Dr. Terrence Farrell, an economist and attorney-at-law, recently launched his new book, “We Like It So?”, a fascinating analysis of the cultural roots of economic underachievement in the Caribbean and particularly in Trinidad and Tobago.
In the introduction, he has a quote from a presentation given by Emile Elias at TEDx Port of Spain in July 2016. Elias stated then: “We are great talkers, but there is something that makes us get stuck between the thought and the actual doing’’.
Elias is now 81 years old, with a very sharp mind and one who has interfaced with every Prime Minister and Government of Trinidad and Tobago since 1962, so probably his analysis of the cultural roots of economic underachievement is also spot-on.
I chose this book and quotation to preface my comments on the St. Jude Hospital Project as they both accurately reflect the complete disaster at St. Jude. In the conclusion of the book, Dr. Farrell states:
“No one should use contacts to gain preferential treatment. Rule–following is never to be contingent or optional. The use of status or rank to demonstrate that one does not have to follow the rules should be sanctioned.’’
As shocking as it may be to the reader, to understand what went wrong at St. Jude, you have to begin in the Constitution of Saint Lucia. Section 69 states:
Where any Minister has been charged with responsibility for any
department of government, he or she shall exercise general direction
and control over that department; and, subject to such direction and
control, every department of government shall be under the
supervision of a public officer whose office is referred to in this
Constitution as the office of a permanent secretary:
The office of the Minister is to exercise general direction and control over the department that he/she has been charged with responsibility and that department of government shall be under the supervision of a public officer whose office is referred to as a permanent secretary. The Constitution of Saint Lucia places primary responsibility upon the Minister and the Permanent Secretary for direction, control and supervision of public expenditure. Our Constitution is saying to us that when a project becomes a disaster: Seek ye first the Minister and Permanent Secretary.
Just after the 2016 elections, Guy Joseph, in his capacity as Minister for Economic Planning, was of the view that from a policy position it was best that a Technical Audit be done on the St. Jude project. Having exercised his role in providing general direction and control, the Permanent Secretary was given a mandate to carry out that policy. The Permanent Secretary then wrote to the Minister for Finance advising that the urgency of the policy directive requires that the procurement process be a direct award and, hopefully, provided plausible reasons that were convincing enough for the Minister for Finance to support an award to FDL Consult. The Permanent Secretary had previously negotiated a sum which is reported to be over $ 800,000 for the services, and in the exercise of the constitutional responsibility of supervising the Ministry, was confident that the sum represented good value.
So we enter the Technical Audit with the Minister for Economic Affairs giving the direction and control, the Permanent Secretary in supervising, has negotiated a Fixed Sum contract with FDL and provided plausible reasons for sole selective tendering to the Minister for Finance, who has accepted and approved. Good governance at work, we can only assume. However, there is a Terms of Reference that become the benchmark for the work of FDL Consult.
The Terms of Reference of FDL can be segmented into two components:
a. The carrying out of a Technical Audit/Reconnaissance of Works undertaken (as of the time of signing of the Contract ) at the St. Jude Hospital and the project management services of the entire project, including management of contractors and nominated subcontractors, and
b. The preparation of all technical documentation required for the preparation of bidding and contract documentation to complete the project. This will include the methodology for completion of construction using a phased approach and for commissioning operation of the facility within 12 months.
The St. Jude Technical Audit that was presented, therefore, represents Item (a) and thus Item (b) seems to be still outstanding to the Government of St. Lucia as a deliverable.
One would readily state that the content of the Technical Audit has justified the decision of Minister Joseph to stop construction and to assess the project. The Consultant’s declaration that it is “a mess of herculean proportions” is a fairly accurate assessment. I intend over a series of articles to go through the Technical Audit in detail, in a manner that every Saint Lucian will understand what went wrong. Saint Lucia cannot afford the continued fiscal haemorrhaging from the wounds of poor governance.
We continue to hear about Constitutional Reform, but of what value is such reformation when the very foundations of our present Constitution are deliberately being destroyed? We have a Director of Audit, who has presented Reports of significant instances of wastage and corruption within the Public Service and nothing is done. We have an Integrity Commission that has never sanctioned an individual. Both are embedded in our Constitution. We like it so? I certainly do not.
Stay tuned next week for the continued series on the St. Jude Technical Audit. I guarantee you will be stunned.