St. Jude Fiasco

WHEN is the insanity in government in this country going to stop?

On Tuesday last we reported from what we consider very credible sources that the technical audit into the St Jude Hospital rebuilding project has concluded that another EC$100 million will be needed to complete the project that started more than six years ago. That is on top of the EC$95 million that Minister Guy Joseph has recently told us, has already been spent.

Most shocking, according to our source, was the investigators’ conclusion that the project was undertaken in a fragmented, poorly planned and executed fashion. And they have warned that no work should resume unless there was a clear strategy for its completion.

FLASH BACK: The hospital was partly destroyed by fire in September 2009. One year later, in September 2010, work began on restoring the damaged sections. For 14 months, until the change of government in December 2011, the rehabilitation project came under the control of the UWP Government of Stephenson King. For the next five years or 60 months, after changes had been made to the original plan to renovate and instead build a new structure, the Labour Party under Dr. Anthony had jurisdiction over the project. Then,for another eight months from June last year, control has reverted back to the a UWP government under Mr. Chastanet. These are the bald facts.

After all of this time, six and a half years, we cannot get St Jude up and running and we need as much as has already been spent to complete it? This is madness, and a clear indication that we are not learning from our mistakes. The real irony is that in the same year that St Jude was burnt we had a commission of inquiry here in St Lucia which established a strong case for mismanagement in government that cost the country millions of dollars. One of the subjects of the Fenton Ramsahoye inquiry was a road from Soufriere to Vieux Fort that was estimated to cost EC$43 million but ended up costing EC$133 million. That inquiry also found blatant disregard for established procedures in carrying out the project.

In 2009, some people cried about the eventual cost of that inquiry which also looked into Rochamel and the National Conservation Authority scandal. Now, we are hearing the same issues being raised about the St Jude audit. The point is, without these investigations we would never know the extent to which successive administrations have been taking the public for as ride with the scandalous manner in which they are attending to the people’s business, despite how loud they claim transparency and accountability. Neither can we, the people, claim that we want to know what happened and not want to pay to find out, with professional probing.

What’s even more galling is the fact that our politicians will not attempt to give the public credible explanations for their wanton waste of millions of dollars of the country’s resources, but instead resort to rubbing salt into the nation’s wounds with a lot of grand standing while trying to make political capital out of the very issues that they are responsible for.

These are not the only examples of costly mismanagement that have been recorded in recent times. There seems to be no resolve whatsoever that such incidents of waste and abuse of taxpayers’ money will ever stop.

But this present government will have to prove its mettle and find the EC$100 million that is needed to complete St Jude because the south needs this hospital just like the north needs the EU Owen King Hospital that continues to remain closed, a full year after its renaming ceremony.

Our politicians and our public service are doing a poor job properly managing the resources of our country. Maybe in future we need to have in place a legislated policy whereby Ministers of government are compelled to report to the country periodically through parliament, whenever large scale projects involving huge sums of money are being undertaken. We cannot continue throwing away money this way.

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