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Missing Oil & Gas Files could be hidden inside a government ministry

The National Gas Company of TT Ltd (NGC) and oil and gas company, Global Petroleum Group (GPG) have signed a commercial agreement. GPG is undertaking exploration and appraisal activities off south coast of Grenada. (Left to right) NGC chairman Gerry Brooks, GPG executive director Eduard Vasilyev and NGC president Mark Loquan, signed the agreement on March 19 at NGC's head office, Couva. PHOTO COURTESY NGC.

A senior retired top flight Public Officer believes that the top secret Russian Oil & Gas files which are reported to be missing and cannot be found by the 14-month old Congress government since the June 2022 general election that brought about regime change could be hidden by a public officer inside one of the government ministries.

Speaking to THE NEW TODAY, the ex-government employee did not rule out the possibility that a senior public officer who was closely aligned to the former New National Party (NNP) of Keith Mitchell was responsible for hiding the file away from Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell and the members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration.

He said that given the politicising of the public service over the years under Keith Mitchell, the possibility exists that a public officer handled the files in a particular manner based on instructions given by the last government especially when it came to certain sensitive files.

“…That file could very well be hidden somewhere in Finance. In the past files have gone missing when actually they were hidden in places that it took sometimes over a year to realise that is where the file was,” he added.

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell has announced the setting up of an Advisory Committee headed by former Congress Finance Minister Nazim Burke to help unravel the “mystery” of Grenada’s Oil & Gas arrangement that was signed by the NNP government and the Russian oilmen trading under the banner of Global Petroleum Group (GPG).

There has been little information coming out of GPG in recent months on their activities in Grenadian waters.

The ex-senior public officer who held the rank of Permanent Secretary did not rule out that some public officers would choose to hide certain files in their offices and not take them out of the government compound or even destroy them out of fear that if they get caught with them in their possession that can result in a criminal charge being slapped on them.

“If you hide it away where you know it won’t be found easily and that the time it will take to find the file, critical time will pass for implementing whatever….,” he said.

“It is either two options – either somebody took it away and it is in the possession of someone outside of the public service (or) it is hidden in a place (like) in a cabinet where it won’t be found easily and I suspect it is the latter,” he added.

The retired public officer told THE NEW TODAY that the situation which existed within the public service after the defeat of NNP at the polls was perfect for files to be handled in a particular manner.

He said the NNP Political Directorate and its top supporters in the public service did not envisage regime change and felt that the then ruling party might lose a few seats but not the entire government and did not see the need to remove sensitive documents at the time.

“…After the election I think there were attempts to hide the information knowing very well that they cannot take it away as was done in 2008 but they could hide it – put it somewhere where it cannot be easily found,” he remarked.

When the NNP lost power back in 2008 to Congress, a female party activist was intercepted moving out items in a huge black plastic bag.

According to the retired public officer, it was easy for NNP operatives in the public service to make files disappear due to the fact that with the new  government coming into office, a number of ministries and files had to be shifted around.

In addition, he said he heard that a number of files and documents had to be thrown away as they were affected by mold that had taken over some of the government ministries and departments.

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“It is a perfect example, a perfect environment, a perfect situation to get rid of things and I think that is what is happening,” he remarked.

The retired senior public officer also alluded to the long-delay in which the members of the Transition Team that was appointed by the incoming Congress government after the election took to settle down and engage in their task.

He said this provided another opportunity and perfect time for pro-NNP public officers including some Permanent Secretaries to make files disappear.

“They (the new government) were very late in putting their people in place in these ministries to take charge and to monitor things.”

The retired public officer bemoaned the fact that the public service has deteriorated over the years and a lot of the “very strong public service principle” that were inherited since Colonial rule are not being followed by the modern generation of public officers.

He said the slide and disruption started under the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution as the Marxist leaders of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) who toppled the Eric Gairy government on March 13, 1979 in a coup d’état deliberately tinkered with the public service system of government as they saw it as colonial and needed to be overhauled.

He stressed that the British had developed a very good administrative system for its former colonies “and we have to acknowledge that but we failed to” and because “we failed to acknowledge that, we went about incrementally destroying the systems.”

According to the ex-public officer, the dismantling of the public service was intensified by the NNP when Keith Mitchell took over as Prime Minister after the 1995 general election as he set about appointing persons to positions to serve him and not always the best interest of the country.

He warned current Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell to be aware of the public service system that he inherited after the June 2022 general election because it can help to bring him down in the next general election.

He said the new Grenadian leader is making “a serious mistake” by allowing what he referred to as “the left over” Permanent Secretaries who are loyal to the former rulers to remain in charge of the system.

The retired officer suggested that PM Dickon Mitchell should put a number of the pro-NNP Permanent Secretaries in less significant ministries in order to allow his much-talked about Transformational Agenda to take root in the public service.

“So if Dickon has that kind of historical perspective he would realise that he cannot think the way he is thinking and feeling that he could keep them people there and let them work out their time. If he wants to keep them, put them in less significant ministries.

“So it is foolish for him to be doing it that way and if he doesn’t open up his mind he is going to pay a heavy price notwithstanding that he is moving and keeping his election promises. What he must understand is that the promises that he made in 2022 and the electorate latched onto and accepted … there are issues and challenges that will come during your tenure. Even if you keep those promises that doesn’t guarantee winning an election because all politics is local.”

The ex-public officer charged that the new issues that will come up and confront the new Congress leader will have to be addressed and if the current system is not up to the task then PM Dickon Mitchell and his Team “will fall victim of your own recalcitrance, victim of your inability to realise that you don’t exist in a vacuum.”

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