ANGELS are said to dance on the head of a pin. Saints today are required to dance on thin air. Because that is what the Technical Audit of the reconstruction of St. Jude Hospital represents to me. Thin air. But it is rarefied air, the stuff that you and I can’t breathe unless we are in the habit of spending EC$1,000,000 on our weekend sprees.
For those who may wish to offer comment on the now long-stalled process of reconstruction of St. Jude Hospital, the dance which angels and saints are required to perform pales in comparison to the intricate steps which must be taken if a lawsuit and court appearance are to be avoided. And for those of us with a background in the construction industry, the situation is even more precarious.
I had previously indicated an intention to discuss this issue of the “technical audit” of St. Jude, but even then had no intention of discussing the “technical” details of the process as no one had ever bothered to explain what a “technical audit” meant. Moreover, we had been given the assurance that the audit report would have been made public.
What had captured my attention with this audit, though, was an appearance by the Minister for Economic Development, Guy Joseph, confirming that an audit had been commissioned. While indicating during that interview that the audit would cost approximately EC$800,000, the Minister then refused to advise the public as to who had been commissioned to undertake this audit.
This refusal by the Minister has to have been one of the rudest treatments of an electorate by a politician in recent times. But it seems that we are becoming accustomed to it, because no sooner than this outrage had been committed by the Minister, he compounded it. In replying to a reporter’s later question, he advised us that he would not be naming the audit consultant as this was not his “style”.
Thirty-eight years into our Independence and two months into the formation of a new government, the public of St. Lucia had been made to understand that matters of governance of our country are now dependent on the particular “style” of a Minister. L’état, c’est moi (I am the State – Louis XIV)?
Happily grinning into the lens of any television camera that he could find as he announced this new approach to governance, it may have completely escaped the Minister for Economic Development that as he spoke, he represented the Government of St. Lucia. And with there being no denunciation of the Minister’s behaviour by the Government, then we can only conclude that the Government of St. Lucia has given tacit approval to the Minister’s statement. Somehow, we have arrived at a very, very dark place.
And with the new limitation on the length of articles, I now simply provide an opinion as to why this now leaked Interim Report of the Technical Audit, dated January 2017, is worthless.
While the Minister for Economic Development, Guy Joseph, may have initiated the technical audit on behalf of the new government, the Client in any relationship established by the Government of St. Lucia is us – “We”, the people of St. Lucia. And what we are first and foremost concerned with is whether or not the structures erected at the St. Jude site represent value for money. The Audit is absolutely silent on this, although it does raise some minor technical issues with the construction.
But that audit also tells us that of the total contracted cost of EC$118 million, EC$82 million, or 70% of the contracted sum has been spent, while simultaneously telling us that the main buildings are estimated to be 50% complete, with one or two others fully complete. Assuming that the consultant’s assessment of percentage completion is correct, this at worst represents a 20% discrepancy in value for money, and this technical assessment itself must now be the subject of a further independent audit.
That Technical Audit is also completely silent on the issue of whether or not the buildings can be used for the purpose for which they have been constructed, i.e. whether or not the facility can achieve accreditation, except for also coming to the completely unsupported conclusion (at least in the document available), that a further $100 million will be required for completion of the hospital. This statement itself has unfortunately achieved its own interpretation in the public mind.
Contrary to popular conclusion, though, what that Audit suggests is that things are not all that bad down at St. Jude, although having spent EC$920,000 supposedly to find out, we still don’t know the true condition of our hospital.
We examine extracts from that leaked Audit document in Part 2 next week.