by Linda Straker
- Former parliamentarians with government assigned telephone numbers have not made the necessary transfer for invoice payment to their names
- Review undertaken on the cost of cellphone use by ministers and all other persons with government assigned numbers
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell said that he is embarrassed to learn, and must accept the fact that former parliamentarians who had government assigned telephone numbers have been using the phones without making the necessary transfer for invoice payment to their names.
“If somebody leaves the system, it cannot be the politician to find out if the phone is no longer available. Automatically that should be a given,” Dr Mitchell told reporters.
“If you [are] looking at the phone bill at the end of the month aren’t you seeing that somebody not supposed to be there? If you [are] seeing a large bill don’t you know that you have to question it?” he said, explaining that the entire scandal is the responsibility of the accounting officers in the Ministry of Finance and the service provider.
“The public servants have to accept the fact that they did not account appropriately, and the service provider cannot duck responsibility,” he said, confirming that government has accepted its responsibility and will put structures in place to avoid and stop this from continuing.
One of the cell phone holders was a member of the Upper House from 2013 to 2016 while another was in service in the Lower House from 2013 to 2018. One invoice was for approximately EC$8,000 while the other was for approximately EC$70,000 for the period April, May and June 2019.
“I think there is a lot of breakdown in the system and that’s one of the fundamental problems,” he said. “I feel embarrassed by it and certainly we moving to aggressively do something about it,” he added.
“We have to deal with the service provider because it is clear that the contract we signed has a limit, so how come Digicel did not inform us, even if our accounting officers were paying them the bills, they should have informed us because you know it’s a breach of the contract that we signed,” he argued.
Claiming that every political party which has governed the country has had this problem, Dr Mitchell said, “It has happened in the past government but that is no excuse. We have to take fundamental responsibility for what has happened and we have to correct it and correct it fast.”
On Tuesday, government Minister Oliver Joseph said that a review is currently being undertaken by the government on the cost of cellphone use by ministers and all other persons with government assigned numbers.
The cellphone scandal was first discussed by the host of an opposition political talk show who is known to be an activist for the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
In a news release, the NDC said that it is dismayed at the level of corruption by the current administration exposed this week when evidence surfaced that taxpayers’ money is being used to pay the monthly telephone bills of known NNP political activists.
“The NDC calls on the NNP Administration to ensure that the relevant authorities investigate and where necessary, fearlessly prosecute these criminal acts. Using government resources in this manner constitutes a serious fraud against the people of Grenada,” said the NDC.