Philip J. Pierre, leader of the opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), has put the governing United Workers Party (UWP) on notice: he will investigate “questionable transactions” immediately after the SLP is returned to government.
Speaking at the SLP’s Conference of Delegates on Sunday, Oct. 13, Pierre said he’s determined to put an end to corruption and that no minister will be above the law.
The opposition leader said he intends to recover every penny misappropriated.
“I am putting on notice those politicians and their collaborators who have misappropriated the monies of the people of Saint Lucia that when we get into government we will immediately commission a forensic review of all questionable transactions that the UWP government undertook and we will do everything within the law to recover these monies. Let me be clear – no ministers will be above the law. I will not stand for corruption,” he told the conference.
Calling corruption a “plague” in Saint Lucia’s political system, Pierre said he will not tolerate corruption at any level because it robs people of resources that should have been used for their benefit.
Pierre promised to lead by example, saying “we will need to be the change we want to see”.
“As prime minister of this country, I will have a zero-tolerance approach toward corruption. We have suffered enough from this blight of corruption. Our citizens are fed up at the corruption they have been seeing almost daily in government.
“They are fed up of Pajoah Letters and millions of dollars’ worth of contracts awarded by direct award, no formal tender to allow competition. This UWP government uses contracts to reward family and friends at the expense of the hardworking businesses eager to work in our country. We will put an end to this scourge.
He continued: “Corruption is coming at a heavy price to the taxpayers of this country. A contract that is supposed to cost $10 million is awarded for $13 million to a friend of the government minister, depriving our health care system, schools, roads in need of repairs and the distress fund of $3 million of much-needed funds. It all amounts to money stolen from your pockets that could also have been used to improve your personal lives. We will stop that blight and I will ensure that the people benefit from the resources of our country.”
To fight corruption, Pierre noted that the governance rules will have to be tightened to avoid the blatant abuse of rules “that provided some latitude for honourable men and women to manage the affairs of the country effectively”.
“I promise that there will be new public procurement rules to avoid the abuses that have taken place using direct awards. We will legislate and enact new laws that will ensure transparency in the award of contracts and in the conduct of governmental business practices.
“We will strengthen the Integrity Commission. People have lost trust in government. This is a government of deals and schemes. A government that refuses to implement any project unless they can see a clear path to make money to enrich themselves and their friends.”
He added: “They stopped the Hewanorra Airport Development. They cancelled the Gros Islet Highway. They stopped the LED street lighting project because there was no avenue for corruption. Three years later they are fighting to re-start these projects that should have been completed if Labour Party was in power. See what corruption does? It delays progress and people suffer. What a selfish and greedy bunch. They must go.”
Sunday’s Conference of Delegates, which was an open session, was held at the Stanley Jon Odlum Secondary School in Marigot. The closed session, for internal party matters, continues next Sunday.