The United Progressive Party (UPP) is calling for the immediate scrapping of the suspicious and irregular National Asset Management Company (NAMCo), and for a return of all public funds currently under its control to the statutory corporations and other bodies from which they originated.
The call follows the shocking disclosure by Prime Minister Gaston Browne, today in Parliament, that funds derived from public corporations will be privately managed by NAMCo with zero disclosure to the public.
The Party further calls on the Government to tell the taxpayers of this country the exact quantum of funds already expended, and the uses to which they were put.
“It is wholly unacceptable to risk the proceeds of all the government’s shares in the West Indies Oil Company (WIOC), Caribbean Union Bank (CUB), State Insurance Corporation, National Housing Corporation and ‘several joint venture hotels’ being used and abused with zero parliamentary oversight and verifiable reporting to the public,” Senator Harold Lovell stated.
“It is also of zero comfort or consequence that the Accountant General, Financial Secretary and Deputy Financial Secretary are the signatories to NAMCo’s accounts,” he added.
“Nothing short of full parliamentary disclosure is acceptable.”
The UPP Political Leader also condemned the involvement of three Government ministers on the NAMCo board, including Sir Robin Yearwood and Samantha Marshall, saying, “Ministers should not be involved at that level. Ministers make policy; but you don’t expect ministers to be sitting on a board in terms of the actual running of a board. That should be done by other persons. This is totally reprehensible.”
In October 2016, the UPP went on record denouncing the removal of public revenues from the scrutiny of the Opposition, through the incorporation of NAMCo. At that time Party Chairman D.Gisele Isaac said, “You’re going to siphon off the profits separately. No Opposition member has been asked to serve as a director and these are public funds.”
She further argued that Opposition members, “both in the Upper House and the Lower House,” should “get a chance to weigh in on the debate, look at the figures; ask questions, say ‘This can’t work.’”
In response to this serious concern, Sir Robin then sought to reassure a suspicious public in a November 2, 2016 interview on Observer AM: “As you know, all corporations must have audited financial accounts. Wherever the Government has interest in anything – those accounts will be laid before Parliament.”
This is now being proven as just another ABLP lie.
Senator Lovell today questioned the secrecy surrounding NAMCo’s operations, asking, “Is it legal, ethical or rational for the government to operate in this manner? The more we learn about the way Gaston Browne conducts business using public funds, the more it gives us cause for concern. Where did he go to business school and what business principles does he adhere to?”
The Opposition does not intend to take this latest outrage lying down, however. “We intend to file an injunction and proceed with legal action on behalf of the people of Antigua and Barbuda,” Lovell stated.