LEADER of the Opposition, Philip J. Pierre, has responded to allegations made against the former government regarding the use of Taiwanese funds earmarked for the Constituency Development Programme (CDP).
Last Wednesday evening, Minister for Economic Development, Guy Joseph, during an appearance on DBS NewsMaker Live, alleged that unregistered contractors were given contracts to undertake work under the CDP, adding that the previous government “practically spent all the money that was allocated for CDP for the entire year (2016/17) in the month of elections”.
“I’ve heard these and many other different accusations (made) by this minister (Guy Joseph),” Pierre told The VOICE yesterday. “I have seen no tangible document, no list of contractors and no list that shows any money had been paid or are due. So I cannot get involved in something which, obviously, is not a quest for the truth but instead a desire to be vindictive and to cast political blame.”
Pierre said he needs to see documents and lists that furnish more information and would not be limited to depending on Joseph’s word. He added that since the technical audit was funded by taxpayers, the results should be made public “so that everybody can see what happened or what was perceived to have happened.”
“As soon as I’m exposed to the full copy of the audit – not excerpts from any minister’s statement, I’ll make a full statement,” Pierre said.
He added: “As far as I’m concerned, in terms of the CDP, we followed the correct procedure and the minister should review the study that was done on the Town and Village Councils pertaining to the use of Taiwanese funds.”
In 2012, the then ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party commissioned an extensive audit entitled the “Report on Financial Operations of Town, Village and Rural Councils” which alleged maladministration and misappropriation of funds earmarked for the CDP on the part of the previous UWP administration. When asked why no one was prosecuted despite these findings, Pierre said the matter did not seem a priority at the time.
“I guess we were very busy running the country and dealing with the dire state of the economy. We were busy bringing confidence back to the people of Saint Lucia. We said at the time that that was an unnecessary diversion which, even if there was political gain, we said that the country came first and that the United Workers’ Party would have learned its lessons,” Pierre explained.
Joseph said some contractors who are owed payments for work they undertook under the CDP are now growing impatient with the slow pace of the process for which the new government has no control over. Before payments are disbursed, he said, certain discrepancies need to be cleared up.
However, Pierre accused the government of creating a diversion over what he claimed to be their inability to cope with the issues confronting the country. He said the government needs to get to work to deliver on its promises.