THE ongoing row over the role played by the National Food Distribution Task Force has been an unpleasant one.
From the start, there have been accusations without solid evidence being produced to back up the claims.
For example, there was the claim that there were no records of the activities of the task force, led by Mrs Susan Holowesko-Larson, only for extensive records to be shown to The Tribune and provided to the government.
There was wild rhetoric, with Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis suggesting that NGOs should be volunteers and not incur costs, and making a lot of noise about nine percent of funds being used for administration costs – despite the average charity spending about 15 percent on administration costs, a significantly higher sum.
So when Mr Davis made a new wave of accusations on Monday about spending on food support during the pandemic, it was hard not to take things with a pinch of salt.
FNM leader Michael Pintard was also keeping a packet of salt handy, it would seem, and claimed that the government had decided to “drip feed the public with fallacious details”.
Mr Davis made a claim, for example, that $10m of taxpayers’ money had “simply vanished”, having been sent to two non-governmental organisations. Mr Pintard said of the report that had been brought forward: “The report didn’t say that $10m vanished. At the time of the report, certain details were just unavailable.”
So is this like the records that the government claimed weren’t there that The Tribune was then invited to see? That is too early to say too. However, what we can say is that we agree with something else Mr Pintard had to say on the matter.
He said: “The reality is if any citizen, public servant, NGO or anyone associated with them engage in mis or malfeasance or anything illegal or unethical, any government is duty bound to clearly investigate and to take the relevant action required to hold them into account.”
It’s as simple as that. If there is wrongdoing, prosecute the wrongdoers. But for all the sound and fury being spouted about how terrible these NGOs have been that came forward to help in the height of the pandemic, there’s precious little being talked about in the way of consequences.
Where is the police investigation? Where are the laws being put forward to ensure such things never happen again? If you’re not seeing these happen, and what Mr Davis is saying is true, why on Earth isn’t there any action being taken? If money has indeed vanished, to the tune of $10m, where is the court case? Where are the theft charges, the fraud charges?
And meanwhile, if transparency of accounts and contracts is so important to Mr Davis, why is his government failing to comply with the Public Procurement Act?
Mr Pintard accused Mr Davis of applying “different sets of rules for others than what he is prepared to abide by himself” and one can see the case he is making when Mr Davis presents himself as a stickler for the rules when it comes to the food support scheme but his government is not complying with a law requiring the publication within 60 days of the award of a contract to a successful bidder.
These two things do not seem to add up.
So, for the avoidance of any doubt, if there has been any wrongdoing or financial malfeasance, then it should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
But if there hasn’t, and it is hard to tell with the piecemeal picture we keep being presented with, then as Mr Pintard points out, we are risking alienating the very organisations that have come to our aid in our time of need, and what will happen next time a disaster befalls our country? Who will we turn to then?
So we’d better be right when we make such accusations, because if we’re not and we drive away the friends who wanted to help us, we may well have cause to regret that.