Tag Archives: Government Corruption

Bold-faced thieves, reckless public officials will destroy post-independence Caribbean

Once again our old friend Afra Raymond does his research and sounds the clarion: Everything Caribbean nations have achieved is at risk because of crooked politicians, bad lawyers and corrupt judges…

The Threat to Integrity – part 4

by Afra Raymond

by Afra Raymond

I am fully in support of a vigorous and conscientious Integrity Commission (IC).  I do not want to see the IC abolished or sidelined.  The IC must realign its limited resources to ensure a decisive impact on the conduct of Public Officials.  The proposals contained in its 2012 Annual Report show clearly that the Gordon Commission has started to seriously grapple with that challenge.

The derailment of the IC between 2004 and 2009 is a clear example of what can happen to an Independent Commission if we do not maintain vigilant oversight.

This matter is of the greatest interest for those of us campaigning for Public Procurement reform so as to get effective control over all transactions in Public Money.  The arrangements we are proposing include new Independent Commissions/Officeholders.  It is therefore critical that we learn the lessons from this debacle so as to safeguard the bodies we are proposing.  The stakes are very high for our nation’s Integrity Framework, which must be strengthened, with swifter resolution of allegations.

To continue in the current manner is to drag the system into further disrepute, encourage even more bold-faced thieves, more reckless public officials and we can expect complete loss of the residual respect for the post-independence civilization we have tried to grow.  That would be an ugly and violent future for our society, so this episode requires stern and conscientious examination. Continue reading

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When government enriches carpetbaggers at the expense of the Public Interest

“Sound land administration policy appears to have been abandoned for expediency.”

“Where is the basic due diligence?  These sorts of schemes should not even get past the first gatekeeper, far less into the Cabinet for consideration.”

Calcutta Settlement again

by Afra Raymond

by Afra Raymond

In light of the many questions raised by readers after the last article on the Housing Development Corporation’s purchase of land at ‘Eden Gardens‘ in Calcutta Settlement, I am continuing there.

The previous article discussed the Calcutta Settlement scheme and its relation to implementation of national housing policy.  There is little, if any, connection between the provision of affordable housing and the acquisition of those ‘Eden Gardens‘ lands, at what is surely the highest price in Central Trinidad.  How we create and implement a progressive housing policy is a critical part of this discourse, but there is more.

Another important aspect of this episode is the fact that sound land administration policy appears to have been abandoned for expediency.  Expediency should never eclipse proper policy, especially when neither the process nor end-result advance the ultimate objective of serving our citizens.

The sidelining of sound land administration policy was essential in order to get the Calcutta Settlement scheme approved.  National Land Administration policy is important so that we can be strategic in using the country’s property assets for proper national development, as opposed to the enrichment of a select few.

The State is a unique player in our country’s land arena, so we need to place this Calcutta Settlement episode into proper context from a land administration viewpoint.  Continue reading

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Afra Raymond: Tangled webs in the Tobago House of Assembly – Part II

by Afra Raymond

by Afra Raymond

BOLT and Calcutta: “A hundred million here, a hundred million there – pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

Two weeks ago in Barbados Free Press I set out my main concerns in relation to poor procurement processes with the Tobago House of Assembly BOLT project.  A large amount of Public Money was being committed to a project with little apparent regard to Value for Money concerns in an arrangement which seems to expose the THA to the principal risks at a time of limited financial resources.

This article is a critical examination of the controversial proposed purchase of 50.6 acres of land at Calcutta Settlement by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).

The HDC’s role is to build and maintain homes to satisfy the requirements of its main client, the Ministry of Housing and the Environment.  According to that Ministry -

The Corporation is mandated by the Act to:

  • Provide affordable shelter and associated community facilities for low and middle income persons and;
  • Carry out the broad policy of the Government in relation to housing.

With over 125,000 applicants on the HDC’s waiting-list, there is no doubt that, for many poor people, the HDC is their only hope of getting a reasonably affordable home of decent quality.  That means that the HDC is an important implementing agency in our nation’s welfare provisions, which is a role I fully support. Continue reading

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Afra Raymond: Tangled webs of Tobago House of Assembly, BOLT and Calcutta

“…Lindquist and Interpol officers had discovered more than $1billion stashed away in off-shore accounts, arising out of corruption in the airport project…”

Tobago House of Assembly BOLT

by Afra Raymond

by Afra Raymond

With the Tobago House of Assembly THA elections having become a kind of national contest, the issues of governance and integrity loom large.  The two relevant controversial issues, both of which emerged late last year, were the THA/BOLT office project and the HDC’s proposed purchase of land at Calcutta No. 2 Settlement.

Both those projects have given me serious cause for concern in terms of proper public procurement practice, so much so that I see them as being two sides of the same coin.  Both these cases are models of inadvisable dealings in Public Money of a type which no prudent or reputable company would undertake.  I am choosing my words carefully since recent reports are that litigation has already started on the THA/BOLT project and there may well be further legal action on both projects as we go forward…

I do not at all agree with the widespread myth that corruption is a minor thing which adds maybe 10% or 15% to the cost of projects. 

That misinformation is nothing but public mischief which has blinded us to the scale of the theft of Public Money, so it must be completely demolished.  In the case of the 1970s to 1980s ‘Government to Government Arrangements’ the then PM, George Chambers, told the nation that two out of every three ‘Petro-dollars’ was wasted or stolen.  In the ongoing imbroglio over the $1.6Bn Piarco Airport project, we learned from the DPP’s S.34 statement that $1.0Bn of Public Money had been located in offshore bank accounts.

This article deals with the THA/BOLT project, which is a Public Private Partnership. The PPP is a procurement model now being pursued by this government, according to the strategy outlined in the 2013 budget.

The DPP’s S.34 Statement on Wednesday September 12, 2012

“…These cases involve allegations of a conspiracy to defraud the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago of over TT$1 billion by the fraudulent use of bonds and the rigging of the contracts for the various Construction packages for the Piarco Airport Project…”

The DPP’s full statement is here.

Also, from “Cops target MP in $1Bn airport scam” in Trinidad Guardian of Friday 5 March, 2004 –

“…TV6 News reported last night that Lindquist and Interpol officers had discovered more than $1billion stashed away in off-shore accounts, arising out of corruption in the airport project…”

BOLT

Build Own Lease Transfer (BOLT) is a subset of the PPP procurement method.  Under a BOLT arrangement a client has a facility built by the private sector at their expense – the client makes agreed rental payments so that the developer can cover the cost of building the project and a reasonable profit.  At the end of the agreed lease period, the facility is transferred to the client. Continue reading

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Afra Raymond’s incredible message at TEDx Conference

The Three sides of Corruption

“We are dealing with perverts here, of an economic and financial nature.”

                  Piarco Airport Project 1996-2001

                              Entire project cost:  $1.6 billion

Traced to offshore bank accounts:  $1.0 billion

If the above video doesn’t work for you, try this link.

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Gline Clarke talks from experience, says Goverment should help folks build a home!

Government Minister Clarke: love nest on expropriated land. Barbados news media let it pass!

Gline Clarke, Member for St. George North, said in Parliament the other day that government should be giving long term land leases and help folks to acquire mortgages to build homes.

Fair enough. On this small island where land is at a premium and Town Planning permissions to build turn scrub land into gold, there has to be some government control and oversight. But without Integrity Legislation and Freedom of Information, who will watch over the government people?

So give folks access to land and homes.

But when a Minister of Government like Gline Clarke ends up living on land his government expropriated…

Well, that’s something else, isn’t it?

How about it, Mr. Clarke? In five years you haven’t answered the people of Barbados about how you, as a Minister of Government, ended up living in a home on land that your government expropriated.

Your government never paid for the land after expropriating it, but that’s a pretty common story ’bout hey.

Man, if this was New Jersey or the UK, the news media woulda been all over the story. But this is Barbados.

So the newspapers ignored the story, but the people and the blogs doan forget!

Further Reading

Barbados Advocate: Opposition MP wants government allocate land to the poor.

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Barbados Court does government’s will: Tells Al Barrack he’s screwed

AS IF the Barbados Courts would really rule against the government for $65 million!

Contractor Al Barrack is owed $65 million by the Government of Barbados and the Barbados justice system ruled that he is owed the money for the office building he constructed – or at least started to construct until unknown and hidden caves under the building site changed everything.

Oh, but now he wants his money or to seize and sell the building and other government assets to help pay what the government owes him. Ha! Fool that Barrack is! He thought justice was for all.

The courts will keep this man going round in circles until he dies because on an island of fewer than 300,000 people EVERYTHING is politics including the court. Doing business with the government of Barbados is fine, fine so fine… until something goes wrong. And then, my friend, you have to turn to the government run courts to seek “justice”. As so many have found, the courts will keep you going round and round for ten or fifteen or twenty years and by that time you’re crazy looking for justice and you dress in whiteface and hold signs and stand on the corner and shout and be laughed at.

Beware when you do business with the government of Barbados, because the court is the government and the government is the court.

Like we said in our past article Al Barrack gets it wrong again – it’s not racism, it’s business as usual

“All because a government construction contract went bad FOR THE GOVERNMENT because of an unknown cave under the project.

Welcome to the wonderful world of doing business with the Government of Barbados, Mr. Barrack. Like a male praying mantis seeking a little love, it’s thrilling but often ends badly for the little guy.”

mostly contributed by Al’s Friend.

Strong language removed by Auntie Moses.

Here is the latest on the Driving Al Barrack Crazy and enjoying every minute of it story from Barbados Today. As usual we ask BFP readers to read the story at Barbados Today, but we’re reprinting the entire story here because you know how the press changes history ’bout hey. Haven’t caught Barbados Today doing that just yet, but ya never know!

NHC break

Court rules stay on Al Barrack writ against government

by Shawn Cumberbatch

The protracted and controversial battle between the National Housing Corporation and Al Barrack, over the $65 million the state agency owes the contractor, has taken a new and significant turn.

Barbados’ High Court has just put the brakes on a previously-issued writ of fieri facias commanding the chief marshal to sell the NHC’s “goods, chattels and property” to clear the massive debt, saying if such was allowed to proceed “the statutory functions performed by the corporation at its various locations across Barbados, and in particular at its head offices at Reef Road would be severely dislocated without (Barrack) achieving any substantial reduction in the amount owed”. Continue reading

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What happened to the DLP’s stories of BLP corruption?

Lance is a woodworker with something to say. This is his first post from his new blog. Welcome to the blogosphere, Lance!

Corruption, the biggest hindrance to progress in Barbados!

What has happened to all the corruption the Democratic Labour Party alluded to during their 2007 political campaign? Have they since turned a blind eye to the said, while ultimately embracing it all? And what has happened to checks and balances and accountability in government, and the declaring of assets so one will understand how certain ministers can gets so rich after coming to office. Barbados is rapidly slipping to the edge of the abyss due to the subtle corruption which permeates the society, and while I’m well aware that these issues might not be very comfortable to discuss… we however, can’t bury our heads in the sand any longer and pretend they don’t exist here in Barbados, and therefore continue to naively believe we’re living in a paradise, where all’s well in the country.

What has happened to the monies stolen from certain government institutions, including the Psychiatric hospital and the post office. I haven’t heard if anyone has even been reprimanded in the least, let alone convicted for such thieveries. Is it because it wasn’t a hungry, poor person stealing a tin of corn beef and a pack of biscuits to eat, who no doubt would have been brought swiftly to justice for such acts once caught?

Why is it so difficult here in Barbados to go after and convict perpetrators of white collar crimes? Are they above the law?

It’s no wonder why many Barbadians are now of the view and rightfully so, that the rule of law is healthily designed to shield certain persons of elite status in our society. Is that the reason why it took police four days to finally gain access to a property in one of our gated communities some three years ago when they were called in relation to a domestic dispute? And what has every happened to the lawyer and son who’ve allegedly beaten the 15 year old boy black and blue in the upscale gated community of Highgate Gardens, while taking a short cut to his Britton’s Hill home four year ago?

…continue reading this editorial at Lance Global blog

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Barbados contractor blows whistle on Florida corruption

Chairman of Pompano Beach Advisory Committee wanted US$2,000 a month “contribution” or no city contract!

Vicente Thrower, Chairman of Pompano Beach Advisory Committee, had a nice little business going on the side. For a “consulting fee” or “donation to the community”, Thrower used his influence to ensure companies received lucrative contracts with the city.

And, if people didn’t want his “assistance”, he used his position to deny them the contract or make life very difficult.

Then Thrower met long time Barbados resident and business person Lynn Allison and demanded US$2,000 a month – saying she should pay up if her company wanted to hold on to its $200,000 annual contract with Pompano Beach. Continue reading

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More EU charity millions for Barbados – still no rules, transparency or accountability.

Just don’t ask what happened to the last EU Sugar funds

Rise and shine children! It is a fine, fine day! The European Union is sending us another fat aid cheque. That’s free money to “increase competitiveness of the sugar sector in Barbados and to develop alternative economic activities”, but doan be fooled. That money goin right into the general government coffers ’cause things are bad, bad, bad ’bout hey.

You know how it really is. Successive Barbados governments have positioned Barbados as an international beggar – all the while squandering hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid without visible results or readily apparent benefit to the people of Barbados.

The EU gentleman says additional new money is “earmarked” for information and communication technology, international business and human resource development.

I suppose that means new Blackberries ‘an laptops for the big-ups. Maybe some consulting fees for human resource development and international business “consultants” who just happen to be cousins of some guv’ment official.

Doan worry about it though. There are no rules about giving contracts to relatives or friends, so it’s all nice ‘an legal – just the way the big-ups like it. Continue reading

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Al Barrack gets it wrong again – it’s not racism, it’s business as usual

It’s not about Justice denied because of race: it’s about no rule of law in Barbados and… revenge

Poor Al Barrack dressed up in whiteface yesterday to illustrate his belief that the 100% black government of Barbados is not paying a court ordered judgment to him because he is black. Barrack says if he were white, the government would pay up.

Maybe he’s saying that ordinary folks are nothing to our government, that if he were white he would be respected. (Ahhhh… but if Al Barrack was white, would he have been awarded the government contract in the first place? Was he merely the right sucker in the right place at the right time, or, was it all a big accident that could have happened to anyone?)

We at BFP don’t believe it’s about race. We think it’s about business as usual in Barbados: when political elites from either the DLP or the BLP form a government, they do whatever the hell they want – the rule of law and the courts be damned. It’s always been that way. The party in power uses the law when convenient, and ignores it when the law is inconvenient.

It has always been that way.

Before we talk about how revenge factors into the Al Barrack story, let’s quickly review how Barrack arrived where he is in the first place… Continue reading

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Trinidad and Tobago Anti-Corruption raid: Seized computers, documents and banking records could point to Barbados politicians

UPDATED June 26, 2012

Almost two years ago the T&T Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau raided the home of fired Barbados Government contractor Hafeez Karamath and found a drug lab, casino, machine guns and… company documents, computers and financial records.

Hafeez Karamath Construction Ltd was an active receiver of Barbados contracts under the Owen Arthur – Mia Mottley BLP government, and probably returned the favour at the very least in the form of ‘political donations’ to the Barbados Labour Party.

So what happened after the raid? Did the DLP Barbados government follow up with Trinidadian authorities?

To our knowledge the story just faded into nothing… just like all such stories ’bout hey. Not a follow-up by the Barbados news media. Not a question in Parliament by government members.

Nope. When a corrupt government contractor gets raided by police, it all just fades into the fog of the news cycle and pretty soon the people forget. They assume that some resolution happened.

BFP doesn’t forget, and so we bring this story back in the hope that our readers can contribute to the group knowledge. We also bring it back to remind folks ’bout hey just how controlled the so-called professional news media is on this rock…

Original story published August 22, 2010…

Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau raids home of fired Barbados Government contractor Hafeez Karamath: drug lab, casino, machine guns and… company documents & computers!!!

Trinidad and Tobago police just raided the home and offices of deceased millionaire contractor Hafeez Karamath as part of the ongoing probe of corruption at the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago and found much more than they bargained for.

Police were looking for documents relating to Karamath’s companies and their relationship with the T&T government but besides thousands of business records they ended up with 18 firearms, a stack of ammunition, a drug manufacturing facility and a casino.

Six of Karamath’s relatives have been arrested, but what we want to know is if the Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau (ACIB) found any paperwork relating to Karamath’s connections to the Barbados politicians and officials who awarded him big government contracts here.

Karamath’s companies received government contracts throughout the Caribbean worth hundreds of millions of dollars… and we all know how things work. Now many of the corrupt contractor’s business records and communications are in the hands of anti-corruption investigators. There must be a few Barbados politicians with indigestion this weekend! Continue reading

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Source: MP’s custom suits, casual clothes purchased in Miami with election funds or tax dollars

DLP Politicians in Miami “Went wild at shopping and partying…”

“Custom made dress shirts at almost US$100 each”

Immediately after winning the January 2008 election, groups of DLP Members of Parliament were rotated through a week in Miami ostensibly to familiarise themselves with our consulate operations in that city.

That was the public story. The truth was something else… Continue reading

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Ordinary Bajans in the way of profiteering… they never had a chance.

Big shots hoped subservient Bajans would move into little boxes while millions were made from their homes

It looks to us like the Methodist Church got together with some land speculators, developers and government types to toss some ordinary folks off land where they’d lived for generations.

But guess what? All these years the church said they owned the land but they haven’t the paperwork to show title. They just said they owned it, sold it to the developer and kicked families out of their homes where they’d lived for a hundred years. We’d love to hear the Methodist and government side of the story, but right now that’s the way it looks to us.

Why isn’t this an issue in the Bajan press? Cha! You mek sport! Continue reading

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Johnston International collapses amid corruption allegations – employees owed millions

How much did Johnston International provide to Barbados politicians in “campaign donations”?

Engineering and construction firm Johnston International went into receivership ten days ago, leaving a trail of unpaid wages and heartache throughout the Caribbean.

Johnston International leaves a legacy of corruption, massive environmental damage, destruction of reefs and public contracts that produced little in relation to monies spent. Of course, this was just the kind of construction company that Barbados politicians love, so it was only natural that Johnston International would be chosen for several major projects in Barbados. Continue reading

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CL Financial Shocker: “10 to 15 cents in the dollar available to pay claims”

“We also read recently that former CL Financial chief, Lawrence Duprey, had taken steps to limit the information he was required to furnish to the liquidator of CLICO (Bahamas) as to his private assets, allegedly acquired with CLICO funds…”

… Afra Raymond’s latest article talks about who’s going to get screwed in CL Financial/CLICO bailout. A small clue: Lawrence Duprey is doing just fine, thank you!

Our friend Afra Raymond is responsible for much of the good and aggressive reporting and commentary about the CL Financial & CLICO scandal. At BFP we’ve done some research ourselves and we even discovered a Florida company that was previously unreported in the news media, yet appears to be linked to a fraudulent CL Financial company real estate transaction in Florida. (See BFP’s article: EXCLUSIVE REPORT BY BARBADOS FREE PRESS: CL Financial Group Collapse – Insiders Took Bribes To Have Company Purchase Land For More Than Market Value!)

That said, we have to comment upon how absurd it is that blogs and part-time citizen journalists like Afra and BFP are often the ones taking the lead in covering this ongoing financial scandal. I mean, how absurd is it that bloggers discover CL Financial company connections that the regular news media is unaware of? Something is wrong there, folks!

Here’s Afra’s latest effort that appears on his blog under the title Ten to one is Murder!

The CL Financial bailout – Ten to One is Murder

A Kaiso title for the Election season.  And yes, we are told that CL Financial will rise again.  The picture is even more clouded than a year ago and the rumours abound

The latest developments are –

Press conference of 24th March – Following a front-page Express story, on the impending lawsuit by Justice Carlton Best to recover his $57,000 CLICO deposit – see I want my Cash at the Trinidad Express – the Governor of the Central Bank held a press conference that very day to tell us that those waiting for the return of their deposits would have to hold strain. See Delay your Redemptions at the T&T Guardian.

The further shocking news, after all the emphatic official statements that the group had good assets, was that if those were liquidated there would only be 10 to 15 cents in the dollar available to pay claims.

Now how could that possibly be the case? How are we to reconcile these conflicting accounts of the situation with CL Financial’s assets?  Is it that they are fully-pledged, over-pledged, or is there actually any ‘headroom’ within which the taxpayer can have a chance to recover the huge sums advanced so far?  Which is it?  Please note that this is not an isolated situation, as shown by another threatened  lawsuit from a former Attorney General of Guyana for the recovery of over $500,000 from CLICO – see Kaieteur News Online Former Attorney General threatens to sue CLICO Trinidad.

Post-Cabinet Press Briefing – The Minister of Finance confirmed the Governor’s position to the media the next day, as reported in this paper – T&T Guardian Clico Policy holders be patient.

In that article, the Minister is reported to have affirmed, again, that “…“The CL Financial Group had sound assets that were valued at more than $100 billion…”  Both the Governor and the Minister took steps to recover their own funds before the group’s financial troubles were public knowledge and that sits awkwardly, in the public mind, with their current appeals for patience.

Dr. Euric Bobb – At a Central Bank press conference on 31st March, resigned as Chairman of CLICO and as a Director of CL Financial, of which he was the Chairman, until his resignation late last year.

Governance – His statements as to the poor governance at CLICO, the leading company in the CL Financial group, were astonishing, to say the least – see Governance was an alien term in CLICOat the T&T Guardian. No reconciliation of the company’s bank accounts.  No audit committee.

Those are serious shortcomings in the basic accounting and governance controls in any company.  For one which had investment as its centrepiece, those are shocking.  They give the impression of unprofessional and haphazard management of a significant part of our nation’s savings.  They detract from the reputation of the CL Financial chiefs.  Surely these shortcomings found their way into the Management letter from the Auditor to the Board and Shareholders?  Was the Central Bank aware that these elementary controls were absent?  Even if there are serious shortcomings in the financial procedures at CLICO, are we not entitled to rely on the Supervisor of Insurance or Inspector of Financial Institutions to resolve those in favour of the investing public?

continue reading this excellent but shocking article at Afra Raymond’s blog

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Were the CLICO pension funds segregated and managed separately as required in law?

Prior to being appointed to his regulatory position, (current Barbados Supervisor of Insurance) Carlos Belgrave was the General Manager of a local company that manufactures “flour, animal and poultry feeds” … from OffshoreAlert’s 2006 “Worst Regulator” Award

Barbados Thompson Government continues with the CLICO cover-up

“There are many persons in Barbados who owe, not so much the public, but more importantly the Policy-holders of CLICO, a complete candid set of answers, free of rhetoric and put in the simplest form.

It is being re-iterated that Mr. Leroy Parris is still Chairman so he owes the first set of explanations. It is his responsibility even if he chooses to delegate it. If you are in charge, you have to face the music at crunch time. The Board of Directors must also show that they are not asleep at the wheel. The Board should have a full investigation and someone has to be held responsible. If no-one is responsible, the members of the Board will have to answer other questions.

Mr. Thornhill and the other members of CLICO’s management team must be more candid and direct in their statements. They have to come out of their state of denial and accept responsibility for this state of events. They cannot hide behind CL Financial because managing the risk of a CL Financial failure must have been one of the contingencies they were planning against.

Mr. Parris most importantly has to speak out on the issue of Pensions. As I understand it these funds ought to be segregated and managed separately. I am yet to hear a definitive set of assurances that these various pension funds are fully intact. If they are not intact, CLICO also has to come under closer scrutiny with a view to whether or not there was any breaking of statutes on the part of the company.

The Government of Barbados also needs to provide the public a full explanation of what appears to be a systemic failing of institutions that were created to protect the public interest. Furthermore, the former Prime Minister ought for the record to explain what was happening under his watch or that of any other Minister who might have had responsibility for the Office of the Supervisor of insurance.”

… taken from an absolutely excellent article by The Devil’s Advocate over at Ian Bourne’s Bajan Reporter: CLICO Unplugged: An Insider’s Perspective

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Reader asks: Is corruption widespread in Barbados? With no Freedom of Information, how do citizens examine the facts?

Freedom of Information is not about media freedom

“It is important to review the Freedom of Information Law. Freedom of information is not about media freedom. It has to do with access to information and disclosure which can enable public discourse.

The right to information is a crucial underpinning of participatory democracy. Promotion of open government and maximum disclosure can be the single most important step towards eliminating corruption.”

… sent by a contributor to BFP who didn’t inform us if it was OK to use his name.  :-)

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