If a St. Lucian wishes to evaluate the integrity of our government, then a good yardstick is the World Bank guidelines. First of all, we all know of monetary allocations or gifts from the Taiwanese government to government ministers. We are also very much aware of stories of those monies being diverted to the accounts of village Councils, with ministers being signatories and still retaining overall responsibility for implementation.
We also know of monetary donations and gifts by the Portuguese and Moroccan governments to the Foreign Minister for constituency projects; and there is no transparency and accountability for those monies. And again we learn from the Minister’s Website that those monies were lodged with the Village Councils for political projects. All of a sudden, the Councils have become a convenient diversion for the consolidated fund.
We also see one or two bus shelters, footpaths, and even a couple of homes being built or renovated by the Foreign Minister in the Choiseul Constituency in his name without the appropriate accountability to the Integrity Commission, Ministry of Finance or even to parliament.
All of this is happening under the “watchful eyes” of a Ministry of Finance (governed by Finance Act) who has responsibility for the administration of Public finances in the country.
The question is: Are the above, acts of state fraud and corruption? The answer is simple: In the eyes of the World Bank and the IMF, they are, categorically. And so are they in the eyes Finance Administration Action.
To understand, let us review some of the World Bank “Guidelines on Preventing and Combating Fraud and Corruption” - guidelines that you would expect our foreign minister would be familiar with. These are parallel to our own financial and procurement regulation which has been callously and unconscientiously violated ad nauseum.
According to the World Bank “these guidelines are designed to prevent and combat fraud and corruption that may occur in connection with the use of proceeds of financing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) or the International Development Association (IDA) during the preparation and/or implementation of IBRD/IDA-financed investment projects.”
The world bank does not only expects all persons and entities who are its clients to fully observe the highest standard of ethics but specifically, to “take all appropriate measures to prevent and combat fraud and corruption, and refrain from engaging in, fraud and corruption in connection with the use of the proceeds of IBRD or IDA financing”
The World Bank Guidelines “cover fraud and corruption in the direct diversion of Loan proceeds for ineligible expenditures, as well as fraud and corruption engaged in for the purpose of influencing any decision as to the use of Loan proceeds.”
Let me say a word on what’s happening to Choiseul vis-à-vis these guidelines which basically are both similar and run parallel to our Finance Administration Act.
Choiseul seems to become a hotbed for political corruption, and as patriotic citizens, we must do something about it before it’s too late. Of course, a very small percentage is benefitting (perhaps less than 1%); but we must nip it from the bud before it explodes.
According to the World Bank policy, when a government Minister interferes with the procurement of government contracts to the extent that his campaign manager secures a direct award for the construction of a Community Centre, then it must be tantamount to fraud. When that same Government Minister influences the procurement process for the award of contracts to build the Bois D’Inde link Road, then in the eyes of the World Bank it is also corruption and fraud.
The award of Ti Canal projects mentioned on his website/blog to party hacks is also blatant corruption and fraud of the highest order.
And finally, it is an act of egregious fraud for a foreign minister to channel monies received from a third country to a Village Council for his constituency projects. If he can’t observe these simple policies, then should he be eligible to be our foreign minister who has to abide by and conform to International Law?
In their assessment of the damage of Hurricane Tomas, we want the IMF and World Bank to include those issues in their terms of reference.
St. Lucia is not only badly fractured by Hurricane Tomas, but also battered by fraud and corruption.