GOVERNMENT may wish to move on from the procurement issue – but its own officials seem unable to extricate themselves from it.
Cold nights in the last week have done little to cool controversy over the acquisition by the State of millions of dollars’ worth of assets over successive administrations.
Fast ferries. Helicopters. Even laptops for students and teachers have now been caught up in claims and counterclaims about delays, inefficiency, lack of value for money and flawed process.
Minister of National Security Stuart Young, Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, and even Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly have all been asked to offer explanations on various matters. But it is the Prime Minister who should address the charges raised by James Chang Kit.
Mr Chang Kit resigned on Monday as deputy chairman of the Procurement Board, describing recent legislative changes as the “final emasculation” of the regulator.
“The subsequent stalling and stymieing of our efforts to have the necessary regulations proclaimed as we went through the many challenges to our jurisdiction, interminable reviews and subtle attacks brought on by the Government via its agents in state enterprises, Minister of Finance and Attorney General, both subtle and frontal, underwrote its reluctance for proper oversight of its spending,” Mr Chang Kit wrote in his resignation.
This stunning allegation has been met with a tepid response from the Government. “I wish him well in his future endeavours,” Mr Imbert said on Monday in a tweet which also mentioned that Mr Chang Kit’s appointment was made under the hand of President Anthony Carmona in 2018.
Before that appointment, dated January 31, 2018, Mr Carmona would have consulted with the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader and, presumably, there was no public complaint about him then.
Elsewhere on Monday, Dr Rowley was busy lobbying voters in Tobago to choose his party once more. He told public servants they stood to be victimised if they put the wrong people into the Tobago House of Assembly.
“The PNM is about fairness, it’s about responsibility and vision,” the Prime Minister said at the Shaw Park Complex, Tobago. “Don’t take a chance with that.” Yet it is a public servant who now paints a picture of an administration dramatically at odds with the lofty vision of Shaw Park.
The Government has failed to justify convincingly its changes to the procurement legislation. Mr Chang Kit’s position suggests a situation in which the wool was being pulled over the population’s eyes far earlier than these changes, however. It amounts to a serious charge and places pressure on fellow regulators too.
Twenty-four hours after the resignation, Cabinet was incensed over a statement of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Venezuela yet again. Righteous indignation? Distraction attempt?
The procurement issue is not going away.