But that was in mid-June, on the first day of the new Parliament. At that time we had no concept of the extent of the — let us say for now — “questionable issues” which the new government would uncover. While we still hold to our opinion that the Government must carry on with their agenda, and we see no evidence that they are not, we also recognise that they cannot simply ignore what is being uncovered.
Some may be unhappy about the “forthrightness” in which many government ministers are announcing the discoveries of delays, cost overruns and possible corruption in the previous government’s projects. But how much “sugar” should the People’s Partnership really use to coat these revelations? And we must also recognise that much of what is being revealed is being exposed in an election campaign setting, although the revelations have more to do with Central, rather than Local Government.
All this brings us to the issues of which, if any, of the cost overruns and questionable contracts the new Government should ignore in order to move ahead with their own agenda, and their legislative programme? The only answer which we can provide is — none. We are not convinced that any of the matters raised by the new government regarding the PNM’s initiatives on construction and procurement activities are trivial or worthy of simple dismissal.
What has been raised so far apparently points to gross mismanagement, wastage of public funds, enrichment of Party friends and supporters, and possible corruption on a grand scale. And we are being cautious in how we express ourselves for the time being.
The list of delays, cost overruns and questionable contract awards on a series of PNM “Flagship” projects raised by AG Anand Ramlogan in the Senate on Tuesday does not represent a witch hunt in our minds. We among others had raised concerns during the PNM tenure about many of these issues, and we cannot now advise that they be sacrificed on the altar of “moving on” with a new agenda.
Quite frankly, many of the issues now being examined had been raised by then dissident PNM member Dr Keith Rowley in Parliament as he sought to clear his name when he was being attacked by Patrick Manning and Colm Imbert among others. Indeed the PNM has been relatively quiet on the hustings so far regarding the corruption allegations, preferring to attack the new government on the perceived differences between members and alleged protocol slip-ups. We note that it has been left to new Senator Faris Al-Wari to seek to defend the previous government’s performance regarding their procurement activities. Al-Wari has called upon the AG to “bring evidence”, and the AG has promised this.
And while all of this unfolds, it has become apparent that when Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar donned tall rubber boots on day one of her administration to walk through flooded areas, those boots were also metaphorically being used to struggle through the slough of mismanagement and corruption left for her to clean up.