Have the nation’s politicians over the past 30 years “clearly and visibly involved themselves in corrupt practices”?
“The truth of the matter is this, when we look at St. Vincent and the Grenadines, over the last, let’s say 30 years — since Independence, when you take a long view of it, from then until now, you really don’t have examples of persons who have clearly and visibly involved themselves in corrupt practices — I am talking now the political level,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says.
“By far, most of the politicians live, I would say, … at best middle class lives and a number of them below that,” he said in response to a question regarding the introduction of integrity legislation here,” he further told a press conference this week.
The Unity Labour Party, which Gonsalves heads, had promised to introduce integrity legislation soon after it came to office in 2001.
However, Gonsalves said that integrity legislation could deter people from wanting to take up certain posts since the compensation is minimal and they would have to declare the assets an liabilities of themselves, their spouse and their children.
“But, I am cognisant of the importance that the public must at the same time see levels of transparency so that they can feel confident that they are not run by people who are corrupt,”
“The investment in this country, which has raised the most eyebrows is the Ottley Hall one, for which we have the commission of inquiry. And we know the history of that. I don’t know what is going to be the conclusion,” he said of the project that was constructed under the Sir James Mitchell New Democratic Party administration.
The project was valued at significantly less than the amount of money said to have been spent on it.
Gonsalves said that from the inquiry, the public has enough information to know that “much went wrong.
“Whether you can point that if any local person was corrupt, that’s an entirely different matter. And throughout the years we have instances of petty corruption and for which persons have been brought to court — different levels of the public service”.
He also noted that a former St. Vincent Labour Party MP was charged and found guilty of receiving payment twice for a service provided.
“We need to use the Public Accounts Committee on certain matters better, though that has its limitations. And we have a fearless press,” Gonsalves further said.