Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and Opposition Leader Dr. Godwin Friday clashed Thursday morning in a historic live verbal battle over claims of a lack of accountability surrounding the Argyle International Airport (AIA) project.
Dr. Friday has been insisting that Dr. Gonsalves, in his capacity as prime minister and minister of finance has a legal obligation under the constitutional to table the audited financial statements for the International Airport Development Company (IADC) in the nation’s Parliament.
Making his first appearance on the the Boom SVG 106.9 FM’s OMG morning radio show, with host Dwight ‘Bing’ Joseph, Thursday April 27th, Dr. Friday said citizens should not have to go to the offices of the Commercial and Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) to find documents that the government is required to table in Parliament according to section 75 of the St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Constitution.
During Friday’s exchange with ‘Bing’, there was a major turn of events. Boom FM exploded into a dramatic and at times, heated encounter when Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves called to confront Friday live on air about the availability of the financial information on AIA.
Gonsalves accused Friday of making erroneous statements on the issue of accountability. The two leaders then engaged in a historic verbal wrestling match, on the Boom OMG show. They contradicted each other on the nuances and various positions relating to the issue of accountability and the availability of reports from the IADC.
Although Vincentians are familiar with similar clashes in the House Of Assembly. It is the first time two leaders of the major opposing parties in SVG have gone head to head at each other, via a morning time radio program.
Dr. Friday insisted that the Gonsalves administration is not following the law as it pertains to the tabling of financial reports from the IADC. Friday insisted that the the government is obligated under the constitution to lay financial report in Parliament.
Friday also suggested that the government is hiding behind the company’s act, through which the IADC was created. The Opposition Leader says the IADC should present the financial reports to the Parliament and asked further, why was the IADC created in the first place, when the PM says it is not obligated to report to the Legislative Arm of Government. Dr. Gonsalves refuted the allegation saying that is not what he said and that is not the case.
Gonsalves said the IADC had to be a ‘nimble’ entity given the nature of the airport project his administration embarked on. He said as PM he has strengthened legislation in the legislature to improve the levels of accountability in the governance of the country.
The Prime Minister reiterated that the IADC financial statements can be obtained at the CIPO. He said the 2014 accounts are available while the 2015 and 2016 are being prepared.
Friday, however, charged that there is no financial reports for PetroCaribe and the IADC at CIPO. He insisted that the PM calls on the Director of Audit to make the financial information available.
The lively and robust exchange continued for almost 30 minutes.
On Wednesday April 26th Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves slammed Financial Controller at the Mustique Company Ltd., Steven Joachim, over statements Joachim made, claiming there is no financial report for the Argyle International Airport (AIA) from the IADC.
Gonsalves chided Joachim saying he is taking the position of the leader of the Opposition, Dr. Godwin Friday, who also said there were no audited statements from the company
Dr. Gonsalves also dismissed Steven Joachim’s claim that the AIA has almost bankrupted the country. Prime Minister Gonsalves said SVG ran a EC$59 million surplus on its current accounts in 2016.
The Prime Minister said, “this country pays its debt-how could it be bankrupt? We [SVG] haven’t defaulted on any debt”. Joachim was a regular co-host on the Boom OMG morning show has indicated that he would no longer appear on the OMG show.