by Linda Straker
- PM defends statement which implies all public officers guilty of stealing
- GIS release said PM’s town meeting statement a justified disclosure
- NDC claims all public officers “tarred and feathered by Prime Minister
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell has defended a statement he made at a town meeting in which he accused public officers — especially those in the health sector who are attached to the General Hospital — of stealing supplies.
“My statements were not meant to imply that all public officers are guilty of this, but it is important to face the ugly truth that this has been happening and continues to happen across the public service, not only at the General Hospital which was specifically referenced in response to a question on health,” said the statement issued through the Government Information Service (GIS).
Dr Mitchell at the time was responding to challenges facing the health sector. “The problem in Grenada with the health system like most issues of development are not generally the number of persons but the management of the system. We could put a hundred more doctors, a hundred more nurses but the mindset of some people and the level of incompetence, the level of stealing taking place in the hospital, the more you buy things is the more they steal,” he said.
Pointing out that the statements made at the recent town hall meeting in Brooklyn, New York were in no way different from previous statements made about the pilfering of supplies from various government departments and the inappropriate use of government resources, the government release said it was a justified disclosure.
“This is not hearsay, it is fact and I have repeatedly shared my concern about the corrupt practices across government. I do not share the view that raising this issue with fellow Grenadians in the diaspora was inappropriate. We call on them to give back to their home country, so we owe it to them to be honest about what is really happening here in Grenada,” said the statement.
“There is no denying that there are many honest, decent and hard-working public workers who given yeoman service, often going above and beyond the call of duty, serving the government
and people of this country. However, the inescapable fact is that there are also some public officers who use their position to access government resources for self-aggrandisement at the expense of the people of this country.”
The statement explained that it is the actions of this group of selfish and self-serving public officers that tarnish the image of what should be a noble profession.
“This wanton disregard for the proper use of government resources puts the entire country at risk. It undermines valiant efforts being made to improve the socio-economic status of the country and its people. When resources are used for purposes other than originally intended, it forces additional and unnecessary spending and jeopardises allocations for other equally important areas of service.”
“As a government, we are entrusted with the mandate of furthering the overall development of Grenada. As Minister of Finance, I am personally appointed as the caretaker of this country’s financial resources, but it is not a task performed single-handedly; it is with the support of all public officers who are similarly entrusted with departmental financial accountability and we further rely on the honesty and individual accountability of each public officer,” said the Prime Minister in the statement.
The statement disclosed that Prime Minister Mitchell stands prepared to meet with our doctors and nurses who may have felt personally offended by his comments about rampant stealing at the General Hospital.
“I can categorically state that the intention was not to malign all healthcare professionals. I reiterate my recognition and admiration for those who perform credibly, putting the healthcare needs of patients above all else. However, we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to the prevalence of corruption.” The statement said that acknowledgement is the first step in correcting an ailment.
“My intention was simply to underscore the detrimental effect of the actions of some, not only in the health service but across all of government, including the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, Customs and Excise, Inland Revenue Department and the Marketing and National Importing Board where an inquiry is currently in progress.”
In the meantime, the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) issued a news release about the accusation against public officers and has called for an apology from the head of government. Claiming its shock and alarm at the unfortunate remarks, the political organisation said that all public officers were “tarred and feathered by the Prime Minister who accused them of incompetence and thievery.”
“Grenadians all, our health sector is in crisis for lack of trained personnel, equipment and medicines to say nothing of the strenuous hours in a poor working environment that existing staff are forced to function in,” said the release also issued on Monday.
“Today the National Democratic Congress stands in solidarity with the deeply wounded and aggrieved staff of our hospitals across the nation and demands an unreserved apology from our Prime Minister to them and to the nation for his most egregious remarks.”