Letters & Opinion

St Jude and the Art of the Con – Part 21: That Hidden Threat

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

IN Part 1 of our “Right to Know” series, we differed strongly with our Prime Minister’s definition of “transparency and accountability”, pointing out that contrary to his assertion in this interview, youtube.com/watch?v=_AoCyw1v-GY, “transparency and accountability” require the full disclosure of information to the public except in limited and defined circumstances, such as matters of national security.

It is only its warped definition of “transparency and accountability” that has made it possible for this government to enter into an agreement with DSH that apparently binds it to secrecy, so that two years after signing that agreement and promising to publish it, the public has yet to see it.

And in the case of St. Jude, it is that absence of a requirement for transparency and accountability and for the full disclosure of information that has allowed Minister Joseph to at first refuse to disclose his Ministry’s selected consultant for the Audit of St. Jude, then refuse to publish it after initially promising to do so.

So that while this Government’s first stated concern with St. Jude was the time taken for its construction, that concern soon morphed into suggestions of fraud and the prosecution of persons found accountable. And when the steam ran out of those suggestions, we were then bombarded with the supposed defects in construction.

Bad as all of that is, it is the process by which the denigration of St. Jude has been conducted by this government that should be of concern to all of us. That process has been one of negative suggestion, so that at every turn a question is asked of the public inviting it to come to a negative conclusion on St. Jude.

So, for example, when Minister Joseph told us last December 04 “… and you know what I found out this morning … you do not put high tech equipment on the ground floor” youtube.com/watch?v=0ls3slMfOdg (2:47 mins), we are not given any idea of how the Minister had managed to avail himself of this nonsensical information. The suggestion is, however, that we should accept it.

And if we do accept this, then it stands to reason that the ground floor of the building where this equipment is to be housed cannot be used for its intended purpose, and quite possibly should be condemned, as Minister Joseph has also previously advised.

But, according to the UK Government’s NHS Estates publication HBN 6, Facilities for Diagnostic Imaging and Interventional Radiology, Section 2.18: “The (radiology) department should have a good relationship with the main entrance of the hospital and access to the department should be directly off the main hospital street on the ground floor of the hospital”.

Yet, in making that statement, technically, Minister Joseph has not spoken an untruth; what he has done instead is to present us with a statement that has led some of us to come to an unfounded conclusion. In making that statement, Minister Joseph has misled us.

Similarly, when in his October 23, 2017 press conference Minister Joseph tells us that the Audit Report states that EC$118 million has been spent on St. Jude, he is not correct. The leaked Audit Report documents the award of contracts to that value, but also indicates that of that sum, “EC$82.5 million was reported as certified and paid” (Section 5.11, pg. 67). The correct value of expenditure is however found in the Project Manager’s handover report, and it is EC$98 million.

And we have seen Prime Minister Chastanet’s misleading references to ramps and narrow corridors at St. Jude (see Part 17).

But as Prime Minister Chastanet sought to justify his proposed forensic audit of St. Jude to the Parliament on February 13, 2018, he indicated that the Audit Report had stated that “there is EC$50 million of quantifiable expenditure based on the physical work on the ground … and that there is expenditure, or disbursements, of EC$118 million” youtube.com/watch?v=7xkc3effaPc (29:33 mins).

In making that statement Prime Minister Chastanet was doubly misleading of the Parliament, as nowhere in that leaked Audit Report is to be found an assessment of the value of the work done at St. Jude. And as we have just seen, according to the leaked Audit Report, the amount disbursed on reconstruction of St. Jude is incorrectly stated as EC$82.5 million, not the EC$118 million quoted by the Prime Minister.

This is the pattern of behaviour that has emerged with this government. Statements are issued that support the government’s narrative for construction of a new hospital, or for a forensic audit, statements that are not supported by fact and that in many instances are easily refuted.

These statements mislead the public into a negative assessment of the reconstructed St. Jude, and cumulatively drive the public to acceptance of the Government’s goal of constructing a new hospital.

We have not had this type of government before. We have had high-handed government; we have had secretive government; and we have had combinations of the two. But never have we had a government that has so openly misled us.

And never have we had a government that has established an absence of transparency and accountability in public affairs as government policy.

As this St. Jude debacle has so amply demonstrated, in the absence of transparency and accountability in public life, this government’s propensity to mislead the public is the greatest threat to our democracy that we as a nation have so far had to face.

We stop here – for now.

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