Sunday, 24 September 2023 11:40 GMT

St Lucia opposition demands PM's accountability on controversial letter

(MENAFN- Caribbean News Now) By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate managing editor

CASTRIES, Saint Lucia — Parliamentary opposition leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), Philip J Pierre, on Thursday called on prime minister and minister of finance, Allen Chastanet, to repudiate a seemingly official letter addressed to 'whom it may concern' from the ministry of economic affairs signed by minister Guy Joseph, dated November 12, 2018; and if the letter is indeed authentic that he takes disciplinary action against Joseph.

The letter states that the government 'has agreed to enter into a contractual relationship with PAJOAH's Limited' and purports to commit the government of Saint Lucia to repay a loan of US$62 million or EC$167.4 million at 3.5 percent over a 15-year period for two projects.

The projects in question include a street lighting project that had already been financed by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the St Jude hospital project.

According to Pierre, 'This is the latest in an increasing number of irregular and questionable financial arrangements between agents of government and private individuals and companies that continue to sully the image of the country.'

Only recently, the US State Department's 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) on Saint Lucia expressed concern regarding the country's 'exposure to local corruption".

'The actions of this United Workers Party (UWP) government continue to generate a stifling stench of corruption, and it requires that the citizens of our country become more and more vigilant in monitoring the bold flaunting of the laws of the country that have become the part of the normal operations of the administration, 'Pierre said.

Noting that the government of Saint Lucia has not manifested good governance, observance of rules, laws and conventions in the execution of its duties, Pierre said, 'This letter [to PAJOAH's Limited] is highly irregular and presents a high risk of damaging the image of Saint Lucia as a law-abiding nation and in particular the handling of multimillion-dollar projects, for the following reasons.

"1. Minister Guy Joseph is not the minister of finance and is in no position to commit the government of Saint Lucia to any financial obligations except if he has been directed by the minister of finance and prime minister to do so. Moreover, such financial obligations should have received parliamentary approval.

"2. PAJOAH's Limited has no history or known capacity to undertake work of the nature referred to in the letter.

"3. According to the letter, the projects worth EC$167.4m were awarded by direct award. There has been no bidding process. A preferred option to ensure the government and people of Saint Lucia get the best value for money. A bidding process would ensure that the country would receive the most competitive option.

"4. All direct awards are signed by the prime minister. It begs the question was the prime minister aware that such a commitment was being made or did he approve of the commitment.

"5. The letter is addressed to any institution willing to lend the said sum, which includes undesirable sources that potentially can bring the government of Saint Lucia into disrepute.

"6. Communication (responses) to the subject were to be addressed to Hon Guy Joseph and not the permanent secretary which is the usual practice.'

In the light of the foregoing, and to stem the rapid loss of the image of the country, Pierre said, 'If prime minister and minister of finance, Chastanet, fails to make a public statement about the authenticity of 'PAJOAH's limited' letter within the next seven days, [Thursday April 11] the official opposition will be left with no choice but to comment that he is not in control of his government and their questionable actions.'


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