Truth will ouch, 2019: The CIPREG facts come home to roost

Part S09/2019 (Contribution)

Where do our hopes for development stand, on the eve of elections 2019?

BRADES, Montserrat, October 19, 2019 –  In recent days, following the ouster of Premier Romeo as Political Leader of the PDM Party by his fellow candidates, events here in Montserrat and overseas have unraveled several carefully crafted political talking points and have undermined widely held opinions:

  • Premier Romeo’s October 10, 2019 presentation to the UN General Assembly Fourth Committee[1] (despite some flaws) seems to have been fairly well received at Turtle Bay in New York.
  • Angry street buzz continues in the aftermath of the Romeo ‘ouster’ by his fellow PDM candidates. It is now likely that – absent a drastic turnaround – the PDM may pay a stiff price for trying to change horses in mid-stream.
  • We can now definitely expect a UN Committee of 24 field visit on progress with our decolonisation in December. (The UN envisions three possible decolonisation outcomes: 1: independence, 2: free association with UK or another state, 3: incorporation into the UK or another state.)
  • A main focus for the UN visit will be fact-finding consultations and site visits. It will also provide public education that will pivot on the legally binding force of the UN Charter, Article 73 and its requirement that the UK is mandated to “ensure” our political, economic, social and educational “advancement.”
  • Article 73 also binds the UK to “promote” – not, delay or frustrate – “constructive measures of development.” (This lent weight to Premier Romeo’s challenge regarding 20+ years of delays on key projects, though it is fair comment that part of the delay is due to our own faults.)
  • In addition, Premier Romeo has been calling for the UN to create what we could describe as a “decolonisation observer and facilitator” who would be based here.
  • Putting two and two together, that seems to have had some impact in London. For, a few days later, HE Governor Andrew Peirce went on ZJB Radio to do a nearly one and a half-hour-long live interview with that station’s Breakfast Show.
  • There are now calls for a wider press conference with our local media.
  • During the interview, the Governor spoke about several development projects under the £30 million CIPREG programme negotiated by the Romeo administration, other projects associated with the EU project  (£18 millions), the seaport development (£21.5 millions) and even responded to the playing of an excerpt of Mr Romeo’s latest UN speech.
  • We now know “from the horse’s mouth” that the UK has in fact committed to the £30 million CIPREG agreement and is serious about moving ahead on key projects such as the Fibre Optic cable, the hospital, housing, fix-up for the MSS campus, the A01 road upgrade, airport runway upgrade, and more.
  • The Governor also affirmed that the commitments in the 2012 FCO White Paper on OT’s[2] are firm, so onward support to our “reasonable assistance needs” will continue.
  • Those who mocked this commitment over the years have therefore been publicly corrected “from the horse’s mouth.”
  • He seemed to shift the emphasis towards Solar PV electricity, rather than Geothermal. (Actually, Geothermal electricity is far less prone to fluctuations than PV and we may have over 100 MW of GT potential.[3])
  • Ironically, we also had a visit by EU officials, looking at their energy projects [which is associated with the release of the first tranche of EDF 11 funds], but on their way out there was an incident with a Britten-Norman Islander aircraft aborted flight where passengers had to deboard.
  • This follows an incident where a similar aircraft ran off the runway several weeks ago.  Several incidents over recent years and a fatal accident also come to mind.

These developments, understandably, sent shock waves throughout Montserrat; even as political campaigning heats up towards elections scheduled for November 18th.

Some denounced the Governor as interfering in our local politics. Others point out that the persistent rhetoric that – in the teeth of evidence and repeated correction – insisted on going on radio week by week to doubt, deride and dismiss the reality of the breakthrough projects and to talk down our economy as being “worst ever” was ill-founded and has now had a hard collision with the facts.  They, therefore challenge the truthfulness and general fitness of such aspirants to power for high offices tasked to carry forward these projects in the national interest.

Actually, it is fairly obvious that the UK has much bigger fish to fry than local political campaign talking points and personalities. Especially, given the upcoming UN visit and the prolonged delays with and repeated cutting down of long-needed development projects. They have some explaining to do and so are belatedly reaching out with public education before December.

Just so, we too had better be prepared to answer for our own faults in the matter.

Yes, our own faults.

Here at TMR, we have already highlighted the MDC-Little Bay-Gun Hill fiasco[4]: by 2012 DfID for cause concluded that “MDC has not performed to date as had been expected . . . failure and injection of over EC$5 million did not turn it around.

In 2014 we saw whistleblowers, then media exposes the next year. Then, a few weeks ago, GoM and DfID have had to settle the McLaughlin case[5] in his favour. Likewise, the Auditor General has lashed the Government regarding the environmental disaster caused at Gun Hill in 2013/14 when the Meade administration knocked down the hill.[6]

Topping off, in the Auditor General’s Report for 2014–15, we also find telling remarks on an audit of the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) on the MCRS and MAHLE building projects:

“Insufficient information was provided by PIU for the auditors to complete the audit and verify that the work and payments were in accordance with the government’s contracting policies. At the time of the audit the buildings were still under construction but were outside the agreed construction dates as specified in the contract. To strengthen contract management arrangements, enhance transparency  in decision making and facilitate future project reviews we recommend that record keeping be improved.” [p. 23.]

Auditors use very restrained language, so “[i]nsufficient information was provided by PIU for the auditors to complete the audit and verify that the work and payments were in accordance with government’s contracting policies” is deadly. So is the want of proof that work and payments were in accord with established policy. Likewise, the claim that timelines slipped badly and the remark that record keeping needs to be “improved.” PIU as well as MDC, clearly had serious challenges with project governance, management, and implementation, contributing to our lack of credibility on projects, procurement, and financial management. That simply has to be fixed.

In short, on the eve of a crucial election, devastating facts have come home to roost across the board. No-one is coming up smelling like roses. Perhaps, it is time for our voters to call for a government of national unity that will set aside ill-founded partisan points scoring, admit the truth, face hard facts, carry forward necessary reforms and build on the CIPREG breakthrough.


[1] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/premier-romeos-presentation-at-the-un-general-assembly/

[2] UKG https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/32952/ot-wp-0612.pdf

[3] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrats-geothermal-energy-gold-mine/

[4] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/the-mdc-little-bay-gun-hill-fiasco/

[5] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/sean-mclaughlin-whistle-blower-and-our-governance-capacity-challenge/

[6]TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/auditor-general-reports-on-the-degradation-at-gunn-hill-carrs-bay/

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Part S09/2019 (Contribution)

Where do our hopes for development stand, on the eve of elections 2019?

BRADES, Montserrat, October 19, 2019 –  In recent days, following the ouster of Premier Romeo as Political Leader of the PDM Party by his fellow candidates, events here in Montserrat and overseas have unraveled several carefully crafted political talking points and have undermined widely held opinions:

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These developments, understandably, sent shock waves throughout Montserrat; even as political campaigning heats up towards elections scheduled for November 18th.

Some denounced the Governor as interfering in our local politics. Others point out that the persistent rhetoric that – in the teeth of evidence and repeated correction – insisted on going on radio week by week to doubt, deride and dismiss the reality of the breakthrough projects and to talk down our economy as being “worst ever” was ill-founded and has now had a hard collision with the facts.  They, therefore challenge the truthfulness and general fitness of such aspirants to power for high offices tasked to carry forward these projects in the national interest.

Actually, it is fairly obvious that the UK has much bigger fish to fry than local political campaign talking points and personalities. Especially, given the upcoming UN visit and the prolonged delays with and repeated cutting down of long-needed development projects. They have some explaining to do and so are belatedly reaching out with public education before December.

Just so, we too had better be prepared to answer for our own faults in the matter.

Yes, our own faults.

Here at TMR, we have already highlighted the MDC-Little Bay-Gun Hill fiasco[4]: by 2012 DfID for cause concluded that “MDC has not performed to date as had been expected . . . failure and injection of over EC$5 million did not turn it around.

In 2014 we saw whistleblowers, then media exposes the next year. Then, a few weeks ago, GoM and DfID have had to settle the McLaughlin case[5] in his favour. Likewise, the Auditor General has lashed the Government regarding the environmental disaster caused at Gun Hill in 2013/14 when the Meade administration knocked down the hill.[6]

Topping off, in the Auditor General’s Report for 2014–15, we also find telling remarks on an audit of the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) on the MCRS and MAHLE building projects:

“Insufficient information was provided by PIU for the auditors to complete the audit and verify that the work and payments were in accordance with the government’s contracting policies. At the time of the audit the buildings were still under construction but were outside the agreed construction dates as specified in the contract. To strengthen contract management arrangements, enhance transparency  in decision making and facilitate future project reviews we recommend that record keeping be improved.” [p. 23.]

Auditors use very restrained language, so “[i]nsufficient information was provided by PIU for the auditors to complete the audit and verify that the work and payments were in accordance with government’s contracting policies” is deadly. So is the want of proof that work and payments were in accord with established policy. Likewise, the claim that timelines slipped badly and the remark that record keeping needs to be “improved.” PIU as well as MDC, clearly had serious challenges with project governance, management, and implementation, contributing to our lack of credibility on projects, procurement, and financial management. That simply has to be fixed.

In short, on the eve of a crucial election, devastating facts have come home to roost across the board. No-one is coming up smelling like roses. Perhaps, it is time for our voters to call for a government of national unity that will set aside ill-founded partisan points scoring, admit the truth, face hard facts, carry forward necessary reforms and build on the CIPREG breakthrough.


[1] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/premier-romeos-presentation-at-the-un-general-assembly/

[2] UKG https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/32952/ot-wp-0612.pdf

[3] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrats-geothermal-energy-gold-mine/

[4] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/the-mdc-little-bay-gun-hill-fiasco/

[5] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/sean-mclaughlin-whistle-blower-and-our-governance-capacity-challenge/

[6]TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/auditor-general-reports-on-the-degradation-at-gunn-hill-carrs-bay/