(Excerpts of Dr. Friday’s Press Statement)
The second point I want to make is in relation to Gonsalves’ defense that the CDB issued a no-objection to the award of the contract. Gonsalves is basically trying to suggest that the CDB approved the award of the contract because it issued a no-objection. The clear implication is that if it is a fraudulent contract, then the CDB is somehow liable for approving such a contract.
As usual, Gonsalves is misleading Vincentians. The fact of the matter is that the CDB, as the funding agency, provides funding on the basis that their rules will be followed and that the various parties involved will act ethically, honestly and in good faith. The government receives the funding on this basis and the ministry is responsible for executing the particular project that is being funded.
It is the government’s responsibility to evaluate the tenders and to explain the basis of the evaluation to the bank, in a written tender report. This report will contain the Ministry’s recommendation for the award of the contract. The Ministry may hire a consultant to perform this evaluation. But it is the responsibility of the government’s machinery to ensure that the evaluation is carried out fairly, competently and based on the rules identified by the CDB. The CDB does not examine or evaluate the tenders. This is the job of the executing agency, the government.
When the government submits a tender evaluation report to the CDB and asks for their no-objection to negotiate a contract, the no objection will be granted once the CDB determines, based on the submitted tender evaluation report, that the recommendation has been arrived at in accordance with the accepted principles, rules and practice. But at every stage, the onus is on the executing agency, the government ministry, to ensure that rules are being followed and requirements are being met.
If someone in government and/or some other party is intent on perpetrating a fraud (say, for example by falsely claiming a contractor has some particular expertise or experience that is required), and if the tender evaluation report does not expose the deficiency, there is no way the CDB can find this out on their own. This is where Bally and Bally came in. The CDB allows for protests to be made for this very reason, as a second line of defense against fraud and corruption. Its website refers to whistleblowers as a means of protecting its process, and encourages the practice.
So, we see that the CDB’s “no-objection” is not an approval of a fraudulent contract, as Gonsalves and ULP spokespeople are trying to suggest. The CDB does not expect fraud to come from the chambers of its borrowing member countries, so it takes the submitted tender evaluation report at face value. Of course, it anticipates that fraudulent practices can occur, and it places specific provisions in its procurement process to allow avenues for the discovery of and consequences for fraud. Every contract that the CDB finances has a clause dealing with corruption and “fraudulent misrepresentation”. The “no-objection” granted by the CDB therefore assumes that the government and its agents are acting ethically and have done their job properly. It did not amount to an approval of a fraudulent contract in the present case.
But, as we now know, this is where the CDB has run into a problem. In their dealings with the ULP administration, they are dealing with an unethical, corrupt administration. And don’t be fooled, they know it. And that is why they are now standing up for ethics and saying no to fraud and corruption.
We Vincentians must do the same thing. When the time comes, the people of this country will take the necessary action. In the meantime, and acting on behalf of the people of our dear mistreated and abused country SVG who want ethical, honest and transparent government, we call on the Prime Minister to:
(1) Provide full disclosure of the complete tender evaluation report: This tender was subject to a public opening; the prices were already read out in public, so the prices proposed by the various contractors are known. Therefore, there is no secret or impediment to releasing the full tender evaluation report.
(2) Provide full disclosure of the names of the owners and beneficial owners of the company Reliable Construction Ltd: The company is being paid by taxpayers. Therefore, every taxpayer has the right to know who they are paying. It’s as simple as that.
(3) For a statement by Camillo Gonsalves, St Vincent & the Grenadines’ representative on the CDB Board of Governors and Minister of Finance, on the matter: As SVG’s representative on the CDB’s Board of Governors, Camillo Gonsalves is required to uphold the integrity of the institution and to ensure that it always acts in accordance with the public good and the good principles of good corporate governance. As this country’s Minister of Finance, he has the same responsibility for ethics and transparency in dealing with matters relating to the public finances, in short, to adhere to principles of accountability! We need to hear
from the Minister of Finance to ensure that the government does not bad-spend taxpayers’ money as it appears that they are determined to do. The government’s response so far has done absolutely nothing to answer the legitimate questions of everyone’s mind. What went wrong to lead to a case where the CDB declared misprocurement on the contract? And;
(4) We call for an Investigation of the Matter:
On behalf of the People of St. Vincent, we call on the Government to immediately open a thorough investigation of the matter to be conducted by a competent and independent person or agency. All the facts that led to the declaration of misprocurement by the CDB must be established and responsibility for this shameful and costly breakdown of the process be established.
The result of this investigation must be made public, and so too any and all corrective measures to be taken to ensure that this does not happen again.