KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The EC$1,133.08 the Office of the Leader of the Opposition owes telecommunication company LIME is rent for the line, which was disconnected two years ago.
Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said on radio late Tuesday night that his office inherited EC$19,382.84 in arrears from the government when the government in 2010 changed the policy of paying the office’s bills directly.
The EC$1,133.08 is part of the EC$2.6 million that LIME says the government owes, even as the government said it owes less than EC$1.1 million. LIME last week disconnected telephone services to several government departments, including police stations and clinics.
Eustace said that when the Unity Labour Party government in 2010 began giving an annual EC$150,000 subvention — disbursed quarterly — to run his office, the government left behind unpaid utilities bills.
“In 2010, the telephone bill, which was not paid, was EC$19,382.84. Electricity bill was EC$3,762.31 and water was EC$4,911.19. Some of the telephone bills were not paid since 2006,” he said.
Before granting a subvention, the government, since the 1990s, paid directly for the expenses of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, occupied, for a period, by Prime Minster Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
Eustace said he wrote the Director General of Finance on May 14, 2010 about the arrears and pointed out that they should be paid by the government, but never received a reply. After he did not receive a response, Eustace’s office began to cut back on other expenses, “including in 2011 not appointing a research officer,” he said.
“And we brought down the bill by December 2011 to nothing. We managed our affairs in such a way that by the end of 2011, we wiped off that. But in 2012, the first quarter, the amount of money they gave us was less than in 2010 and less than in 2011and we therefore could not pay the $1,133 and we had to put that for when we get our payment in April,” Eustace said, adding that the monies are for a telephone he has not used in two years.
“I have no phone that is functioning in my office since 2010 because of these arrears. I have not made a call on my phone — the Leader of the Opposition’s phone — since 2010 … because we are trying to bring down the arrears which the government should have paid,” he said.
“I was attacked saying we should appoint a research officer. We were trying to bring down our arrears, which was really the government’s business. And therefore, we found ourselves in that position,” Eustace said.
He said that the EC$1,133.08, which his office owes, is for this quarter because the subvention they received was EC$2,000 less than last year and the party now has a research officer.
Because of the disconnected phone, Eustace has put his secretary on the floor below his office. “So that she can in fact use the party’s phone to carry out the business of the Leader of the Opposition.”
“So up to now … I still don’t have a telephone. … It is a PBS system and we have to pay the rent. That EC$1,133 is all rent. We are not using the phone it is all rent because the rent is EC$383 per month. I want to make that very clear that it is the lack of financial resources of this government is the major cause of these problems that we face and we are going to get more of them … as we go deeper in the year,” Eustace said.