Opposition lawmaker St. Clair Leacock says that public servants should not process a special warrant to pay for the project for which the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has withdrawn financing, if the government does not bring a special warrant to Parliament.
St. Clair Leacock, who is member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, says to do so would be complicit with the Unity Labour Party administration, which has spent over EC$100 million in state resources since 2014 without Parliamentary approval.
“If an accountant general affixes his signature to a special warrant for that Yarabaqua project, against the background that they have not passed anything since 2014 and an attorney general sits down and allows that, they are complicit,” Leacock said Wednesday on his weekly appearance on “New Times”, his party’s weekday radio programme.
“And the Leader of the Opposition should write them and put them on notice that we will challenge and raise these matters at the level of the courts, and at the Parliament itself,” said Leacock, who is also one of two vice-presidents of the opposition New Democratic Party.
“We will exhaust all reasonable attempts to make sure that there are proper accountabilities and they comply with the law. We are still a country of laws, not of men.”
In Parliament last week Thursday, Aug. 22, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, said that his government has spent over EC$100 million without parliamentary approval.
He promised to bring the requisite legislation to parliament by the next sitting, noting that he had missed the March 2019 date to which he had earlier committed.
On Wednesday, Leacock questioned the decisions of senior public servants, such as the director of finance and planning, and the accountant general to sign off and authorise the spending of money “knowing that you are not in compliance with the finance act, the law and the accountabilities that the Parliament has”.
“Because the law is as such that it is the Director of Audit and the Public Accounts Committee, which is appointed after every budget must, in tandem, provide the oversight for the finances of the country to make sure things are going in accord,” he said.
He noted that on Nov. 3, 2011 that the Public Accounts Committee met to consider the 2008 report from the Director of Audit.
However, the meeting did not take place because Minister of Works Senator Julian Francis and then Health Minister and Senator, Douglas Slater said they were not sitting on a committee whose rules were drawn up by the James Mitchell administration and were not authorised by the Parliament.
“But, at least, Mitchell had a set of rules,” Leacock said of the prime minister whose NDP administration was voted out of office in March 2001 and replaced by the ULP.
“They are in office now for 19 years, have not corrected what they met from Mitchell, have not drawn up any for themselves and the Speaker is saying that he is talking over and over that there is need for us to look at the house rules and the provisions and do things, as if it is the opposition must drive the process of getting a proper accounts committee meek,” Leacock said.
The opposition lawmakers question why an 18-year-old administration that speaks about transparency, accountability and good governance does not have in place a Public Accounts Committee that will lend support to the Director of Audit “and yet feel they can come out there in the public and make display that it is the most accountable government in the world, when it is blocking all of the provisions of the Constitution to have accountability”.
Meanwhile, Daniel Cummings, Member of Parliament for West Kingstown, speaking on the same programme, said he wonders who will cover up, “when the time comes”, for public servants who feel that they can cover up corrupt action now
“I wonder who will cover up for them; something for them to think about,” Cummings said.
The Gonsalves government says it will finance the EC$1.4 million Yarabaqua River Defence Project for which the Caribbean Development Bank declared misprocurement and ordered the government to repay all money drawn down under the financing arrangement.
Leacock said: “And so now, with that, you still are going to say I am going to do another special warrant for the CDB project, for Yarbaqua. You haven’t passed one special warrant since 2014 you know, but you are going to take you fingers and chuck them in the eyes of the NDP and say alyo take this. Alyo can’t do nothing about it.”
Cummings said the rules governing the spending of state resources are not accidental.
“You can’t just take the constitution for granted; since 2014,” Leacock said, referring to the last year a supplementary appropriations bill was brought to Parliament.
He said that if he had not raised the issue, the government probably would not bring any supplementary appropriations bill for retroactive approval of the spending of millions of dollars.