Saturday, 06 August 2011 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St John's - Opposition Leader Lester Bird has officially written to Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer asking for a public inquiry into the Ministry of Sports' expenditure on fencing for playing fields, and other infrastructure.
This followed recent revelations in Parliament on the findings of a government-appointed committee that audited some of the projects.
Minister of Finance Harold Lovell concluded then that there was no need for further action, as the report had pointed out some issues, but the whole incident had mainly been a learning experience.
There have since been calls for further accountability, with Bird the latest to insist on this.
In his letter, the former prime minister said the report had uncovered "unlawful actions and blatant wrong-doing, collusion and criminal conversion have been committed by un-named persons involved in the construction projects."
Bird's full correspondence is reprinted below.
Dear Prime Minister,
You will recall that the Member for St. Mary’s North, Hon. Molwyn Joseph, in the December 2009 Budget Debate in the Parliament, revealed that the Ministry of Sports presided over the expenditure of more than $45,000,000 on fences, buildings, sports complexes, viewing stands, roundabouts and other construction projects in the 2007 to 2009 period. That revelation led to the establishment of an investigative team, and to a “REPORT ON THE FINDINGS OF THE INVESTIGATION OF EXPENDITURE AT THE MINISTRY OF SPORTS” dated May 2010.
On Thursday, June 23 2011, more than one year following the completion of the REPORT, Minister of Finance, Honourable Harold Lovell, gave an oral report to the Parliament on the findings; two weeks later, the REPORT was made public.
The contents clearly indicate that unlawful actions and blatant wrong-doing, collusion and criminal conversion have been committed by un-named persons involved in the construction projects.
First, there was a complete failure to abide by The Tenders Board Act, CAP. 424A Section20. The law requires the Government to write to the Tenders Board when works of this magnitude are to be undertaken. The REPORT indicates that several contractors acknowledged not knowing that their estimates (or bids) had to be submitted for tender and therefore did not so act; that failure is unlawful.
The government officials who enabled this breach of the law ought to have known or been advised that contracts of the amounts which were submitted are required to be submitted to tender. They too engaged in unlawful activities that are of interest to the public.
Second, the many irregularities that led to the selection of certain un-named contractors and acceptance of their estimates caused excesses and over-payments, the investigators concluded. The prevailing Tenders law is intended to prevent these outcomes.
The use of Petty Contracts and vouchers of $20,000 or less were evidently intended to mislead the Treasury and to conceal the deliberate and criminal wrongdoing by several persons un-named. Two projects, identified on page 5 of the REPORT, were valued at “over $3 million…over $8 million....” These sums and other expenditures totaling more than $23 million raise concerns of immense interest to the public whose taxes were evidently stolen.
Under these circumstances, Prime Minister, I am obliged to make a demand that you advise the Governor General, under THE COMMISSIONS OF INQUIRY ACT, CAP. 91, Section 2, to establish a Commission of Inquiry to enquire into the facts and circumstances which have created the series of unlawful acts. Failure to do otherwise, Prime Minister, would lead to the reasonable conclusion that you are engaged in a cover-up.
This matter is of the utmost importance to taxpayers, and to ensuring that the promises of integrity, transparency and morally-upright government that you made to the electorate, before and since March 2004, are fulfilled.
I await your response, Prime Minister, which I anticipate will be forthcoming by mid-August 2011.
Hon. Lester B. Bird
Leader of the Opposition and
Chairman, the Public Accounts Committee