Good governance is defined as the processes implemented by the organization to produce favorable results which meet the needs of its stakeholders, while making the best use of resources: human, technological, financial, natural and environmental at its disposal. Accountability is a key tenet of good governance.
Good governance has eight (8) major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.
Is the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government practicing good governance? Of the eight characteristics of good governance that have been outlined, which one can we say is practiced by the ULP government? We know that the government lacks accountability and it is definitely afraid of transparency. Since 2001, the New Democratic Party (NDP) has been calling for the ULP government to be accountable for the management of taxpayers’ money. These calls have been ignored by the government. More specifically, Dr. Friday held a series of press conferences on accountability and through numerous questions in parliament by members of our party requesting information on the financial statements of the Argyle International Airport Development Company and that of Petro Caribe.
During one of his press conferences on accountability, Dr. Friday stated: The case for accountability is clear and it is compelling. The citizens of this country see the effects of the lack of accountability right in front of their faces every day. So Vincentians are not buying the excuses, the untruths, the contradictions, the side-stepping and the beating-around-the-bush that we have heard from Dr. Gonsalves and other members of his government and political party.
Parliamentary accountability is mandatory; it is specified in the highest law of the land, the Constitution and it must be delivered. There is no getting away from this legal fact. It is also morally and ethically necessary. “There is a moral and ethical imperative for accountability that can be simply stated: if you, in good faith, take a man’s money from him, purportedly to do something for his benefit, then the man is entitled to an account as to how his money was spent.”
Presently, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is faced with another embarrassing situation where the Caribbean Development Bank has revoked the contract awarded for river defense works at Yarabaqua River (Belle Vue) and has also withdrawn funding for the project. This situation placed the ULP government under the microscope, as it relates to corruption and the lack of good governance.
Thus far, we know that a complaint was lodged by an unsuccessful bidder for the project. The CDB then conducted a review of the project. And, in a letter to the tenders from the Ministry of Transport and Works dated 27th June, 2019, states, “The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) conducted a review of the procurement for the contract, and has declared misprocurement for the contract for the River Defense Works at Yarabaqua under the captioned Project.” The letter further sates, “The CDB financing allocated to this contract will be cancelled and any amounts already withdrawn and paid in relation to the contract will be repaid by the recipient, the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with interest. CDB will therefore no longer finance this contract.”
After such an embarrassment to the government, one would have thought that the government would have conducted an investigation to determine what went wrong. It would appear that will not happen. Instead, the government has announced certain measures that it will implement to complete the project. This action by the government is seen as one of utter disdain, arrogance and contempt to the taxpayers of this country. The New Democratic Party is cognizant of its role as a responsible opposition and will do everything in its power to continue to highlight the issue and the corrupt practices of the government.
During the 2001 general elections campaign, the ULP labeled the then NDP government as corrupt. In its 2001 manifesto, the ULP made a commitment to tackle corruption. It stated, “The ULP is committed in waging a war against corruption in government. Big companies provide kick-backs to people in government for award of government contracts. Corruption undermines democracy and people’s trust in government. Corruption distributes wealth from the poor to the better-off. The ULP will make government clean and transparent and introduce integrity legislation to the parliament.” Eighteen years later, what have we seen? A corrupt ULP government.
Further, based on the numerous allegations of corruption during the tenure of this government, it is perceived as the most corrupt ever to govern St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We recall that a former chairman of the then National Commercial Bank (NCB) was involved in a questionable banking transaction at the said bank. The Director of Audit found that officials managing the Cuban Integrated Health Project in the Ministry of Health had bought computer supplies and fast food, and paid monies to the International Airport Development Company contrary to the government’s policy. Also, in the Ministry of Agriculture, under the Agriculture Diversification Project, microphone cable was imported at a cost of ($EC32.73) and was sold to the ministry for EC$1499.76.
There was also the revelation a senior government official who was involved in a company that was formed to market and promote tourism in this country; the recall of the Deputy Consul General from the Consulate in New York for being involved in activities outside the scope of his employment and the saga of the former Registrar of the High Court. The ULP is corrupt to the core and it is time for them to go.