The new Barbados administration intends to pursue and prosecute public officials suspected of corruption as far up the ladder as former government ministers, and will retake assets gained illegally wherever in the world they are placed.
Attorney General Dale Marshall made clear this intention when he spoke in parliament Tuesday of millions of taxpayer dollars siphoned out of the National Treasury in dubious contracts that could have been permitted only by ministers of a past government, some who openly enjoyed the benefits.
“They need to take warning. I know that people can find all kinds of ways to try to hide anything but we also know that in time … every single one of those individuals who we can identify, they’re going to have to give an explanation to the people of this country as to how they came by those ill-gotten gains and prove to the people of this country that they were come by honestly,” Marshall said signalling that since the May 24 emergence of a government led by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, there is a new sheriff in town.
As he introduced an Integrity in Public Life bill for anti-corruption legislation, Marshall recapped sordid accounts of public officials okaying construction and other million-dollar contracts behind closed doors and ignoring the law stipulating that any such deal valued over Bds$200,000 (BDS$1 = 50 cents US) should go to public tender.
He spoke of a high-rise housing construction contract valued around Bds$18 million being awarded without going to public tender, and informed the nation that there were many others.
Among those on file he said is “a project that was in our view unlawfully awarded for Bds$18 million, [and] had its price increased less than a year later to Bds$27 million without explanation”.
Marshall said that the new government also discovered in the files “that a contract in excess of Bds$190 million was awarded … for the building of a [mooring] berth without going to tender”.
The Attorney General also alleged that two public officials “are still driving, two BMW 5-series vehicles that are registered to the company that received Bds$28 million of Transport Board taxpayer funds without a contract and without going to tender.”
In vowing to go after the wrongdoers Marshall said, “We have to make it clear to all people, either in Barbados or coming into Barbados, that all people are going to be treated fairly and with all possible dispatch, and therefore the concept of a bribe will not help you.”
“We have to find a way to reverse the mindset of Barbadians and the people who come into our shores to do business, which says that the way to get your process completed quickly is to pay a bribe.”
He cited a case of an attorney general of Belize suing past government ministers and the case reaching the Caribbean Court of Justice in 2011 and then CCJ president Michael de la Bastide ruling that such action is correct, stating that in such a case the attorney general is entitled to seize “all personal profit and advantages gained by use or abuse of the men’s status as public servants to be for the benefit of the state.”
“For so long as I am attorney General of this country. I intend to strain every sinew of mine to the point of breaking.
“I intend to engage every agency of the Crown, either inside Barbados or outside of Barbados.
“I intend to do everything that I can to bring the perpetrators of that dishonest activity to heel,” Marshall swore.