Patrick Manning must be laughing somewhere.
“This administration was elected to restore integrity and responsibility in public life…” said Dr Rowley in his address to the nation on 29/12/15 setting the tone for his administration. That is what leaders do; they set the timing, tone, and tempo for the organisations that they lead. And they lead by example.
We will never know what transpired in the meeting between the Prime Minister and Venezuela VP Delcy Rodriguez. However, by confirming the authenticity of the permanent secretary’s detailed instructions to the chief immigration officer, the National Security Minister has also confirmed that the composition of the entourage was known in advance. Since Minister Young does not deal with “underlings”, both he and Dennis Moses, Foreign Affairs Minister ought to have known that information. At best it is evidence of a monumental foul up justifying the Express May 10 editorial headline “Alarming lapses at the top”.
Lapses? The facts are unsupportive of the storyline that says the purpose of the meeting was to discuss COVID-19. When pressed we are told that it was none of our business. Hardly an example of integrity and responsibility. Small wonder that the press has seized on the shipment of fuel allegedly “diverted” to Venezuela because of the proximity of its occurrence to the meeting, and the astonishingly porous web of explanations about said meeting.
The explanation of Le Hunte’s resignation coming so soon after these events are a variation on a theme. The letter of resignation printed in the press speaks to a difference of opinion with respect to a Cabinet Note outlining a comprehensive plan to achieve a 24/7 water supply. F&GP is a cabinet subcommittee used to finesse and massage complicated notes into shape to achieve consensus. The note seems to have been fast tracked to cabinet without that level of discussion.
In the version told to Ria Taitt by a senior cabinet source (prime minister?) there was a heated discussion. Other reports suggest that Le Hunte remained calm. The prime minister objected to the note based on the political impact of metering without an adequate water supply.
The finance minister’s objections rested on the fact that the expense was not budgeted and that the pandemic may require additional expenditure increasing borrowing requirements creating additional risk exposure that could negatively impact the country’s international rating. Really?
The explanations are duplicitous. First, fixing WASA is important and was identified as a priority in 2018 budget. Said Mr Imbert, “the Water and Sewage Authority (WASA), receives an average annual subsidy of over $2 billion a year to assist it in paying salaries, servicing debt, paying suppliers, carrying out repairs and undertaking its development projects. However, despite such massive financial assistance from the State, WASA is financially challenged and struggles to pay its bills…daily.”
Second, this kind of undertaking cannot simply revolve around metering. It must include pressure management, interconnectivity, demand management issues and refurbishment/ replacing of the existing pipeline infrastructure which is estimated to lose 40-50 per cent of the water it transports. Metering by itself would encourage end user efficiency, but it could not prevent water loss.
Third, the metering recommendation is over 30 years old, dating back to studies completed in the late 1980s and only partially implemented. The Pt Lisas plants are metered and pay the full price of desalinated water in US dollars. Now that seven plants are closed or idled, that places additional pressure on WASA (government) which has a take or pay contract.
Fourth, a project of this nature financed by the IADB ( InterAmerican Development Bank) would be subject to strict procurement guidelines and a front end loading approach ie that there would robust planning and design upfront to avoid the difficulties exemplified by the NGC wastewater pipeline.
Projects of this size, as well as the loan financing, would be done in phases. Any borrowing agreed today would be phased in over several years as part of a capital expenditure programme and include a moratorium.
The objections can be easily accommodated within these mechanisms. However, it is well known that Mr Imbert has a strong aversion to multilateral procurement guidelines, and this may be the real cause of his objections which he camouflages as a drain on the country’s finances.
Mr. Imbert is the equivalent of a “stopper” in football. Addressing NIB’s viability is avoided. He has stalled the Procurement Act, and ignored the Economic Advisory Board leading to its dissolution. The implementation committee failed at the gate. And the Committee of 22? Le Hunte was simply its first casualty.