It rings hollow for sensible Barbadians to be expected to applaud government for completing the St. John Polyclinic 27 long years after it was first mooted. It is no mistake we have not referred to it by its official name, a subject for another blog.
Perhaps if we were building a gasification plant or some other complex that required a very technical design the long period taken could have been reasonably explained. To have demanded airtime from CBC TV to broadcast the opening ceremony was a blatant disregard for the intelligence of Barbadians. Of course the obvious PR event would have served to make the DLP yard fowls crow.
It is also worth the mention that the construction of the St. John Polyclinic straddled both political parties. This fact ensures that the clinic deserves to be remembered as the proverbial political football of all projects in our post Independence period so far. The BU household is pleased nevertheless the East is to be served by a state of the art health delivery unit so described at the opening by member of parliament for the constituency Mara Thompson (by the way Mara, the dibby dibby outfit worn by Oya was in poor taste for the event, especially compared to you, Esther and Maria). However, the willingness of BOTH political parties to have played politics with healthcare delivery should be of bigger concern.
In all the political rhetoric being spewed, how many will ask why has the clinic taken so long to be completed. How many will ask what is the final cost to tax payers. How many will ask how will we prevent a recurrence by those entrusted to guard the public purse. How many will ask if the decision to complete the clinic aligns with a sustainable health care delivery strategy in Barbados.
What do we know about the dollars expensed by the government so far to shore up the legacy of the dearly departed David Thompson.
BU research reveals the original estimate to build the clinic was 16 million dollars and the final cost appears to be about 30 million dollars. The research further reveals it was originally to have been completed by this government in November 2012 when Donville Inniss was minister of Health yet here we are three years hence and a reported 100% overruns to add to the inefficiency. Does this mean the DLP government does not have the moral and other authority to challenge the BLP on overrun projects of the past?
Those who had the opportunity to peek at the facility know the government will have to add to the 8 million dollar supplementary of 2015 and the several others tabled in previous years to properly equip the clinic to deliver the state of the art health delivery Mara Thompson boasted about yesterday (20 November 2015). The financial gymnastics of this government has become legendary. The government would have known final cost associated with the completion of the project in the 2015 financial year yet it is obvious it has purposely decided to go the supplementaries route. The decision to defer was obviously designed to massage the deficit number and deceive the ignorant. This is what is meant when some declare we cannot trust the Central Bank and by extension the minister of finance Chris Sinckler when speaking to the financial state of the Barbados economy. How many other projects have similar political decisions impacted.
It brings us to the matter of the 100% cost overrun of the St. John Polyclinic. Unfortunately the wing of the Auditor General is clipped and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is deserving of its earned reputation as another ineffective committee of parliament – a failing of the governance model fiercely defended by the traditionalist which has been exposed as irrelevant to the times. The opening of the St. John Polyclinic serves as an opportunity to review the wastage of public funds with zero accountability over the years by both political parties.
Why as an educated people we should accept that the project has incurred 100% overrun and there is no vociferous call by ALL Barbadians to account for every cent spent on the project from start to ‘finish’. The passive manner Barbadians appear to accept the cavalier approach by successive governments to table supplementaries to cover overruns needs to be challenged in a new dispensation. We all know the current system encourages corruption and successive governments have been unwilling to slam the door on the sucking of the nipples of the fatted calf, the greedy lot!
One is left to question why the planners of the clinic decided to construct a mill wall costing hundreds of thousand of dollars at a time when government is strapped for cash. Shouldn’t common sense have dictated the construction of such a wall – at this time – scrapped from the design? Who is the project manager representing government who approved the construction of a mill wall. Who will explain to taxpayers why an irrelevant part of the design was approved given its significant cost. We have allowed our governments to be too cavalier with spending dollars from the public purse. It is OUR money NOT theirs. There appears to be no legislative philosophy to create tension on members of parliament to reduce the deficit devoid of financial gymnastics. Future generations will have to contend with a 9 billion dollar deficit and what do we have to show for it given the incremental increase in the last 6 years?
Last week Caswell Franklyn column we discussed the challenge posed by government not ratifying (enacting in local law) treaties/convention signed. In 2003 Barbados signed the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), the time is now to lobby for its ratification. The time has come for a new way to manage the business of government. The Political Class needs to be disrupted by a new way of doing business. We the PEOPLE must insist. The Barbados Labour Party as the government in waiting has an obligation to show the population it is prepared to depart from the cronyism of the past. Mia Mottley has the opportunity to infuse the political landscape with an optimism to stem rising political cynicism.
Governments of the past had access to largess the umbrella of preferential treatment afforded, it is a different time. We have to suck from the knowledge pool our significant investment in education gives us.