Warning that Barbados was “in dangerous uncharted territory”, Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader Mia Mottley is pleading with the island’s public servants to guard against excessive spending by the incumbent in the weeks leading up to the general election, due by early June.
With Parliament having been dissolved automatically last month, and with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart having made it clear he intended to use up the additional 90 days allowed by the Constitution, Mottley last night warned the administration could go on a spending spree, without parliamentary oversight, in a bid to win votes.
Therefore, she said the civil service must act as guardians of the public purse.
“Remember that the laws of this land in relation to financial procurement, in relation to the engagement of contracts, in relation to the sale of Government property, that these laws are clear,” Mottley told the official opening of the constituency office of the BLP St Michael South candidate, Kirk Humphrey, on Culloden Road, St Michael.
“While there may be no Parliament sitting that allows me or my colleagues to be able to remark on the floors of the precincts of Parliament, you are in position to defend the public interest of the taxpayers of this country,” she added.
Mottley noted that her plea had come on the eve of the start of the 2018-2019 financial year, during which she said Government would get to spend from the $4.526 billion in the Estimates of Expenditure approved in February.
“It represents a clear and present danger to us to have an executive continue to function without the oversight of a Parliament, and a functioning Parliament,” the BLP leader stressed, while making it clear that even now, Government had the constitutional right to spend approved funds.
However, she charged that the Constitution did not contemplate that Stuart would take advantage of the 90-day period “to govern with business as usual”.
“I ask the public servants of Barbados to remember therefore, that it is you who must help to keep the Government accountable,” she stressed.
Sounding like someone who was confident that the BLP would form the next Government, Mottley asked the public servants, to “ensure that what we find on the day after elections is not a debasing or a sell-out of this country’s assets and of this country’s resources”.
“This Government will use the power of incumbency to create opportunity and support for themselves and their candidates,” she contended.
“They’re calling up people who they know and telling them ‘come and get sort out’ [for National Housing Corporation housing units].”
She said attempts will be made to pave “every road in St Philip” and beginning today, “warrants [to spend] will come up to the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Finance will send back down the money to each Government department and to each statutory corporation.
“I am asking the public servants of Barbados to protect the public interest. We are in dangerous uncharted territory,” she stressed.
Parliament automatically dissolved on March 6, but Stuart has yet to ring the election bell, a decision that has caused concern among members of the business community, who insist the country cannot move forward if it remained in political limbo.