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Senator David Browne’s master-stroke

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Tue, Oct 23, 2012

Editor: I already had an article (In Search of Issue – the Canadian/passport Debate) prepared for this edition, but after reading the comments by some concerning the question asked by Senator David Browne in Parliament, I decided that an education was necessary and postponed that piece. It seems to me that all have forgotten a storm raised — justly so — in 2010 about the use of our funds when it was brought to light that our funds were being used and transferred without regard for the rules. I refer to Cuban Integrated Healthcare Program/MOHE scandal.{{more}}

First, is Ms Luzette King, who has a personal problem with Ralph Gonsalves and who steeped in her own racism, invokes race at every turn to pander to “the masses”. By now, we can anticipate her, but, my friend Bassy – perhaps because of his own bias – fails to see this for what it is: “good politics – a master-stroke”.

  • Luzette King: “So, rather than have a candid parliamentary discussion on the economy, PM Gonsalves set out to associate Eustace with dishonesty, which is one of the famous lynching attacks against dangerous black people. In fact, mail fraud was used to imprison the Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey in 1922. What is significant, therefore, that Gonsalves should set about answering a question put to him by one of his appointed senators, about how the Eustace-led opposition spent the money parliament voted for their office expenses last year, including the salary of a research officer? Of interest, too is that the Senator works in the PM’s office from where he could have had the same answer, albeit not in a public forum. So, what was the purpose of Gonsalves expressing his appreciation for Eustace’s integrity when, as minister of finance, he could have commissioned an audit if he had concerns?” (The Vincentian, October 19.)
  • Bassy: “What a mock-we-see in de par-liar-mint. Maybe ah could be kinder and call it deceptive pul-it-to-kill orchestration. Senator David Browne’s question to de PM, did exactly what was intended and dat was to purport some kind ah dishonestly on the part of arm- in, in de way he did or did not dis-burst monies allocated to his office foh a research officer.” (Searchlight, October 19).
  • Ralph Gonsalves: “I don’t know what branch of economics Eustace studied, but he certainly is not reading much anymore. The brain seems to be slowing down that is what it appears to me given the number of times he has been caught napping on these things; even when something like the Cuban Integrated Health care program….It is clear that the officials follow the procedures and regulation. The procedures and regulation are there to make sure that things are done properly because if they are not done properly you can have corruption…. There is a procedure it is called a virement warrant …The PS would prepare such a document to shift funds from account A to account B and it goes to the Ministry of Finance and the ministry will sent it to me…. “(Shake-up. August 13, 2010).
  • Arnhim Eustace: ”I listened to Dr Slater a couple of days ago responding to the audit report which I released to the public last Monday and what I understand him to be saying is that although what is done is improper but it is no big thing; that there are explanations to cover the various issues. What I want to say to Dr Slater he better not treat it in that manner as we go forward, the necessary investigation must be initiated by the government or by the PSC or other organizations to ensure that the public funds are accounted for; and that those who are responsible account for them. It is very easy to say in statements like those he made…they were paid for with the taxpayers money and any government has a responsibility – a prime responsibility to account – give a public account and that is why you have an audit account in the first place so they can monitor the activities of the various ministries and ensure that public funds are spent for the purposes for which they were approved.
“I think Dr Slater better take this matter much more seriously than he appears to be taking it and door put himself in any more trouble by trying to vindicate things that are wrong. This matter is a very serious matter and I assure you that the NDP and myself are taking this matter very seriously and looking to see what action is taken on this matter. You can’t shift around money in the public service and sometimes you can do a virement warrant – so sometimes you can do a virement warrant from one account to another. So I, I – this matter is not finished. I gwine be following this matter to make sure that what is to be done is done. And I can promise them that – that what is to be done is done in terms of bringing people to account for this kind of situation that we see developing here or what has developed here. There are certain rules and conditions that apply if you want to vire funds from one account to another k, you have to get a virement warrant and that has to be approved.”
  • EG interrupts: “I think I heard the PM on that.”
  • Eustace: “There are rules when you have to move funds. There are rules for special warrants, for advance warrants like when you have to travel and there are rules for virement warrants when you have to change funds from one source – one place to another. For instance, the rules say you can’t move funds from salaries to any other item – you know. There is a rule that governs that – so there are rules that apply in these circumstances. And really this thing is totally ridiculous, we are going to follow up to make sure that the necessary action is taken…there are too many things here and I am dealing with the auditor’s report as it is here, and I think there is sufficient here for the permanent secretary and the executive officer of the ministry to answer and if they can’t they must face the consequences of their actions.” (Newtimes August 16, 2010)

Even though Mr Eustace broke the story the week before, he never mentioned the word “virement” until after Ralph Gonsalves had done so. Based on what you now know, do you think Mr Eustace, having given us two completely different ways in which he explained the use of our funds, has a duty to call for an audit? Were moneys voted for salaries illegally used otherwise?

Mr David Browne asked a question for which we deserve “a proper account”, we “must make sure that public funds are used for the purpose for which they were approved”. We expect no less from someone who is a former Minister of Finance.

Frank E. da Silva

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