Since 1995, Gregory Bowen has been a fixture on the local political landscape and a resolute soldier and loyalist in the Keith Mitchell led NNP. For an equally long time, has been Minister of Works except for a brief period when he was in Mitchell’s “dog house”.
As early as 1996, Bowen started on his disastrous trail that has resulted in dire financial and reputational consequences for our country. Bowen as Minister responsible for Energy, in 1996, entered into the ill-fated arrangement with the superbly litigious oil mogul, Jack Grynberg. That arrangement brought zero benefits to Grenada and landed us in costly, protracted litigation for over 16 years. It was not until 2011, under the stewardship of Nazim Burke, that we were able to win the case against Grynberg. Bowen then had the audacity to stand in Parliament and claim that we won the case because of his brilliance!
Then on 31 March 2008, Bowen led us unto the wholly unhealthy and disadvantageous oil and gas deal with Global Petroleum Group. According to Dynamic Global Advisors, oil and gas consultancy experts based in Texas, the contract with GPG was: “so blatantly one-sided in favour of GPG, that it constitutes a reprehensible bargain between the parties” and further, that in terms of industry standards, it was an anomaly at best, “a hybrid, the likes of which we have never seen before”. Despite all the tomfoolery last election, the truth is, we may never recover from this terrible deal to reap the rewards of our oil and gas resources.
In the midst of all this, US$600,000 that GPG should have paid into the treasury disappeared. In a letter dated 17 May 2006, Eduard Vasiliev, President and CEO of GPG wrote to Bowen alleging that this money was paid to a third party, Lev Model, on Bowen’s instructions. Bowen has never denied this.
Bowen as Minister is now at the centre of government’s ongoing dispute with Grenlec. It is widely known that there is no love lost between Bowen and some of the main shareholders in WRB, the company that purchased the Grenlec shares in 1994. When WRB took over, Bowen was manager of Grenlec. He subsequently bitterly parted ways with Grenlec. The Worrel Report at pages 48 to 57 gives a clear indication of Bowen’s abysmal performance as manager of Grenlec. It is therefore quite reckless of our Government to have Bowen at the centre of the new arrangements, which promised liberalisation of the sector, but instead landed us in court with Grenlec. If government loses the case, Grenadian taxpayers may be asked to pay up to $200 million in damages to Grenlec.
NAWASA, Gravel & Concrete Emulsion Plant and Grenada Postal Corporation all fall under Bowen’s ministry. Arguably, the worst of these state bodies is Gravel & Concrete. Boards and managers are changed as often as the weather and under dark clouds. In fact, that corporation is renowned for incompetence, inefficiency, staff issues and suspicious procurement methods. The corporation was said to have been “sold” to a Trinidadian investor, but as far as the public is concerned, the transaction did not see the light of day.
Then there is the Grenada Postal Corporation (GPC). A nameless strategic investor was announced a few years ago. When Bowen was asked to identify that investor, he was forever dancing on soap. The silence on the state of things at the GPC is deafening as boards were routinely changed, the remaining staff are left in limbo and NNP operatives receive hefty fees for consultancy services. In the meantime, the corporation continues to drift aimlessly into a future unknown even to Mr Bowen.
The Ministry of Works itself has become watered down, so much so, that it barely resembles a ministry. Contract work for loyal supporters is now the norm. Crews doing road repair and maintenance perform substandard patchwork leaving uneven road surfaces that deteriorate with the slightest of rainfall, making conditions hazardous to motorists and resulting in more repair costs to taxpayers. The $27 million St Patrick Road Project seems now to be walking on crutches. It was allocated $750,000 in the 2014 Budget and $2.5 million in 2015, nothing happened. Now in the 2019 Budget, 5 years hence, it is mentioned again. The incompetence is just astounding.
The poor record of project implementation in the Ministry of Works is legendary. That ministry has to implement the lion’s share of government projects but with multiple Permanent Secretaries at his disposal, Bowen’s performance has been dismal. The asphalt plant at Perseverance and the quarries at Mt Hartman and Telescope are now derelicts. The traffic lights island-wide have not worked for well over a year; more millions down the drain under Bowen.
In the face of such appalling incompetence, the big questions are: why does the Prime Minister insist on having Bowen remain as Minister of Works? Why do the people of Grenada continue to tolerate such high levels of ineptitude? It is incumbent on all of us to demand answers, more competence and greater accountability.