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Mind-boggling squandermania: But Rowley must loose lions on culprits

If a mere ten percent of the sums of money quoted by almost every new PNM minister as having gone to waste or astray under the previous government is factual, then at least a billion dollars was squandered or stolen during the tenure of the People’s Partnership.

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections. (Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)
Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections.
(Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)

 

If the ministers were accurate and truthful in their allegations of profligacy, then an astounding TT$10 billion dollars, at least, found its way into the bank accounts of assorted thieves and accomplices.

The allegations were so startling, they had me speechless. A billion dollars in fees paid to select attorneys for representation that could have been had at a fraction of that. Houses constructed at inordinately high costs, much more than what private home owners would pay—and that without the benefits of economies of scale.

The much vaunted early childhood education centres costing three, four times what they did when the project began under the Patrick Manning government. Roads restored by the heavily-indebted WASA after pipe-laying at exorbitant costs, and over surfaces well beyond the scope of works. Fraudulent distribution of “food cards” to the tune of tens of millions.

And they have not scratched the surface of what may have been siphoned off mega-projects such as the TT$7 billion highway to Point Fortin, the TT$1 billion wastewater plant, the TT$500 million Debe campus, the TT$1.5 billion children’s hospital, to name the more prominent.

Photo: The site for UWI's Debe campus. (Courtesy sta.uwi.edu)
Photo: The site for UWI’s Debe campus.
(Courtesy sta.uwi.edu)

It is not that we did not suspect that the politicians were squandering, maybe even stealing the oil dollars as they flowed into the coffers by the billions, at an average of US$85 a barrel for the duration of the PP’s tenure.

We expect politicians to waste taxpayers’ money: hell, it does not come out of their pockets, although a reverse-flow is not unusual. It’s our money that they waste or steal, and we have no say over the banditry except once in five years—nearly six, last time around.

It is the sheer scale of the squandermania that boggles the mind: not millions, not billions, but tens of billions—gone, buried in concrete and pitch, under over-priced bridges and roads, and in bank accounts that are beyond the reach of the short arms of our law enforcement agencies.

And you know what is more distressing? You and I know that not one political thief will make a jail, quite unlike the destitute mother who shoplifts to feed her starving children, or the underpaid father who “tief a lil ting’ to send his kids to school.

I challenge Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to show me otherwise.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on September 7. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on September 7.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

I do not expect, nor do I want, the new Government to waste time and more money on commissions of enquiry, costly forensic investigations and similar devices that take us nowhere.

The Uff Commission sat for months, the CLICO/HCU probe for longer, but to date not one of the thieves who stole taxpayers, depositors or policyholders’ money has been brought to book.

Like the late calypsonian Penguin’s Devil, they “shaking up dey tail in people face”.

So no, I don’t think the population would want to see scarce good money thrown after the bad billions already lost.

However, where there is clear evidence of malfeasance, loose the lion on the culprits, whoever they are, whatever their status or office: they are capital thieves.

More important, the PM has a great opportunity to put an end to waste and banditry under his watch, as he promised on the campaign trail.

I note the cutbacks in air travel for all public officials, and the reining in of abuse of public vehicles as positive signs. Let every high official know that wrongdoing, especially fiddling with public funds, will be met with the full force of the law.

Photo: Former Sport Minister Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Sport Minister Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

To misquote big brother Makandal Daaga when he spoke on the PP platform as he too enjoyed fruits-of-the-boom, “Never again!”

Now, a word to my colleagues in the State-owned media and other government agencies who found themselves wildly feeding in the multi-million-dollar trough, so much so you couldn’t tell the difference between hog, politician or journalist.

When all else fails, when leaders and institutions abandon the people, they expect journalists and writers to rise to their defence, to rescue them from abuse and pillage.

In the words of master-writer Frederick Forsyth, best known for his thrillers, especially “Day of the Jackal”, but who was and continues to consider himself a reporter told The Outsider in 2015: “A journalist should never join the Establishment, no matter how tempting the blandishments.

“It is our job to hold power to account, not join it in a world that increasingly obsesses over the gods of power, money and fame…

Photo: Journalism is under threat.
Photo: Journalism is under threat.

“A journalist must remain detached…watching, noting, probing, commenting, but never joining…”

About Raffique Shah

Raffique Shah
Raffique Shah is a columnist for over three decades, founder of the T&T International Marathon, co-founder of the ULF with Basdeo Panday and George Weekes, a former sugar cane farmers union leader and an ex-Siparia MP. He trained at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was arrested, court-martialled, sentenced and eventually freed on appeal after leading 300 troops in a mutiny at Teteron Barracks during the Black Power revolution of 1970.

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137 comments

  1. all d tiefing that has taken place since eric williams ,anybody ever make a jail

  2. Yeah just accept the staus quo Who cares right?

    Such bullshit. Jail dey ass

  3. Who cares. They’re all crooks. Forget the past and work toward a better future. Stop wasting everyone’s time pointing fingers.

  4. Omg! What kind of mindset can see no wrong with this type of corrupt governance? #flabbergasted

  5. Raffique is a national treasure. A true man of conscience.

  6. i can bet:
    in the next term of government, there will be 0% increase in politicians jailed than in the last 5 years

  7. If people are not charged, then “dey fooling”. If no attempt is made to recoup LifeSport monies, it’s the same game, another team. If no new policies are put in place to stop the ongoing political corruption, then it’s just another party’s turn to “eat ah food”. It has been 50 years of political corruption. Let’s hope this is the transformational administration the country has been looking for. Eyes wide open.

  8. Let’s see the full disclosure of information in court, preferably, before passing judgement, plenty guff these days.

  9. How embarrassing! This was broadcasted around the world via the World Wide Web and therefore clearly signifies to those charged with the responsibility of monitoring global corruption that their analysis of Trinidad and Tobago’s poor ranking on the global scale of corruption control and management is on par. The real question ‘all citizens’ should have asked is why T&T government allocated $239 million TT over two years when the Chinese Government ‘FULLY FUNDED’ the Couva Children’s Hospital construction project. Any Trinidadian who turns a blind eye to that concern needs to have his/her head examined.

  10. Chandani,we are all enraged,even me the inscrutable,but let’s give Dr.Rowley elbow room.

  11. If Rowley does not make sure they make a jail, he does not deserve to be our PM

  12. the impact of the struggle of political parties on society is as damaging as that of any tribal or sectarian struggle as we’re seeing in trinbago….know the game while in progress,not when the players disperse.

  13. I think this time,due to the hardship on the horizon ,will lead to incarceration.The Government has no choice.

  14. parliaments have thus become a means of confiscating and monopolizing the power of the people.such a state of affairs gives the people the right to struggle,by waging a revolution to destroy these instruments…the so called representative assemblies which monopolize democracy and sovereignty,and usurp the will of the masses.if a parliament is formed from members who are followers of one particular political party as a result of their electoral victory,then this parliament is not representative of the people,but of this particular party…the executive body it will appoint will be the executive power of this party,and not of the people.

  15. its dictatorial and obsolete….for example,the division of the population into constituencies means that a member of parliament represents thousands,even millions of citizens,depending on the population count,it also means that a member of parliament thus elected keeps a few people’s organizational links with the electorate,and is considered,along with the other members,a representative of the people as a whole.at this point in the process,the masses and the elected member of parliament,are totally set apart,and the elected member,upon obtaining the majority vote,becomes a monopolizer of the people’s sovereignty by virtue of the authority vested in him to manage their affairs.this confers upon members of parliament a sanctity and an immunity it denies ordinary citizens.

  16. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – just a simple audit of individual’s tax returns would be sufficient to resolve all those ill gotten gains!! (Brian – we don’t necessarily need a new constitution, we just need to enforce the one we have now)

  17. trinbago needs a brand new constitution,not reform

  18. This bullshit has to stop; we can’t go on like this. Even Panday said, when you do the crime, you must do the time (though he claimed his heart was bad when his time came).
    If we start jailing from captain to cook, I think we’ll see even the number of non white collar crimes drop.
    If the PNM does not pursue these scoundrels, it will have no moral authority. You can’t say that politicians must set an example in parliament and leave them with their booty stolen from the state.
    Bandits are inspired, and even productivity suffers, when the honest citizens realise white collar crimes pay.
    Monteil, Huggins, Kwei Tung, Carlos John, Galbaransigh, Ferguson, Kamla, Moonilal, Rambachan, Jack, Sharma, Ganga Singh, Ramadarsingh, … should have their day in court.
    Jail should be equal opportunity!

  19. is the judicial framework well oiled to hold the wrongdoers accountable…let history be your guide

  20. You all naive or just pretend to be dumb?

  21. Since we got Independance it give all parties in power title to steal. This will always continue regardless who is in power. Political leaders and more so Dictotors have only their interest not the people or country they represident. Imagine you need an education for a job like that???

  22. this will never happen in trinidad. tiefing by high officials is not a crime. an iz dat.

  23. My only question and I don’t think I’m alone here, using Mr Manning’s famous quote is…. WHERE THE MONEY GONE?

  24. Out of the Audits the evidence will emerge for the criminal investigations. …. we come to far to lose faith now Vernal!

  25. All I’m saying is audits are audits and criminal investigations are criminal investigations, they’re not necessarily the same thing.

    I’m gonna wait and see!

  26. Who will guard the guards those without sin cast the first stone.

  27. When a file is passed to the DPP there must not be any loopholes for them to wiggle through!!

  28. Vernal if you listen to each Minister so far who has contributed to the budget debate you would’ve heard a reoccurring theme in each of their contributions! Audits have started….. Is been dotted Ts been crossed! !

  29. But how do you know that there are measures being put in place behind the scenes Jamelia?

  30. I’m reading the thread ppl seriously it’s just coming up on six weeks since PNMGOTT has been in office…… think a still tongue keeps a wise head….. there are measures been put in place behind the scenes. …why alert the culprits leave them in their false sense of security. …. last evening you heard Moonilal clear saying to Kamla they ain’t go find nothing. …. they are cocky and unrepentant in their raping of TnT!!! Keep the faith ppl one step at a time!!

  31. Has any political thieves ever been jailed? Doh make me laugh, we’ll see.

  32. Has any political thieves ever been jailed? Doh make me laugh, we’ll see.

  33. This is like the TTFA saying: Jack Warner gone with all our money, so everyone has to chip in.
    But then not telling us how they are going to get that money back from Jack.
    Playing us for saps!
    But to be honest, I do have hope that Rowley’s government will go after the past culprits.
    Not sure if that is rational hope. But I still feel so.

    • I did hear the AG say he has instructed his office to compel the previous AG and PM to give statements (can’t remember exactly what it was!) for some of the SOE matters or else to treat them as hostile witnesses. Maybe when it’s shown again I can get a better picture. I hope this is a step in the right direction. As well as oncoming whistleblower legislation. We need ppl to come forward with information and evidence. Don’t know how much confidence the public has for the IC though. Moreover, audits into state enterprises are well and good. But having one body do a comprehensive and thorough audit should be able to pick up duplicated spending. And follow the money! Where is Bob Lindquist and Scotland Yard/Interpol etc when you need them. If we serious about life and not just about saving face, that is.

    • But we found out recently that despite all the statements from Kamla, a forensic audit was never done on Life Sport. So talk doesn’t equate action.

    • Re the “chipping in” comment, this is just what KPB did, isn’t it? While she had JW on her payroll (although presumably he was not paid – was he? -…the political mileage he earned was priceless though – a whole entire party was founded…did we as a country pay too high a price?) she made payments that should have been made by him all the while defending him…yet she and her party are still an entity….where is the petition for this party to go away and never return….not saying I am accepting it from this administration either, but seriously, the government is still fresh in office…and the population still has a chance to change the consequences…if we unite…and express a dissenting opinion as one voice….but not if we sit in judgment and say it’s all the same khaki pants …or whatever….but don’t actually “do” anything…

  34. …Politicking. No legal follow up…

  35. I’m very far from sufficed! Lol.

  36. As of right now there is nothing from government to indicate that criminal charges will be laid in relation to any of the revelations of theft of taxpayer monies by the former administration nor even a criminal investigation.

    The impression I’m getting I’d that these revelations are solely about indicting the former administration in the court of public opinion …… snd as long as that will suffice for the taxpayer, that is as far as it will go!

  37. Sadly the country probably will, as it has so many times before. All that changed was the amounts, I suspect. The nation seemingly believes this is the price we collectively pay. What makes in acceptable or otherwise is how we individually feel about the tribe in power.

  38. We got five years of robber talk from the last administration. We won’t settle for that again!

  39. Lions,No.Want the poor Lions to choke ?Try the Chamber of Commerce.

  40. The most beautiful sound I ever heard – Jail !

    • If so, governments will change again in five years. We had too much robber talk already from the last fete match side.
      If you’re raising gas prices and so on to compensate for the rape of our treasury, you best go after the rapists. Nothing less.

  41. I am in full agreement with Keith Look Loy. No one will be put in jail. In fact it is highly probable that no one will even be charged. The politicians and the accounting officers in the Ministries and the consultants who certify big payments will all not be held accountable. It was shown by the PNM in their handling of the airport crooks that they are not willing to do it. It was shown by the UNC in their handling of Calder Hart.
    No one will be held accountable. We have a way of speaking in T&$T that shows how we don’t take responsibility. If we drop something we say : ” it fall “. We are not willing to say : ” I dropped it “. Managers, leaders of trade unions, church leaders of all denominations, leaders of the business community, all of the so called leadership class as well as every body else wants to put the ” blame ” on someone else.
    We have got the leadership that we deserve. We are not willing to take responsibility, so we get leadership that is not willing to take responsibility.
    Many thanks.
    PS . people will say, so what do you propose?
    If everyone would really look at the person in the mirror and maybe come to realise that we are all responsible and then in our little ways take the responsibility then maybe we can start to claw ourselves out of the bind that we find ourselves in. If not we will continue to blame ” dem people ” .