Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has accused the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank of having an anti-small island bias.
He levelled the accusation last week Tuesday amidst the saga triggered by the bank’s decision to declare misprocurement in the Yarabaqua River Defence Project.
The bank has demanded that Kingstown repay funds drawn down under a project it was financing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Gonsalves said he was not asking the CDB to undo their declaration of misprocurement and he doesn’t want any bad relationship with the bank or its president, W. Warren Smith, adding that there was mutual respect
“I ask that question though, to him: do you think the official at the CDB would have acted so precipitately and not pay the courtesy to call to the chair of the tenders board in Jamaica, Trinidad or Barbados?”
Gonsalves said he asked Smith if he thinks that the official at the CDB would have acted “so precipitately and not even pay the courtesy to call the Tenders Board chairman if the procurement was done by the Tenders Board of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, or Barbados.
“He said to me he didn’t think that would make a difference. I say, unfortunately I think different.
“I don’t see a CDB official misprocuring without talking to the chairman of the Tenders Board where the procurement is done under the regulations of the particular country,” Gonsalves said.
He said that infused in many regional institutions is an anti-small island bias by some officials.
“You have had it in West Indies cricket for a long time and even now. You have selectors telling you or coaches…I have heard that they have said, ‘Well you see in the Windward Islands and St. Vincent, is bush cricket they play.’
Gonsalves said he cannot prove that there is an anti-small island bias in the CDB.
“But I feel it in my bones from my long years of experience that if it were a procurement agency of Jamaica, of Trinidad and Tobago, or Barbados, in the absence of fraud or corruption, they would have called the head of the tenders board.”
Gonsalves said he is not saying that the person who declared the misprocurement has this anti-small island bias.
“But I am looking for explanation, that’s why I say I pose the question, was it done deliberately or recklessly in not asking the chairman of the Tenders Board. But this is a standing caution to all entities, regional or international dealing with his government; it must deal with it with respect, and with our institutions.
“If we made a mistake, we will acknowledge it and the president of the CDB said they would acknowledge their mistakes too.
“Doesn’t mean they will acknowledge their mistakes publicly. They don’t have to do that. They could acknowledge it internally.”
The CDB declared misprocurement after it had given a letter of no objection for the award of the contract to Reliable Construction Service Ltd.
However, Bally and Bally Investments, one of the unsuccessful tenderers complained directly to the bank, after the Ministry of Transport and Works in Kingstown said that a second review it requested of the IBI Group, the consultants, also recommended that the contract be awarded to Reliable Construction.
The CDB said it declared misprocurement because Reliable Construction did not have the required financial information, access to financial resources, or specific experience.