In the name of transparency, integrity & accountability Minister Ryan Straughn should account to the public by answering the question as to where is the public register of all government issued contracts over $1M as mandated by the BERT since December 2021?
To quote from transparency international “Covid-19 was not only a health crisis but a corruption crisis”. I am calling for a full audit of the government of Barbados’ covid-19 expenses.
The issuing of government contracts to respective business players comes under the microscope and luckily the IMF in it’s Article IV consultation & Memorandum of Understanding of Economic & Financial Policies with Barbados, displayed vision in asking the Minister of Finance Ryan Straughn to table a Public procurement Act 2021 in order for crisis related expenditure to be tracked and traced.
The minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn explained that the new legislation was necessary as it was mandated by the BERT austerity programme. BERT was amended In May 2021 and a new line item was supposed to be listed in the 2021/22 budget which required all COVID-19 related government issued contracts in excess of $1M BDS be reported to the Barbadian parliament
According to the agreed IMF MOU of Economic & Financial Policies both the contract and the names of successful bidders of government contracts along with a public register of all government contractors were to be made available in the Barbados corporate registry by the end of 2021.
I personally paid a visit to the Barbados corporate registry May 23, 2023 and no worker in the registry has the slightest idea of such a policy being implemented by the Ministry of Finance. For clarity the Public Procurement Act was passed on December 14th 2021 tabled by Ryan Straughn and in line with the IMF stipulated time frame. This Act was later amended on March 22, 2023 however the workers at the Barbados corporate register remain uninformed & unaware about this new government policy
In February 2023, while speaking in parliament, Economist Marsha Caddle called on the Government to fulfill its promise to publish information on contracts awarded for public works projects. She made the call as she insisted that public procurement must be fully transparent, especially when it comes to the award of contracts for major government projects.
Caddle said” the details of awarded contracts should be made available to the public” and in keeping with transparency the government of Barbados made some serious promises they have not kept. According to Economist Caddle the publication of that information, whether in COVID or not, is critical to the trust and accountability of this Government and I see no reason why we should not publish contracts over $1 million as we said we would, whether in an emergency situation or not; why we should not publish contract awards of a certain size.”
In the name of emergency significant sums of tax dollars were spent on government issued contracts and to quote Dr Kevin Greenidge “ Government put in place measures where Government had to report to Parliament on all COVID-related procurements, contracts in excess of $1 million so that Parliament had to give approval on these and had knowledge of what those procurements were.”
Alternate views state that parliament had no real power during Covid as the Emergency Management Act 2020 was declared and an extended state of emergency gave the office of Prime Minister absolute power to make emergency financial decisions without parliamentary or cabinet level oversight. No verified check and balance can be made on government contracts during covid as a physical check at the Barbados corporate registry shows no results and registry workers are not informed about the change in government policy.
If the public procurement process was followed as stipulated by the IMF endorsed BERT MOU to publish all government contracts over 1M in the corporate registry, then a public trail to audit the ministry of health and wellness’ government issued contract to Radical Investments Ltd to procure Covid-19 vaccines on behalf of the government of Barbados could’ve been possible. A financial audit of the office of Prime Minister for the time Barbados spent under Emergency Management Act 2020 is required for full transparency & accountability of government funds during Covid.