Letters & Opinion

He That Filches My Good Name (Part One)

Image of David Prescod
By David Prescod

Who steals my purse steals trash; …
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
(William Shakespeare)

Those reading these articles will have noticed a change in their delivery over the last few weeks, a change occasioned by the new limit placed on their length by this newspaper. Whereas earlier articles sought to achieve a conversational tone, offering background information on the subject of discussion and allowing conclusions to be drawn, the shortened length now demands that opinions be presented, more often than not, as fact.

I have long resisted this and can tell you that when it became apparent with another publication, I simply chose to offer the articles to this newspaper, aiming to stimulate discussion rather than to shape opinion. I, therefore, have to express my deep appreciation to former editor Mr. Guy Ellis for his encouragement and forbearance, as I regularly exceeded the then limit. The articles, of course, did not have that “punch” which is now a journalistic requirement, but I hope that they may help in providing some record of our race down that road to perdition.

There is a simple reason for me not wanting to offer opinions, and it is that while everyone is entitled to have them, does not mean that everyone should express them. Hopefully, the opinions offered to the public will be those founded on specific knowledge and experience, with great emphasis placed on the experience factor.

So that my background in engineering does not provide me with the tools with which to adequately discuss the cultural issues which we now face, but I experience our culture daily and so I offer some comment. In doing so, however, I have always asked for the assistance of our professionals and, rather than offer my opinion, I have sought to draw on the opinions which have been expressed by our artists, our calyponians, our historians and academics, and to present these.

As the saying goes, ‘There is nothing new under the sun”, and there is nothing in our current experience which others have not experienced before us. Two examples may help.

In an article in December last year, I discussed pornography in Trinidad & Tobago simply because I was struck by the reported high incidence of internet searches for it in that country, and the economically-deprived locations from which those searches emanated. I was then equally surprised by the view of a US academic that pornography was more addictive than crack and that it was more difficult to treat. At the time, I knew nothing of the incidence of pornography in St. Lucia, but today, six months later, it seems that in the news every week there is a fresh example of our young people degrading themselves in their drive to fuel that particular addiction.

At the other end of this scale, there is the recent statement by George “Fish” Alphonse while fighting for the life of the Cultural Centre, (a fight that I support), that investment in culture would result in a decline in criminal activity. Few would disagree with this, but “Fish” is going to have a hard time convincing those who hold the purse-strings. We know, however, that there is scientific evidence that music stimulates development of the brain and that its study enhances performance in mathematics.

Last December, I argued for music education in our communities, even while I’m also 100% sure that “Fish” is right – an emphasis on cultural development will result in a decrease in crime. But we rely on the scientific evidence available.

So while I have enjoyed bringing information to you, if there has been any difficulty associated with writing these articles it has firstly been with ensuring that the language has been simple. This is not as simple as it may sound as it requires that you critique your own thoughts, and inevitably leads to a longer article.

The other difficulty has been with ensuring that not only were the articles factual, but that they did not expose either this newspaper or myself to the threat of a lawsuit. As many in the media will tell you, simply having to defend against that threat can lead to bankruptcy.

It is for these reasons that when someone chooses to describe an article that I have written as being “clothed with inaccuracies” that it is so deeply offensive. The intent is clear, as the claim is not that the article is “riddled” with inaccuracies, but that it is “clothed” with them, leading to the incontrovertible conclusion that I have deliberately included “inaccuracies” in an article in pursuit of a particular agenda.

When that person next stoops to misquoting the article and then misappropriating the facts in order to further his shameless insinuation, an immediate and robust response is required.

But when that person also regularly offers his opinion in this newspaper, it is a distressing indication of the depth of trouble our country is in.

We respond next week.


  1. Mr. Prescod, I will readily present an apology if the words used in a previous post were construed as an attack on your integrity. That certainly was not the intent. I was of the opinion that your suggestion that there was some injustice done to the Consultant by the GOSL could not be substantiated with the evidence presented in the Technical Audit. My reading of the letter of notice of termination was that adequate notice was given as per the contract and the Consultant was advised that all works would be suspended. There cannot be a notice of termination and a notice of suspension occurring simultaneously. Also the consultancy contract was time related based on provision of resources, you cannot now convert that to a percentage and say that the sum is acceptable when the Technical Audit expressed concern in the provision of resources. There may be good reasons for the perceived discrepancy but we cannot move to pronounce definitive judgments in the absence of all the information. In closing, I reiterate that professional ethics would demand an apology on my part if the words used to ‘gather’ what I believed to be inaccuracies became an offence. I have received many criticisms in these posting of comments, many hiding behind sobriquets. I view them as cybercowards, but I accept their right to express a contrary view, I guess that if I did the same, just maybe there would have been no need for a response, but I refuse to hide. Continue writing, continue educating my friend.

    1. Mr. Peters, no apology is required; we merely examine your statements.

      I make no comment on the allegations in that Technical Audit with respect to the consultant, but continue to insist that the proper resolution of this issue can only be achieved by first making the Audit Report public.

      You state that there cannot be a notice of termination and a notice of suspension occurring simultaneously. You should state instead that it is not logical for this to be the case, but that does not explain the Government’s lack of logic.

      This aberration in the Government’s logic also requires examination, as not only did the suspension of the consultant have immediate effect, but this was apparently relied on to demand immediate return of Government’s property. The demand for the Consultant’s audited financial records over three years is further insult to logic, as the contract does not contemplate this.

      The substantive issue is that of governance, even if there have been obvious inadequacies of administration of this project by both government administrations. This is also not a result of their use of direct procurement, an established practice, but of the abuse of this process. The country’s focus must be on mechanisms for reigning in this abuse, and should not be re-directed to the legitimacy or otherwise of procurement procedures.

      I can also state definitively that even at 10% of project expenditure, the consultant’s fee is well within acceptable limits for the traditional services provided: design and supervision of construction services. Additionally, the consultant was also made responsible for engaging contractors and for management of the procurement of materials and goods, services for which additional fees would attach. That 10% fee which you earlier indicated also neglects the projected cost of the project which is 16% higher than current expenditure.

      The consultant’s fee has nothing to do with the manner in which it is calculated. It reflects the services provided and any manner of calculation should arrive at about the same result. I am well within my ground to state that it is acceptable.

      But there is a more invidious aspect of this problem, as the Consultant did not arrive at or approve these fees on his own – they were accepted by government. Nor did he certify his claims or pay himself, while the Audit presents documentation submitted by the Consultant in support of his claims. If anyone now finds a problem with the consultant’s fees, the point at which this contention must be drawn is with the government’s administration of this project, an issue that is glossed over by the Audit.

      Part 2 of this article, written at the same time as Part 1, continues with the issues surrounding termination of the Consultant.

  2. David
    As an Engineer, I enjoy reading and saving your articles to archive. Continue with your in-depth, well researched and meticulous presentations. Halcrow Group can not be in the center of the storm and the general public not knowing who exactly are these people. And yes, it matters who are the consultants. Please enlighten us on The Halcrow Group.

    1. NY, You are pushing me in a direction that I wish to avoid as any discussion of the consultant will pave the way for an accusation that I am defending this particular consultant.

      Halcrow was a very old UK consulting firm, and for ease I attach a Wikipedia page reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halcrow_Group. You will see that while they had been involved with infrastructural development, they were also involved with property and with building work assignments. A link to the CH2M Hill wikipedia page is also found at this site, and from that page, a link to CH2M Hill’s website.

      Halcrow Group (St.Lucia) Ltd. has operated in St. Lucia for a number of years, and are responsible for the drainage interventions in Castries, Anse-La-Raye and Canaries, for which they were engaged in or around 2003. They were engaged for a Castries urban transportation study in 2004, and undertook this as part of a joint venture comprising Halcrow Group Ltd./CFTY in association with NLBA (WI) Ltd/Interisland Architects and Planners & Eres Transport Ingetrans (St. Lucia Nationwide February 18, 2006). If memory serves correctly, they were also responsible for the design of the route out of Castries in the vicinity of the old Agriculturalists’ building and the old Ministry of Works building.

      In an earlier post, NY, you had been concerned with Halcrow’s competence to undertake the St. Jude project, and I tried to explain that lead consultants engage technical expertise when necessary. You might therefore want to note that even with the transportation study in 2004, (above), Halcrow apparently functioned in the role of lead consultant, or project manager, and engaged the technical services needed.

      This has also apparently happened with St. Jude, and Dannion CE Ltd is reportedly in association with Halcrow on this project. The Audit reviews the CV of Dannion’s principal and pronounces it appropriate, with the addition that he has no specific experience in hospital design/construction.

      Yet you, and perhaps thousands of others have been led to question the suitability of Halcrow for this project without the opportunity of understanding their role. Halcrow has been engaged for this project and they maintain responsibility for the works at St. Jude no matter whom else they may associate with. The Audit also confirms the suitability of Halcrow Director Mandesh Singh as Project Manager, although here too there is the addendum that he has no specific hospital construction experience, an even lesser consideration than in the case of Dannion given his role.

      Even if the Audit now expresses concerns with respect to the competence of site staff, those concerns should have been raised by Government over the last six years – both administrations. Those concerns also only truly have relevance when they can be directly connected to defective works at the site. No evidence of this has been presented.

      It is also troubling that the Audit Report indicates that “the nexus between HGL and CH2M Hill could not be established in any of the Consultant’s contracts. The only common denominator may be Mandesh Singh (HGL Director)”. The relevance of this statement escapes comprehension, as if HGL is a company registered to do business in St. Lucia, why would it require a nexus with any other company, whether its parent or otherwise, in order to conduct that business?

      In any event, if a nexus between HGL and CH2M Hill was sought, the place for the Audit to have looked should have been with the parent company CH2M Hill. There is no indication of whether or not that confirmation was sought from CH2M Hill and so the question remains hanging in the air. Yet the Government of St. Lucia, in its correspondence terminating Halcrow of July 06, 2016 addresses that correspondence to Mr. Mandesh Singh, Authorized Representative, Halcrow Group Ltd, CH2M Hill Company.

      It is also ironic that while many may have been induced to challenge Halcrow, the consultant who prepared the Audit Report is in the identical position, as who in St. Lucia has acquired hospital design and construction expertise other than with the newly constructed hospital in Castries. That is not to say that the audit could not properly have been undertaken, but that report does not even bother to indicate which sub-consultants were engaged so as to bolster its credibility.

      Moreover, the Audit Report claims that the audit itself is a technical one, states specifically that it is not a forensic audit, although one may however also be required, and disclaims all liability for its contents. Yet the matters concerning the consultant’s fees that the Audit Report addresses in some detail fall squarely in the domain of a forensic audit, and have excited much public concern.

      I hope this has helped, NY, as we need you to keep asking for that Audit Report to be published. And while I also hope that any civil servants involved with the termination of Halcrow have sufficient documentation with which to protect themselves, we must also keep demanding that the termination itself be aired in a Court.

      Finally, what has all of this achieved other than to subject the people of Vieux Fort and the south to further misery, at a cost to us of EC$1m?

      1. David
        Thanks for the response. I have a boot leg copy of the Audit Report. I think Its unethical of me to comment on the report since it was not made public. And yes, the clarion call is out for the release of the report. Recalled, I did asked: if FDL and Guy was in cahoots….We have to get the bottom of it, and why FDL

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