What 50 years of Independence is Barbados really celebrating?
After reading the damning revelations contained in Auditor General Leigh Trotman’s report about the outrageously preferential taxpayer-funded contracts granted to a coterie of elite white business people by the Government of our country, I am forced to come to the conclusion the “old colonial system” is still very much alive and well in supposedly Independent Barbados!
Similarly, after digesting Mr Mark Maloney’s defiant assertion that his Rock Hard Cement company will be (and is) forging ahead with its construction at Spring Garden Highway in spite of the fact some six months ago the Chief Town Planner had served the company with an order to cease construction, I am compelled to recognize the same old colonial power elite continues to exist and to call the shots in our supposedly Independent country.
Clearly, some 50 years after we hauled down the British Union Jack flag, Barbados’ primary purpose as a society still continues to be the colonial-style facilitation of a lifestyle of opulence and comfort for a privileged few at the expense and on the backs of the masses of ordinary Barbadians.
Take, for example, the case of Bizzy Williams, who, when asked to comment on the fact Government’s imposition of a “tipping fee” for refuse delivered to the landfill had brought about a substantial reduction in the garbage processed by his Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre Inc. (SBRC), stated that whether his company processed the garbage or not, it still had
to be paid by our Government.
Bizzy Williams’ exact words (as reported in the Daily Nation of May 3) were as follows: “Financially, though, it is not hurting us. It does not make a bit of a difference to us because we have signed on a contract with the Government that we have to provide the facility to process 1,000 tons a day minimum. So whether the material comes or it does not come, that is what we signed on to.”
For those citizens and taxpayers who may not be aware, let me bring the following to your attention: in June, 2009, the current Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration entered into a so-called “take or pay contract” with Mr Bizzy Williams’ Sustainable (Barbados) Recycling Centre Inc. (SBRC), and under that contract, we, the taxpayers of Barbados, are obliged to underwrite a guaranteed minimum payment of $22.6 million a year to SBRC over a 20-year period for the processing of solid waste, whether or not the company is actually called upon to carry out work of the requisite minimum quantity.
Thus, under this contract alone, we Barbadian taxpayers are saddled with a “minimum” payment of some $452 million to Bizzy Willliams’ SBRC over a 20-year period!
But this is not the only such Government contract that the several companies associated with Mr Bizzy Williams enjoy!
Under the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration of Mr Owen Arthur, another Bizzy Williams associated company known as Ionics Freshwater Ltd was granted a contract by virtue of which it was mandated by our Barbados Government to construct a desalination facility at Spring Garden, St Michael; to operate and maintain the facility; and to be paid for supplying the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) with a minimum of 27,000 cubic metres of desalinated water every day over a 15-year period.
When, however, several years later, the Auditor General’s department carried out a special investigation into the workings of this outrageously preferential contract, it discovered that:
(1) The BWA had agreed to pay a price for the desalinated water that was substantially higher than was merited;
(2) The BWA had contracted to secure more water per day than it had the capacity to receive, and therefore had to pay the company –– on an ongoing basis –– for work that the company did not have to do; and
(3) The BWA had entered into a contract that virtually guaranteed the company a massive 18 per cent return on its investment.
So here again, we Barbadian taxpayers ended up underwriting tremendous benefits for a private company –– benefits that were contractually affixed for an extensive 15-year period.
The sad truth is that successive BLP and DLP administrations have placed our nation in a deep financial hole by entering into unjustified, outrageously privileged contracts that oblige us –– the citizens and taxpayers of Barbados –– to make annual payments of hundreds of millions of dollars for decades into the future.
Let us look at another example. There is the April 2013 so-called storage tank lease contract entered into by our Government with the Mark Maloney and Bjorn Bjerkham owned and/or managed company known as Storage Solutions Limited.
Under this contract, our Government-owned (and taxpayer-funded) Barbados Agricultural Management Co. Ltd (BAMC) is obligated to pay Storage Solutions Limited the sum of $2,150,000 plus VAT every year for 20 years for the privilege of using three molasses storage tanks at the Bridgetown Port. Thus, under this contract, our Government (and ultimately the taxpayers of Barbados) are saddled with a payment of some $50 million over the 20-year period!
Yet another such contract is the so-called housing construction contract entered into between this current DLP administration and the corporate entity known as Housing Concepts SRL –– also owned and/or managed by the said Mark Maloney and Bjorn Bjerkham.
Under this contract, Housing Concepts SRL was leased a massive parcel of Government land at Coverley, Christ Church, at a pepper-corn rent for the purpose of constructing houses for sale to the Barbadian people at prices ranging between $289,000 and $396,000.
But what makes this contract truly remarkable is that our taxpayer-funded Government has entered into a legally binding contractual obligation to purchase from Housing Concepts SRL any house that the company is unable to sell to members of the public. Thus, once again, we taxpayers are left holding the bag.
There is also the outrageously privileged contract that the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) entered into with Innotech Services Ltd for the design, financing and construction of the new BWA headquarters, and the lease of the premises to the BWA for 13 years. Our Auditor General Mr Leigh Trotman recently detailed so many deficiencies with this outrageously preferential contract that we would require a separate article to list and discuss them.
And –– truth be told –– I could go on and on listing many other similarly outrageously preferential contracts that our compliant political directorate has conferred on a small group of elite white Barbadian business people. It is no wonder therefore that our country now possesses a national debt that is as large as our entire gross national product!
Face the truth, Bajans, the “old colonial system” is alive and well in our country, and will remain alive and well so long as we continue to elect hollow, prideless men and women to the House of Assembly.
And so our first order of business must be to vote them out. But that alone will not be enough. We will also have to go on to reform the Constitution of our nation in order to establish structures and mechanisms we –– the people –– can use to hold our MPs accountable in the future.
Are you prepared to take on this crucial battle?
(David Comissiong, attorney, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)