A recent report on the financial operations of town, village and rural councils has been tabled in parliament here and was a much discoursed subject during debates on the budget in the House earlier this month. The “review of the financial position of the town, village and rural councils” around the Island has since been made a public document with the document pointing to impropriety and allegations of corruption on the part of several persons during the reign of the former administration. In question were how funds (particularly from the Taiwanese Government) were disbursed and the fact that the funds were never deposited into the consolidated fund. This was a sore point for the Saint Lucia Labour Party while in opposition, calling for an investigation into the matter. In November of 2011 the SLP was voted into office and the following year had implemented a probe into the operations of the town, village and rural councils. The result; the report which is now the subject of much discussion here. The main comments by “John Public” however have been “another enquiry,” “another report”, “now what?”
On Friday Social Transformation Minister Harold Dalson held a press conference at GIS explaining the process leading to the report , its findings and answering the question, “now what? “Since the town, village and rural council’s audit was made public the Government has been inundated with enquiries about what next. To this end it is the intention of the Government to deliver to the commissioner of Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, copies of the report for their attention and action,” Dalson said Friday. “We as a Government have kept our promise to the people of the country to investigate the misuse of the Government’s funds. We have unearthed corruption in forms and fashions previously unheard of in our parts. We have collated all of this into one document and appended all of the evidence attendant to the misuse. We have done our part and now it is for the law enforcers to do theirs,” the Government Minister added.
The findings of the Committee appointed to review the town and village councils Dalson said are startling. “Reading it makes even the more hardened among us cringe. It makes the decent people of Saint Lucia angry at the scope of the fraud perpetuated on them,” he said. According to the Soufriere Parliamentarian, UWP Parliamentarians (according to the report) disregarded even the basic laws governing the councils and treated the funds of these entities almost like personal bank accounts. Three instances he said reflected that monies received were not even placed in the councils accounts but instead in so called development funds which were not legal entities. The probe interviewed several persons who provided information and evidence and the finding also includes copies of cheques inappropriately written as well as other supporting documents.
Dalson said last week that he took no particular pleasure in the exercise but as a Government and to protect the integrity of the country on the local and international front his Government had “to do the right thing.”