If anyone has to feel "ashamed" about anything, it is Minister Emily Dick-Forde and her Cabinet colleagues for the manner they have handled the issues surrounding Udecott and the allegations of corruption with regard to the award of contracts and the procurement of goods and services. Not once in the more than three to four years of allegations, contract failures, obvious mismanagement of projects has this Government come forward with a statement of concern for the integrity of the expenditure of billions of dollars, the patrimony of this and future generations. Instead, all the country has had are staunch and on occasion quite illogical defences of Calder Hart and Udecott without a substantiating statement based on government oversight of this state agency.
In this respect, as the line minister responsible for Udecott, Minister Dick-Forde would do well to give the national community, to whom she is responsible, an objective assessment of how she has managed this state enterprise involved in the award of billions of dollars in contracts. Instead, she gives this completely gratuitous and arrogant advice to citizens about who and what they should be embarrassed about. What this minister is really saying to the nation is that it should have no questions about how its funds are being spent in the light of serious questions raised about the expenditure of those funds. The minister is content to insult an entire nation by suggesting that the country has treated Mr Hart "very, very badly," when most people, even those deeply aligned to the ruling party, would concede that the exact opposite is the truth.
And there are these yet-to-be-answered allegations of malfeasance about the award of contracts to a company with two of its directors, allegedly, being close relatives of the wife of executive chairman Mr Hart. Why does the minister not tell the nation that, having had the allegation investigated, the Government can categorically state that that is not so. Someone should quietly inform this minister where sovereignty lies, who owns the resources of this country, and who she is working for. How does Minister Dick-Forde compare her assertion that the nation needs to apologise for asking some questions about its own welfare with the aggressive demand by Prime Minister Patrick Manning, aided and abetted by herself, for the $10 million that was supposed to have been missing in the Cleaver Heights housing project?
The Prime Minister all but accused his former senior minister of knowing something about the unaccounted for $10 million while Minister Dick-Forde instituted a forensic investigation into the "unaccounted" for $10 million. In defending that decision, the minister was absolutely convinced about the rightness of her decision. But presumably embarrassed that the results of the investigation did not indict Dr Rowley for fraud, at minimum having some knowledge of it, she then acted as if there was no investigation. But now in the face of far more persuasive information about possible wrongdoing involving hundreds of millions of dollars, infinitely more than the $10 million, the Government does little and the nation is faced with a disrespectful, jejune minister who deigns to lecture the national community about how it should react to the recent events.
But this newspaper expects far more from Prime Minister Patrick Manning. We expect the Prime Minister will come to the nation with a full statement that explains the Government's position and the steps that have been taken to fix the governance and procurement issues that plague the country. Given Attorney General John Jeremie's news conference late yesterday, the Government also needs to be clear about who is leading the investigation into these matters and on whose direction. And for the people of T&T, it must be remembered that we live under a system in which someone is presumed to be innocent until they are found guilty of a crime.