I have duly noted the response of Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh to my very questions raised on the platform at a UNC meeting last night (August, 20, 2018) in the Chaguanas East constituency regarding family ties in State contracts.
In my comments made on a public political platform, under the cover of fair comment in the execution of my duty to taxpayers and citizens as a sitting Member of Parliament, I asked the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and the Health Minister to say which wife of a Cabinet Minister was affiliated with a firm which was awarded State contracts.
I am very pleased that Mr Deyalsingh saw it fit to promptly respond as early as today to my very serious concerns regarding the Government’s overall questionable and incompetent handling of taxpayers’ dollars and State contracts, and the extension of this disturbing trait of possible nepotism from the very Ministry of Health over which he presides.
In his response, issued under the cover of a Ministry of Health Press Release to the Media, which I have had sight of, Mr Deyalsingh essentially confirms all the issues that I raised last night, namely that his wife, Mrs Deyalsingh, is affiliated with a consultancy firm that has been contracted to provide services for three projects that fall under the specific purview of the Cabinet where he sits as a decision maker, as well as the Ministry of Health, where he sits as policy director and effectively, chief decision maker. The projects he thereby name are the Mt. Hope School of Dentistry, the Red House Restoration Project and the Refurbishment Works at Two Wards at the POS General Hospital.
I also take note of Mr Deyalsingh’s arrogant, dismissive stance in this very alarming issue when he wrongly accuses me of bearing ‘fake news’ and also ridiculously claims that he bears no responsibility for this questionable abuse of taxpayers’ funds because, as he claimed, he ‘declared his interest in the matter.”
His attempt to hide behind a poorly written PNM propaganda piece pasted on a Ministry letterhead would hold no sway with an enlightened public. He is just the latest Rowley stooge to have been found out to be self-serving, in addition to being grossly incompetent and a failure.
Regarding his first claim of “fake news’ I wish to condemn Mr Deyalsingh for his pure arrogance, his disingenuousness and his cavalier dismissal of a very serious matter—that of the management of taxpayers’ dollars. In keeping with the vein of superciliousness that runs through the current Rowley Cabinet, Mr Deyalsingh sought to condemn a matter which ironically, he himself confirmed to be true.
To deem an issue as “fake news” while in the same proverbial breath, acknowledging its truth, is itself is a laughable, but simultaneously frightening, it is an indictment on Mr Deyalsingh’s general incompetence and lack of qualification for the very serious job of a Cabinet Minister, a person whose basic abilities must include integrity, common sense, basic management skills and at minimum, an ability to not contradict oneself on any matter, much less crucial ones of financial and ethical Governance.
It is no wonder then, that under Mr Deyalsingh’s watch, the Ministry of Health is the worst performing Ministry in its history, engendering one of the worst health crises that Trinidad and Tobago has ever witnessed in its Governmental history. For this foolish, arrogant and dismissive response alone, Mr Deyalsingh should categorically be fired from the Cabinet and never be allowed near any public office again.
However, what is more of a concern is Mr Deyalsingh’s frank confession that his close relative has been benefiting, directly or indirectly, from State contracts while he sits as a Cabinet Minister, and therefore, presumably, while he holds a position that puts him in direct power to influence any award of such contracts.
I categorically dismiss Mr Deyalsingh’s claims that he has recused himself from the award process on the basis of the ruling PNM Government’s ongoing embrace and commitment to deceit, propaganda and wilful withholding of truth as a matter of their policy and execution of their Cabinet duties.
Further, Mr Deyalsingh needs to prove that the tendering process for all these aforementioned contracts were done in the strictest adherence to the rule of law.
And, finally, Mr Deyalsingh’s own confession is a blatant disregard for the sacred tenet of Governance, which mandates that, in upholding the spirit of the Democratic Constitution, not only must the delivery of public services be unbiased, but be seen as unbiased.
This country is undergoing, if one is to go by the words of Prime Minister Rowley himself, an economic recession, one which has resulted in mass retrenchment of public sector jobs, cutback of the provision of social services, as well as many State projects being halted under the claim of ‘no money.”
Therefore, for the wife of a Government Minister to be involved in any company that benefits from State contracts funded by Taxpayers dollars must be questioned.
Also, Mr Deyalsingh has failed to give the cost of these contracts, and he has likewise failed to demonstrate adequate proof of his non-involvement in their award.
Further, it is very telling, and indeed suspicious, that Mr Deyalsingh became forthcoming in these secret details of the execution of public monies only when exposed on a political platform by me.
I wish to point out that Mr Deyalsingh’s actions, his secrecy and the entire matter reeks of the appearance of bias, nepotism and could very well be seen to be in direct contravention of the Code of Conduct enshrined Part IV of in the Integrity in Public Life Act. 1
Therefore, in light of Mr Deyalsingh’s forced public confession to his spouse’s involvement with a company receiving State contracts involving taxpayers’ dollars, I am left with no choice but to conclude that this matter warrants further investigation which is beyond my remit and indeed, beyond that of Mr Deyalsingh’s own denial.
I will now forward this entire matter to my attorneys for urgent legal consideration and review, as a preamble to formally requesting that the Integrity Commission investigate this entire matter, so as to determine whether Mr Deyalsingh did indeed, in the execution of his duties as the Minister of Health, a Public Office, acted in in keeping with the spirit and letter of the Integrity in Public Life Act.
21 August 2018
1 the Law that governs and regulates the conduct of Public Officials in the exercise of public duties which by section 23 of the Act provides that the Code as set out in the Act, “applies to a person in public life and to all persons exercising public functions.”
Section 24 of the Act provides:
“A person to whom this Part applies shall ensure that he performs his functions and administers the public resources for which he is responsible in an effective and efficient manner and shall—
(a) be fair and impartial in exercising his public duty;
(b) afford no undue preferential treatment to any group or individual;
(c) arrange his private interests whether pecuniary or otherwise in such a manner as to maintain public confidence and trust in his integrity.
(2) A person to whom this Part applies shall not—
(a) use his office for the improper advancement of his own or his family’s personal or financial interests or the interest of any person;
(b) engage in any transaction, acquire any position or have any commercial or other interest that is incompatible with his office, function and duty or the discharge thereof;
(c) use public property or services for activities not related to his official work; or
(d) directly or indirectly use his office for private gain.”