Even as Government moves to pass legislation to crack down on corruption, Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley on Tuesday suggested the whiff of corruption also surrounds the vaccine purchase fiasco involving the Mottley administration and cement magnate Mark Maloney.
Maloney’s company Radical Investments Limited is suing Good Vibrations Entertainment LLC, the purported supplier of the AstraZeneca vaccines. The vaccines were never supplied, reportedly leaving Maloney out of pocket to the tune of $20.4 million (US$10.2 million).
The Opposition Leader said: “Do you know there is a perception of corruption among the most recent, highly controversial and questionable action of the Government with respect to the failed attempt to acquire vaccines for the people of Barbados?
“Have you not heard this? Is this not the perception on the ground, that it is corruption attaching to that failed attempt to acquire vaccines for the people of Barbados? How is it that a Government can get into an arrangement to acquire vaccines through an intermediary company when it is known that the international pharmaceutical company does not so supply vaccines.
“How is it that a responsible Government can find an intermediary agency allegedly to pursue the acquisition of vaccines in the interest and well-being of the people of Barbados while the same Government should be aware that the international supply company does not so distribute the vaccines?”
Bishop Atherley said what was especially concerning was that Government had utilized a company that had no previous experience in supplying vaccines.
Maloney is more known for his expertise in the construction industry, he said.
“Why does this Government that wants to demonstrate such soundness, prudence, transparency in the process of procurement, why does this Government select a company that has no track record in acquiring health-related or medical supplies as far as I am aware,” the Opposition Leader queried.
Bishop Atherley said what was also very concerning was that Government was willing to purchase the vaccines from Radical Investments Limited at a very inflated rate.
He noted that while the AstraZeneca vaccines were being sold for $3 or $4 per dose on the market, Government was prepared to spend $24 per dose from Maloney’s company.
Bishop Atherley said: “When you hear that is there any wonder that there is a perception of corruption? A lot of the time is that there is a perception of corruption. The reality of corruption has to be dealt with and it cannot be dealt with by simply trying whether it be the lips of the substantive Prime Minister or the Acting Prime Minister. It cannot be achieved by simply trying to castigate an Opposition member who simply raises questions that people outside are raising anyhow and questions that become obvious to anybody.”
He said that it was puzzling that Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic had no knowledge of the deal.
He said it meant there was a possibility Cabinet was not aware of the transaction.
Bishop Atherley then attacked the track record of the Government’s relationship with Maloney.
The Opposition Leader noted Maloney had been awarded hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Government contracts including the land at the Villages at Coverley residential development and the building of the Hyatt hotel and convention centre in Bridgetown.
He renewed his call for a Contractor General who he said would be responsible for protecting the integrity of the procurement system. (RB)