flexibility that has already been taken by the Executive on account of the millions that have been placed in the unestablished personnel section of the annual budget from which the Prime Minister draws down to pay his hand- picked people in the road gangs and to pay his hand-picked people who have contracts issued by his administration. Further, there are the tens of millions paid out in hand-outs to his selected young people in the IMANI program. You would have thought that the flexibility provided so far was enough. Maybe it would have been enough for most Prime Ministers, but not for King Keith.

The NNP administration has established certain other Public Funds that the general public is unaware of and/or uninformed about.

(1). Has there been any debate in the Parliament of Grenada about the existence or formation of all of the particularly named Public Funds?

(2). If there has been any such debate in Parliament, has there been any resolution by Parliament about the method of removing monies and about how monies would be removed from those Public Funds?

(3). So, where is the law that governs such a removal, according to section 75 (3) of the Constitution?

I will continue to ask such questions about the accountability of public funds until the people of Grenada get answers to questions about how the monies, that are designated for public accounts or funds, are being monitored and accounted for.

The Integrity Commission has declared that the son of Keith Mitchell has a contract with the government of Grenada, as a legal adviser to his father, the minister/ministry of finance, and he is not being paid out of the Consolidated Fund but out of a special fund called the Technical Assistance Fund.

As we found out before, Parliament is supposed to have passed a law to authorise the withdrawal of monies from that Technical Assistance Fund. The people of Grenada ought to be informed about what else the Technical Assistance Fund is being used to pay for.

We can all go to the Budget document passed in Parliament and find out the salaries of all public servants. But we cannot do the same for people who are being paid out of those special funds. I have been reliably informed that the concubine of the Prime Minister, who resigned from the post of Permanent Secretary in his ministry on January 1st, 2020, months after I filed an official complaint against her with the Integrity Commission, is currently being paid as an Advisor to the Ministry/ministry of finance.

I ask the following questions about the management of this Technical Assistance Fund:

(1). Where is the law to be found which Parliament has passed to authorise withdrawals from this Fund?

(2). Where is the authority to decide how much money is to be withdrawn from the fund for the intended purpose?

I would dearly love for the Prime Minister to publicly state that his concubine is not being paid out of any Public Fund, or to show the legality of such a payment if this is indeed the case. Is he still trying to shut up people from asking for the information that they are entitled to have by saying, “don’t go there”?

I am again asking the Governor General, Madame La Grenade, to commission an enquiry into the withdrawal of funds from all public funds, especially the Technical Assistance Fund and the Transformation Fund. I am also recommending that a forensic audit of those Public Funds must be a part of any such enquiry.

I have repeatedly said that our Prime Minister seems to be of the view that he has absolute authority to do as he pleases with public funds. Keith Mitchell will not be Prime Minister for ever and as Grenadians we have to ensure that his party will not survive him in Parliament so that no one will be able to organise another sham enquiry like the one we had with the briefcase matter.

Dr. Keith Mitchell, your day of reckoning will soon come and the massive squandermania will be unearthed to your great shame. Your true legacy will then be clear for all to see. We are ready to vote, so please call the general elections soon.

(Cajeton Hood is an attorney-at-law and served as Attorney General in the 2013-18 period in government of the New National Party of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell)

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