Many years ago some questions were asked about the circumstances which led to the award of an insurance contract by the Transport Board (TB) to CGI Insurance. Although the questions were put to former Minister of Transport Rommel Marshall at the time, he or the government he represented never felt compelled to answer the taxpayers truthfully. Neither the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) or the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) have been transparent over the years about how the taxpayers business is being managed.
In Barbados as is the case in small countries where relationships run deep, it should come as no surprise that business deals and decisions are greatly influenced by ‘informal’ considerations. The fact that successive governments have resisted implementing transparency laws assures that the practice of delivering ‘favours’ has become embedded in our business ethos. This is a reality in both the public and private sectors.
This week’s Barbados Today online newspaper published a story Cuts begin which suggested that significant changes will be made at the TB very soon. Senior management at the TB, supported by the Barbados Workers Union, have denied any knowledge of the changes. What commonsense dictates is that the TB will be impacted if the government is to efficiently introduce 400 million in cuts to public spending. The TB currently receives one of the largest transfers from government.
What often escapes notice are the private companies who benefit from the procurement policy of the public sector. To date no details have been given to the public about how the insurance contract was awarded by former Minister Marshall to CGI Insurance. The public have had to be satisfied with a dismissive statement by the former minister. How quickly we forget. The Auditor General has perennially demonstrated that it is a ineffective post if the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) continues to be frustrated in carrying out its mandate. The irony is that BOTH the BLP and DLP have a vested interest in a ‘sleeping’ PAC. BU supports the effort being made by MAM to breath life into the committee. There is a good reason why our system of government mandates that several committees operate in our parliament.
Similar questions can be asked of the private sector. On what basis did LIME award the insurance cover of its 97 vehicles to CGI Insurance in 2011? Based on BU’s estimate this translates to about 1.5 million in annual premiums. Did Alex McDonald ‘recuse’ himself when the decision was deliberated at LIME to give CGI Insurance the business? It is no secret that McDonald and CGI head are good friends and business partners. And what about a $35,000 thousand dollar duty free watch which was purchased from Little Switzerland? What role did a BLP Senator play in the transaction? And who was the beneficiary? That CGI Insurance needed the TB business is reflected in its financials 2012 over 2011.
When the four LIME shops were put out to tender last year BU became curious who would be the contractors. BU understands that Trevor Woodroffe got the Windsor Lodge outlet and the Peter Harris got the the others. All one year contracts which are currently pending renewal. With the McDonald no longer at LIME there is a lot to lose. As always BU is prepared to withdraw this blog and or apologize to anyone if proved wrong.