The many mixed signals coming from the government on the source of funds for the repurchase of majority shareholding interest in Grenlec from the U.S-based company, WRB Enterprises has once again brought to the forefront the need for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act in the country.
This is most critical in a so-called democracy like Grenada which is currently under one-man rule in which scant courtesy is paid to many institutions of the State including the Parliament.
Too many open and blatant lies are told in Parliament by several of the elected Members of Parliament on the side of the ruling New National Party (NNP) government.
A case in point is the last sitting of the Lower House when the MP for St. Patrick West, Anthony Boatswain stated that the NNP regime has never used foreign funds for purposes other than what it was intended for by the donor.
The Hon. Boatswain must have known that he was misleading the Parliament since he was a member of the NNP government when Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell disclosed that funds earmarked from a regional facility financed mainly from Trinidad & Tobago went into the Consolidated Fund and eventually used to pay the salaries of civil servants.
Mr. Boatswain as the then Minister of Finance is well-placed to inform the nation about the US$600, 000.00 that was given as a gift by the Republic of China on Taiwan to upgrade the Cuthbert Peters park in St. John and ended up somewhere in the St. Patrick area.
It is unfortunate that the Speaker of the House of Representative, Michael Pierre did not ask the St. Patrick MP to withdraw the misleading statement about use of funds by government so that it can be totally wiped out from the records of our Parliament.
The government of the day is getting away with “murder” in running the country due to a weak and almost non-functioning Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG) that is currently in the hands of persons “eating a food” from those now in charge of State power.
There appears to be fear among some sections of the media and probing questions are not asked of the government when certain suspect information is being peddled in the public domain.
The government has been giving all sorts of different explanations about the source of funds to satisfy the judgement from the International tribunal on the Grenlec shares.
Initially the nation was told that it came from savings from monies that were not spent from loans and grants received by government that were earmarked for some capital projects but Covid-19 hampered those efforts.
Fingers are now pointing in the direction of the National Transformation Fund (NTF) in which the country has been able to deposit monies received from the sale of Grenadian passports under the controversial Citizenship By Investment (CBI) Programme.
If journalists are armed with a Freedom of Information act then they can go the extra mile to probe into the Grenlec payment from the NTF which the government is apparently using without giving any account to Parliament.
THE NEW TODAY invites the public to read an article in this week’s issue that was written by retired Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) economist, Laurel Bain in which she raised a number of issues of national importance on the use of NFT funds.
Bain wrote: “In the system of good government, the Executive (Cabinet) is accountable to the Parliament. Therefore, Parliament should receive comprehensive reports on the operation of the National Transformation Fund and any other Funds established by an Act of Parliament.
“Reporting on the National Transformation Fund should be an integral part of the Budget. To omit reports on the National Transformation Fund undermines the credability of the Budget. This questions the comprehensiveness and hence the accuracy of the information; and the degree to which the Executive (Cabinet) has been accountable to the Parliament.
“The original intent of the legislation was for the operation of the Citizen by Investment Programme and the National Transformation Fund to be transparent. The Citizen by Investment Act (2013) Subsections 14 and 15 provided for the public disclosure of information.
“The non-disclosure of information from the National Transformation Fund and the exclusion of this information from the reports presented to Parliament could compromise the financial management system and the checks and balances for protecting the integrity of the system.
“It is the responsibility of the senior officers of the Ministry of Finance to advise the Executive (The Cabinet) on financial matters. Specifically, the Accountant General has to ensure that all expenditures were duly authorised and accurate and comprehensive records are maintained of the public accounts.
“Finally, the Public Accounts Committee has the parliamentary responsibility to examine the public accounts and report to Parliament. It is doubtful whether these requirements for efficient financial management were implemented as reports on the National Transformation Fund were not presented to Parliament”.
The above is food for thought to all Grenadians especially those public officers in high places who seemingly forget that it is them and not the politicians who might end up in jail for the misuse of public funds.
THE NEW TODAY calls on the Leader of the Opposition, Tobias Clement to proceed with haste and file his lawsuit to get the government to give full disclosure on the source of funds for the Grenlec transaction.
The government-of-the-day can make a thousand laws to govern its financial operations but the legality of the law and whether it is in conflict with provisions of the Constitution can only be determined by the Judiciary and not the Cabinet of Ministers of the NNP which is dominated by Prime Minister Mitchell.
If anything else, when the history of Grenada is written for this period, Mr. Clement can emerge as someone who helped to save the day for democracy in this country by halting the forward march of a dictatorship that is bent on creating a one-party state.
The Opposition Leader has a significant role to play in helping to slow down the break neck speed at which the nation is fast coming down hill with the NNP train that is led by someone who is only concerned with clinging onto power and is no longer able to bring any inspirational leadership to the people of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique as can be seen from Covid-19.