Former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) parliamentarian Donville Inniss has not only defended certain Government contracts alleged to have been awarded by his administration in its last days in office, but he has also chided his former colleagues for remaining mute while their tenure in office is being constantly attacked.
Speaking at a St James South DLP branch meeting at his West Terrace, St James constituency office on Wednesday night, Inniss took umbrage with a front-page story carried in the July 22 Sunday Sun under the headline Shocking Contracts. The article questioned the renewal of contracts for Chief Executive Officer of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Dr Dexter James, as well as the head honcho at the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) Cranston Browne. Inniss said when he was Minister of Health he had approved James’ salary and allowances and they were just what had been granted to the health official’s predecessor by the previous Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration.
“I as minister approved those back in 2009. As far as I know Dexter has not gotten any salary increase since then. And not only that, what I approved in 2009 is what [Dr] Jerome Walcott granted the bedpan manager that he brought to Barbados to be CEO of the QEH. There has been no change at all in the compensation,” Inniss asserted.
Inniss, who lost his St James South seat in the May 24 general election, said James was worth every cent he was getting at the QEH. He added the Tobagonian had transformed the QEH and the public healthcare system in Barbados. Inniss said he hired him when no Barbadian could be found to take up the post. James, he explained, had an excellent track record in healthcare administration in the Caribbean and had been the most transformational leader in Barbados’ public sector. The former two-term parliamentarian stressed he would defend any decision he took in 2009 as well as the subsequent decision of the DLP to renew James’ contract. James was reported to be making $257 129.64 annually.
“Tell [Minister of Health] Jeffrey Bostic go and find a better CEO if he wants to. But what they are doing is putting people’s pictures and salaries out there to force them to go, but they have nobody better to offer and these are things that I keep saying they can’t get away with. Not as long as [there is] breath in my body,” Inniss said, while criticizing the Nation Newspaper for splashing individuals’ salaries and allowances in the public domain.
The outspoken former minister also defended the reappointment of Browne, noting he was arguably the best chief executive officer the NCF ever had.
“Cranston Browne’s contract at the NCF, as far as I know, had expired and we took a position as a Cabinet on the advice of the then minister and he had the advice of the board to renew that contract. And let me tell you something, Cranston Browne has been one of the most successful CEOs of the NCF. I am prepared to defend that decision,” Inniss stated. Browne has been reported to be earning $142 000 annually.
Inniss suggested that other DLP members needed to break their silence in the face of frequent attacks from the BLP Government.
“I am disappointed in some of my colleagues for sitting back and keeping quiet when some of these things are put in the public space. We have to get out there and defend our decisions. Any decision that I took as Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development I am prepared to defend. Anytime the Barbados Labour Party comes after me with anything in my ministry I ain’t letting it drop, I will get out there and nip it in the bud,” he said.