A slush fund supporting the “pork barrel politics” of the Barbados Labour Party: That’s how the more than 10-year-old Social Investment Fund, repealed by the Senate today, was described by Government representatives in the Upper House.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, speaking during debate on the Social Investment Fund Repeal Act, 2013, said while others were tip-toeing around the issue the reality was the finance facility was a slush fund.
And her colleague Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Senator Jepter Ince, share the view, claiming the then ruling BLP used the fund as a “political conduit” in order to win the 1999 general elections.
“I am here to support this bill… because when you look at the disbursements from the Social Investment Fund, which was established immediately preceding a general election in 1999, you see entities which would have received moneys from the Treasury … [and] any cursory glance at this list would indicate that this fund seemed to be an unofficial overdraft facility for the Government of the day,” she asserted.
“It was yet another reason for the establishment of another slush fund to facilitate the pork barrel politics the Barbados Labour Party would have engaged in and would continue to engage in if they were still in Government.”
Saying the Government of the day was “wallowing like pigs in money” facilitated by the fund, Sandiford Garner added: “Any accountant … would understand when you see these little funds you see red lights flashing and any reputable guardian or custodian of the Government’s purse would seek to see that these types of issues be settled and settled legally.
“I am very pleased to see that the DLP Government of the day has sought to tidy up the public finances of this country?”
Ince shared her views, noting that while the fund was established in 1998 with the stated purpose of social development, reducing poverty and assisting community group projects, its actual functioning was different.
“We had an election in 1999 and … this fund was established as a political conduit prior to an election to enhance the Barbados Labour Party at the polls – don’t let us fool ourselves. And if the fund was so important then why after the election there was no activities at all in this fund? Absolutely none,” he said.
“You would see that from 2005 the same monies that were transferred in 2003 appeared in 2005, the same disbursements that were made in 2005 appeared in the financial statements at 2007. Who was in office then? Certainly not the Democratic Labour Party.
“If you care so much about poverty alleviation why play around with so much money and have it lie around doing nothing? There was no strategy, it was used for political purposes and once it achieved its objectives it was abandoned…this is creative accounting at its best so don’t let us fool ourselves.
“I support the efforts of the Democratic Labour Party to do what we are doing to bring some order to this financial mess,” he added. (SC)