Letters & Opinion

St. Jude and the Art of the Con — Part 9: Whose Fraud?

David Prescod
By David Prescod, Engineer & Project Manager — former CEO of WASCO

PRIME Minister Allen Chastanet has rejected suggestions that an independent review of that EC$1 million Technical Audit of the St. Jude Hospital reconstruction project should be undertaken.

But in Part 1 of this series, I pointed out that the leaked copy of the Audit was a worthless document as it did not establish the value of the work done. This would have let us know whether or not money had been wasted, or worse, on this project.

Instead, as pointed out in Part 2, the bulk of the Audit Report is dedicated to an examination of the contracts awarded on this project, and the forms of contract used. While that leaked Audit contains a lengthy treatise on the suitability of those contract documents, it does not include a single charge of fraud with respect to their use.

Yet, Minister Guy Joseph has been adamant that there had been fraud on this project, indicating that he believed that a fair amount of the $95 million spent could not be accounted for (The VOICE, September 20, 2016); and that an attorney had been retained and everyone accountable would be brought to answer (The VOICE, November 5, 2016).

Following receipt of the Audit, Minister Joseph indicated that it had been forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office for further advice to which his Ministry would lead the charge to ensuring that implicated contractors and firms were held accountable (stlucianewsonline, January 13, 2017).

While there are numerous suggestions regarding the possibility for fraud in that document, the leaked Audit Report in fact identifies every cent paid to the contractors, mainly Cyril Dornelly Construction and O. B. Sadoo Engineering, and to their sub-contractors. Those sums are also identified in the Project Manager’s handover report. No money is missing there.

The attempt to sustain the public perception of fraud has also included the suggested opportunities for fraud through the purchase of materials and equipment, and we have previously discussed the public spectacle of Minister Joseph “discovering” materials in the exact locations in which they had originally been stored. No materials were missing here.

With respect to the purchase of equipment, Minister Joseph confirmed in April this year that most of the equipment purchased for St. Jude came from General Electric. According to the Minister, once contacted, GE confirmed that they would supply the equipment three months after an instruction to commence production had been received from the Government, and also committed a representative to the site for a week, youtube.com/watch?v=mM_nNp4y-Vc, (3:11mins; 6:09 mins.) Once again, there is no equipment missing.

And so, having told us in November 2016 that his Ministry would lead the charge in the prosecution of those suspected of fraud, one year later at his October 23, 2017 press conference, Minister Joseph claimed that the matter was out of his hands as he had referred the Audit to the Attorney General, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFNQbaUOrxw (1:14:58).

The Constitution of St. Lucia, however, requires that the Attorney General be a member of Cabinet, and so his advice would have been available to Minister Joseph every time this Audit Report was discussed in Cabinet. Yet, having received the Audit Report, Minister Joseph washed his hands of his creation, laid the document within the Attorney General’s Chambers, and we have heard nothing further from him about either our million dollars or of prosecution for fraud.

And again at that October 23 press conference, Minister Joseph told us that he had no power to influence the Director of Public Prosecutions and so he could not be held responsible for the lack of prosecution.

But Minister Joseph has also previously told us that he had engaged an attorney to prosecute those persons suspected of fraud, (November 5, 2016, see above), an engagement confirmed by the Prime Minister during his press conference of October 5, 2017, youtube.com/watch?v=7VT-oEzDv50 , (1:32:35).

Now, according to the Prime Minister at his October 5 press conference, Government is going to undertake a “forensic audit” to investigate fraud at St. Jude. What fraud? Guess who is paying for this? Where and when does this end?

Meanwhile, St. Jude Hospital staff has to host a beauty queen show to raise funds for purchase of its own medical supplies.

Presumably, all of these audits and threats of prosecution make sense to both Minister Joseph and our Prime Minister, but we have to hope that none of those statements are true because if they are, then we may be seeing the emergence of pathways outside of those prescribed by our Constitution for this Government’s prosecution (persecution?) of persons.

Today, public focus has been diverted to the quality of the reconstructed St. Jude. And so at his September 25, 2017 press briefing, Minister Joseph indicated that Mexican authorities had advised him that it would be easier to build a new hospital for US$40 million than to fix what had already been built (HTS NewsForce, September 25, 2017).

That Mexican estimate of US$40 million (EC$108 million) is, however, the near identical sum appearing in that leaked Technical Audit in respect of reconfiguration works proposed for St. Jude. Which came first?

We search for plans next week.

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