ALLEGATIONS of financial mismanagement and corruption were levelled against the former United Workers Party (UWP) administration at this week’s sitting of parliament.
A majority of legislators in the Lower House of Parliament accused the former regime of misappropriation of public funds, and the misuse of the state’s resources to facilitate some ‘questionable’ contractual arrangements.
Housing and Local Government Minister and Member of Parliament for Central Castries, Richard Frederick, alleged that there were several ‘blatant acts of corruption’ committed by the previous regime, stating that this unprecedented level of corruption has ‘skyrocketed’.
Referring to the National Housing Corporation’s (NHC) ‘involvement’ in two housing projects at Choc Estate and Talvern, Babonneau, Fredrick said, it was proposed that ‘hundreds of lots’ would be developed for the citizenry. He noted too, there was some ‘questionable’ and common issues that related to both developments.
“In both developments the NHC staff were left out,” he declared.
According to Frederick: “Staff at NHC do not even know what’s going on. They were never involved in designing …in surveying, they were never involved in anything whatsoever relating to those developments, although these parcels of land belong to the NHC.”
Fredrick disclosed that both projects are being undertaken by a certain company. In addition, he said, staff at the NHC were at odds in relation to drawings of the development.
“No one could have showed me an approved drawing for any of those developments,” he complained.
Frederick added: “In neither of the developments was a cost or a price to develop the lands agreed (upon). The agreement…does not mention any cost of development for those lands.”
He said they could not have been mentioned, since there was no approved development plans; and additionally, the lands were provided to the developer at no costs.
Frederick said that the former Housing Minister arrived at an agreement with the company to open a joint bank account with the NHC “a government entity, at a bank of their choice. And all the protracted sales for those two developments were supposed to be deposited in that account.”
He said, in the agreement proposed by the former minister 80% of the proceeds from the sale of those lands would go to the company and government 20%.
“I could not fathom…why a former minister of government would take state assets and give it to a developer to come to that kind of agreement that is substantially against the interest of the government and people of this country,” Frederick said.
Frederick revealed that the Chinese government had offered to grant the NHC a loan of $1 million towards the development, plus an additional $10 million to develop Choc Estate.
But, he said, since Choc Estate was “the subject matter of an agreement, the NHC board tried desperately to access the funds and redirect the funds…but that did not work.”
He assured the public that those two agreements has been put on hold and the matter is under the directive of the attorney general “and the attorney general’s chambers will be advising the NHC on a way forward.”
The housing minister further disclosed that both developments has been stopped “until some kind of amicable ground can be arrived at and that would be based on the advice of the attorney general.”
Member of Parliament for Castries South East, Joachim Henry also unleashed a scathing attack on the former administration for alleged ‘financial malpractices’ on the eve of the July, 26 polls.
“I noted that $650,000 was expended in one constituency of Gros Islet within a 10-day period July 13 to 23, three days ahead of the 2021 general elections,” declared Henry.
He referred to activities undertaken in the northern constituency, prior to the elections, as disturbing abnormalities that he had to contend with.
The Minister of Equity and Social Services said over the past weeks, he has been privileged to hold discourse with several related agencies “and to review the operations of some of the core projects and programs within the ministry’s portfolio.”
He said while not delving into the nature of this expenditure, at this time, nonetheless, “certainly, such actions cannot be condoned within the frame of good governance.”
Henry said it also brings into focus “the issue of fairness, equitable distribution of scarce resources, as well as, the need for operating procedures and guidelines for delivery of such programs.”
The Minister says he has commenced dialogue with personnel within the ministry to implement “a new policy direction for the ministry and the necessary reforms to enhance operations.”