In hindsight, it is clear that the due diligence function of the Government of Saint Lucia should be revamped just so that what occurred under the Allen Chastanet administration in its efforts to procure 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine does not repeat itself.
We all know the story by now. Not that Chastanet did anything wrong by giving the go ahead to purchase the doses. What emerges when a proper understanding of his role in the deal is understood, is whether the agency which performed the due diligence process did a thorough job. On reflection, it is clear that not all the I’s and T’s were doted and crossed.
It is on this premise that another look at government’s vetting process must be taken to ensure that any agency given the task to carry out due diligence on behalf of the Government of Saint Lucia scrutinises even the smallest of details.
So we ask: Did the person who gave the task to the agency, which, on this occasion, Chastanet said was the attorney general’s office, outline clearly the nature of the deal and the risks that were involved? Not infrequently, a correct answer is premised on the clarity of the question.
On another note, Chastanet last week said he knew that a private company could not source the AstraZeneca vaccine directly. This begs the question: If you knew a private company could not source the vaccine why engage a private company (Radical Investment) to do so, which engaged other private companies as intermediaries to source the vaccine?
He further stated that his administration understood that aside from Saint Lucia, two other countries were part of the deal, meaning Barbados and Bahamas, and that one country would take the lead with the AstraZeneca deal. Again this begs the question: Did he have a talk with those countries? And if not, why not? Our strength as CARICCOM members depends on our cohesion, our willingness to share information, our willingness to come to each others’ assistance in all kinds of circumstances.
At last week’s press conference Chastanet said this: “I did confirm that the countries were involved, but you would understand that there’s certain private information I was not privileged to ask, so the details of the contracts and the arrangements, either one of those countries had, other than establishing what the price was going to be, I did not know.” Was this enough? In retrospect, clearly not.
Leadership is not only about delegating assignments, but about being knowledgeable, having foresight, doing the necessary follow ups and not leaving anything to chance.
Understanding that the government’s due diligence framework is a risk management tool used to assess potential partners ability to deliver, why is it that red flags did not pop up on knowing that Radical Investment had to use private companies as intermediaries to procure the doses?
The fact that the EC$7.3 million that was handed over to Radical Investment for the doses will be given back to the Government of Saint Lucia, is not reason to declare that the due diligence was good enough. It was not, hence the dilemma Saint Lucia found itself in.
Saint Lucia cannot afford a reoccurrence of that type of decision by a sitting government at this juncture in its development.
May this serve as a warning to the two-month old government of Prime Minister Pierre that due diligence is not something to be taken lightly, it has to be thorough and analytical. It also holds people to account.