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Eustace should get his facts straight!

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Editor: I have seen today, March 24th, a copy of a press statement which was sent out purportedly by the President of the New Democratic Party.

My initial reaction:- The work of an under graduate. The work of a desperate man. Surely not reflective of a person who is PRESIDENT of the Political Party which says it wants to run the affairs of this Country.{{more}} Firstly, January 7th, no way under the heavens, could ever be three weeks from November 25th. Not before. Not after. But we know from past statements he has made that he does have a problem with simple arithmetic.

While this is peripheral to the subject of the release, it is significant enough to be mentioned.

Mr Eustace is acting like a man who cheats on his wife and tries to build a case that his wife is cheating on him to justify his actions. Such a man hunts for evidence and uses every action and information of, or on, his wife, small as it may be, to spread his propaganda to get people to believe him that his wife is cheating on him.

Mr Eustace got hold of a copy of a memo from the Tenders Board (no doubt from the same source that he got the memo from the Accountant General to the Cabinet Secretary). This document is but one of maybe nineteen pages, being the entire correspondence between the Director of Operations to the Cabinet Committee, then to the Cabinet Secretary then to the Tenders Board, and then the reverse. Such absence of the other documentation can only point to the place from which he receives them and this should send a clear message to him and his conduit. So much for that!

When one “brief catches”, one cannot tell the whole story! While the subject of the memo leaked to him says WAIVER OF TENDERS BOARD PROCEDURE, please note that in the body of the document the Tenders Board advised that APPROVAL HAS BEEN GRANTED FOR THE AWARD OF CONTRACTS to the following … not APPROVAL FOR WAIVER OF PROCEDURE. It is common practice of the Tenders Board to post approve an expenditure. It was done in the Milton Cato Regime. It was done in the James Mitchell regime. It was done for the short six months while Mr Eustace was Prime Minister. It is done in the Ralph Gonsalves regime, and it will continue to be done under which ever administration. All that happens is that a case is made and the Tenders Board approves or declines. There are very few cases which have been declined. I must say that the Tenders Board does not particularly like it, but in most such instances the case is so genuine and strong that they approve it. I will say further that sometimes it does involve much “back and forth” between the Ministry and the Tenders Board, very much like this one in question.

I will state here categorically that the Tenders Board’s calculation for rental and purchase of computers was WRONG and I so submitted in subsequent correspondence which is now up for consideration.

I will give this example. The rental cost as was originally submitted was $30 per day for a laptop with specs that would sell for between $3,200 and $3,500. The rental was for a period of 60 days which would work out to be $1,800. I will say, however, that on a Desktop which sells for about the same price, the rental of $45 per day which was submitted could be considered high at $2,700 even though maintenance is higher on Desktops. On the response from the Tenders Board I renegotiated rental for Laptops at $20 per day and Desktops $25 per day. You could do the calculations and see the difference between rental and purchase. I am not asking the President of the New Democratic Party so to do as his arithmetic skills are not up to scratch.

Let me state that these computers were at work for at least 15 hours per day for the 60 days, with two shifts of data entry clerks, and in my judgement I considered the expenditure in rental better and financially less burdensome, considering the number of units needed (12 Laptops and 4 Desktops). In fact four units had to be replaced by the contractor during the period. That would have been my burden instead of his had we purchased instead of rented. The difference in cash outlay (using the lower figure of $3,200) between rental and purchase was $30,800. This savings in cash outlay assisted significantly in paying the data entry clerks.

The rest of the business with the contractor were specialised services, mainly media and Information Technology (IT) and consisted of the following: Rental of Studio equipment (Video and Audio), development of an Internet based software including online data management system to capture field data, production of Radio and Television adverts, development and management of a website with links to the social networks, live random video interviews throughout the state. These are the pillars of the contract with E Com Institute of Technology, a Vincentian-owned operation. I suppose that if it were British it would have worth its dollar, but no, not a Vincie company. Sorry, I think differently.

Vincentians would remember that in that period there were three or four other elections going on in the region and these services had to be sought by the contractor in a very occupied environment. In fact, there is only one expertise available in the region in one area of the contract, and the price called had to be paid. Finding the different expertise was time consuming and I as Director of Operations didn’t have the time to search, hence the employment of a Contractor for these services. I deal with one man and if I am not satisfied with the service the trouble is his to sort it out with his sub contractors to my satisfaction.

You see what a little and not the whole information can cause a desperate man to do. He may see or hear of his spouse going into a car, but he didn’t see or hear that the driver of the car was her brother or uncle and he would exaggerate on that little piece of information to try to sell it as such to justify his cheating on his wife..

I wish to elaborate on something else which touches intimately on this matter of employment of contractors and services in a political environment. It was Mr Eustace’s Party which made this whole Constitutional referendum divisive and political. They, the NDP, decided to go PARTY and campaigned for a NO VOTE. Please note that this was different to the VOTE NO COMMITTEE that was established; the latter didn’t last longer than a few minutes on radio.

Mr Eustace wants us to go open tender for such contractors and services and allow well known and self confessed activists, political opponents of the YES campaign who supply DJ services, sound reinforcement and IT services to tender and if they deliberately go low on the tender, the Tenders Board should employ them. These are some of the considerations which were presented to the Tenders Board for inclusion in their deliberations.

I am too experienced in these matters to allow Mr Eustace to try to bully the system. I wish to state that a proper case is before the Tenders Board within the rules, regulations and practice of the Tenders Board. The Tenders Board and I may differ on some prices and this is still in discussion but I believe that in the end we will agree and the necessary approval would come. I want to say this, however, that I have to be careful in documenting the details, since by doing so I could expose confidential information on our practices, information gathering and political strategy. Two memos have already been leaked, and I am sure that the culprits would try again. The Vincentian public is well aware of how much of our campaign plan and strategy (to name two components: big bill boards and big entertainment) has already been copied by the NDP.

The most despicable part of Mr Eustace’s actions was to go on live radio and send to the media the financial details and names of the five DJs and the supplier of generator services which were approved by the Tenders Board. These sums are not exorbitant. There is no corruption involved. I OBSERVED THAT THE NEWS NEWSPAPER STATED IN THEIR FRONT PAGE STORY LAST WEEK THAT I SAID THAT THE DOCUMENT FROM WHICH MR EUSTACE READ WAS NOT AUTHENTIC. I NEVER SAID SO. INDEED I WANT TO STATE EMPHATICALLY THAT IS AN AUTHENTIC DOCUMENT AND OBVIOUSLY GOTTEN FROM THE RECORDS OF THE GOVERNMENT. I suppose that because I said on radio that NDP still owes Mr Douglas De Freitas $159,000 for the referendum that he should expose this information that he received. He said that we spent some $440,000 for these services.

I want to say to him that I know how much Mark Richardson was paid by the NDP for similar services, but I will never divulge that information. I will do so in the case of Mr De Freitas because he is a well known NDP activist but Mark genuinely sells his services and works hard for his money and is not known as an activist in the class of Mr De Freitas.

Information Technology (IT) in today’s world is a very vital tool in political strategy and dissemination of information. I am aware that the members of the Tenders Board are not exposed to these matters and I am prepared to be patient and respond sufficiently with the necessary information and comparisons of costs without compromising the confidentiality of political strategy.

Submitted for consumption by all Vincentians.
Julian Francis, Director of Operations, YES Vote Committee