Thorne wants full account of $50m

Opposition Leader Ralph Thorne is demanding that Government provide a detailed account of the $50 million spent on the upgrade of Kensington Oval as well as cricket development.

 Speaking at a press conference on Thursday at the Opposition’s office, Hincks Street, the City, Thorne said there was little evidence to suggest that the sum borrowed from the Africa Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) was spent on the upgrades ahead of the International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup

He said this could be among the investigations for the just-established Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which held its first meeting last Monday. The Opposition Leader accused the ruling administration of similar mismanagement of public funds as it relates to the upgrades at Oistins Bay Garden. 

“We have heard several conflicting statements about this US$25 million and how it is being spent. We were told that the spending was going to be on Kensington and for cricket development but that seemed to have extended the borders of Kensington, because again we were told that $5 million was going to Oistins,” he said.

“We were told that some went to the police cricket ground, which we have now learnt has been rejected by the ICC, so whatever monies went there have been wasted.”

Thorne said the most expensive line item in the Kensington upgrade was not paid for through the loan, adding that from looking at the facility one could not see the changes that would justify the price tag.

“There is a lot of inconsistency in Government’s report in relation to its spending.

“We were told that the most expensive item of expenditure at Kensington was the $7 million for the lights. I think I am correct in saying that Parliament voted that $7 million to be spent on the lights, so that money did not come from the $50 million borrowed. So, Barbadians need to ask where has this $50 million gone.

“If the most expensive item at Kensington was the lights – you painted, you brushed off the chairs, you upgraded the ground – the expenditure does not match up.”

Thorne also raised concerns about the bidding process for contracts, noting that the time frame between the advertisement for bidding for the Oistin’s upgrade and the commencement of work was well above the customary time for these processes.

“I was told that the bid document for Oistins was made on April 4, yet the work started a few days after. So, this is record time and people who know these things will pay attention to these things. A bid is made to the public, within a matter of days the work starts, and that certainly reflects on the authenticity of the bid,” he said.  

Thorne assured the public that while an agenda was not yet set for the PAC, they would be guided by the concerns of the country on public expenditure.

Thorne, who chairs the watchdog committee, said 12 of the 13 members were selected.

In addition to Thorne, they are: Members of Parliament Marsha Caddle, Corey Lane, Edmund Hinkson, Kerrie Symmonds and Colin Jordan. From the Senate, the Government representatives are Senators Lisa Cummins, Chad Blackman and Gregory Nicholls. Senator Crystal Drakes is the lone independent representative, and the Opposition comprises its two representatives, Senators Ryan Walters and Tricia Watson.

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