Ian 'Magic' Hughes
Friday, 04 May 2012 02:30
By Ian Magic Hughes
Antigua St John's - If ever there was a reason for a commission of inquiry into the public fencing scandal, the man at the middle of the indignity Minister of Sports Winston Williams has just made the case for such.
Amazingly, Williams, the junior minister in the ministry of education and sports is asking questions on a matter he was directly involved rather that providing answers.
So after the fact, expending millions of dollars, Williams is trying to convince the public that there were no safety measures in place in a system that has been running for decades.
What a joke!
“If the system fell down, then let’s attack the system; let’s put proper things in place; let’s strengthen the systems,” is Williams’ plea.
What Williams seems to conveniently forget, is this simple fact.
There is a credible system already in place and had he followed the law of the land, the projects would have been handled in a proper manner.
As a matter of fact, the first time any contractor breached his or her contract, Williams would have been able to address that matter and dealt with it.
“If persons, who the report clearly stated found ways to benefit from those things (projects), then let us make sure they can give back, if that can be ascertained, and I think the report clearly states that. Now the Treasury Department is carrying through on that requirement,” is the minister’s poor excuse.
Why would Williams have oversight if he was unable to oversee the problems?
The Minister is suggesting that he is a blind man being asked to be a watchman.
And even with that, a blind man would have done a better job, which begs the question what was the minister’s agenda.
Perhaps Williams’ agenda is explained in the following statement.
“Over that time, more than 100 people were given an opportunity to ply their trade.
“We did not bring anybody in from China or Guyana.
“It was people living in the villages here; the carpenters, masons, trucker-folk and back-hoes.
“When the stadium was finished, a lot of people out there were wondering what next?
“Because of that economic activity, it held the rest of the economy until 2009 or 2010 when the crash came."
Really Minister Williams, since when it’s your responsibility to determine the economic activity of the nation of Antigua & Barbuda?
I thought that was the role of the Minister of Finance and the economy and by extension the Cabinet, which is the executive arm of the government.
By the way, where was the Minister of Finance and the Economy Doctor the honorable Errol Cort in all of this?
When the Governor General Dame Loiuse Lake-Tack decided there was no need for an inquiry into this matter did she consider the role or lack thereof of Dr. Cort?
I’ll come back to the GG.
That this fencing scheme ‘held the rest of the economy until the crash came’ is preposterous to say the least.
And it also shows how out of touch Williams and his colleagues are on financial and developmental issues.
Had Cort been a proper steward of the nation’s finances, he would not have allowed a ‘junior’ minister or any other minister for that matter to waste taxpayers’ monies in that way.
Williams should accept responsibility for his ineptitude and Dr. Cort, no stranger to such financial carelessness is equally accountable.
It appears that Cort seems to have a way of deflecting blame when he should be the one shouldering the load.
Cort was able to absorb public criticism for his role in the Medical Benefits Scheme scandal where persons were asked to repay funds while others were sentenced to jail.
It’s quite interesting that Williams felt compelled to quote parts of the committee’s findings on the fencing matter but let out those areas where the tending process was subverted.
If, according to Williams, he was being patriotic by affording local contractors jobs, then, why undermine the tendering process?
It makes absolutely no sense.
Surely one can conclude that the overly excessive spending and the circumventing of the tendering process were nothing short of a campaign ploy authorized by his colleagues.
How else could a ‘junior’ minister be allowed to ‘blow’ all that money during one of the worst economic period in the history of Antigua & Barbuda?
What, Did not officials at the treasury call in Minister Cort and inform him that Williams was just too loose with poor peoples’ monies?
I am not convinced that Williams was able to pull this off all by his lonesome and that’s one of the reasons for an inquiry.
Who gave Williams his blessings?
We need the names of those who helped Williams, those who showed concerns and the person or persons who gave ‘junior’ the ok to spend, spend, spend and spend some more.
When the GG was making her determination on Whether or not there should be an inquiry into the fencing scandal she should have considered at least that.
To suggest that recommendations that were made by a committee that investigated the matter are now being followed is a poor excuse by the GG.
The fact is Cort, after turning a blind eye or at least granted Williams the ‘green light’ to spend benefitted from two huge projects that cost close to EC$11 million.
The St. Johnsons 669-seat facility and the restoration of Simon Boulevard Center, next to Clareview Psychiatric Hospital are clear evidence of the monies spent in Cort’s constituency.
When the Antigua Labour Party was in power, the United Progressive Party criticized them for the construction of sporting facilities as it drew close to elections.
It would appear that the UPP has taken a page out of the ALP playbook, just that the bill is now public and the media is more open.
With the UPP’s mantra of transparency and accountability, this matter clearly demonstrates that it’s all talk and no substance.
The same way many in the government asked Sir Gerald Watt to resign after the fiasco during the 2009 General Elections, perhaps it’s time for them to demand the same of Williams and Cort.