The Barbados government says it is “absolutely committed” to purging the country of a “stain of corruption” uncovered since it came into office in May this year.
Attorney General Dale Marshall, who appeared with Prime Minister Mia Mottley in addressing the nation on Sunday night, said that the authorities have systematically gone through file after file and have found a number of startling things.
Marshall said that in many respects, there was a total absence of fiscal discipline and that since coming to office, the government has seen signs of corruption making reference to the accounts of the National Housing Corporation.
He told the nation a closer examination of the files had shown that in many instances, contracts were awarded without any tender and some of these contracts ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
“There was absolutely no fiscal prudence whatsoever. There was another glaring set of circumstances and it related to the matter of exorbitant professional fees and legal fees which could not be justified by any reasonable measure,” Marshall said.
“It was clear to us that this was all part and parcel of a whole attitude where Government was there to benefit a chosen few but not to benefit large numbers of Barbadians.”
Marshall said that in some instances, invoices for large amounts of legal fees were submitted on the eve of the election and were paid the very following day.
“One glaring instance of an invoice submitted for one million dollars and the entire invoice was settled the following day on the eve of an election,” he said, adding that Barbados must demonstrate to the international community that it is intent on following the highest standards of probity when it comes to its financial affairs.
Marshall said that the Mottley administration intends to use innovative tools to get to the root of corruption and that one suggestion is the setting up of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, like what has been done in other countries.
“We also want to see a situation where Barbadians are able to come and speak with the authorities without necessarily being fearful that they will suffer penalty, and very much like we’ve had truth and reconciliation commissions in other parts of the world, we feel it’s important for us to allow a catharsis, a cleansing, people can come forward, speak to the authorities, admit their part in the misdeeds and hopefully try to purge themselves of that kind of contempt and allow us to go further,” he said.
Marshall said that his government also intends to introduce legislation, some of which “would involve such things as unexplained wealth” and that it would also involve giving the courts powers to be able to look at how people have acquired various assets.
Prime Minister Mottley told the nation corruption exists “in high and low places” and it must be dealt with “because corruption is a cancer that literally takes away money and resources that we could better spend to help those people who really, truly need it.”