THE EDITOR: I’ve read several media reports ensuing from the hearings of the Joint Select Committee on Land and Physical Infrastructure for the inter-island ferry service. These accounts present the idea that the Ministry of Works and Transport acted inappropriately by signing the contracts for the two boats before Cabinet approval.
However, I would like to play devil’s advocate and present an opposing view based on the testimony of the ministry’s permanent secretary, Sonia Francis Yearwood. After listening to the PS, I believe the ministry acted in the most appropriate manner given the circumstances.
In response to the question posed by committee member Darryl Smith, Yearwood explains that the ministry was well aware of the urgency to secure the two vessels to maintain passenger and cargo service between the two islands.
She began by citing a previous occasion when the ministry was in a similar predicament to obtain a sea vessel and sought approval of Cabinet through the regular channels. She recounted that the process took so long that by the time the final approval was given, the vessel for which they sought approval was no longer available.
Resolved not to allow for reoccurrence, ministry officials saw the need to significantly expedite the approval process for acquiring the Cabo Star and Ocean Flower 2. She explained (and I think the nation should be aware) that such a process exists for critical times that a ministry requires speedy approval to carry out requests of significant national importance before a normal sitting of Cabinet and they followed those procedures to a T.
She then outlined that the ministry submitted the appropriate documentation to the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs and obtained sign-off. They then sought independent legal counsel and got sign-off in terms of that opinion. Documents were submitted to the Prime Minister and got approval, were submitted for ratification to Cabinet and in so doing the Ministry of Works and Transport went through the proper channels to obtain legitimate approval.
So, I’m not quite so sure that the popular opinion for the hour presenting the ministry as the culprit in violating procedure is as viable as many voices are making it out to be. In any case, the committee resumes on September 18. Let’s hope the proper documents are submitted and the permanent secretary’s testimony holds true.