By Carlena Knight
MP for Barbuda, Trevor Walker, is reiterating calls for the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) and the government to publicise an audited report of the full list of supplies donated to Barbuda after Hurricane Irma.
“What NODS and the Prime Minister should do, and I am asking for it again, is to produce an audited statement of all the donations received, whether goods or otherwise, for Barbuda to the public,” Walker told Observer radio yesterday.
“As transparent as this government says they are, we have not received an audited statement from the Prime Minister, from the government, from NODS, concerning what was donated to Barbuda and I find it very ironic that they’re going to use a situation like this to make us look bad when they themselves are not transparent. I call on them once again to do that,” Walker demanded.
The renewed call stemmed from reports made by the PM and NODS director Philmore Mullin who recently criticised Barbudans for allegedly mishandling donated medical equipment.
Mullin said he was “disappointed” to see photos of critical items, including hospital beds, left in the open air on the sister isle, at the mercy of the elements. Days later, Barbuda Council Secretary Paul Nedd responded to the claims blaming ineffective communication and logistical planning on the part of the government.
Nedd said Barbudans only received information about the impending arrival of the items on the day they were being shipped earlier this month, leaving them with no time to properly plan. He also decried the alleged deplorable conditions of the items which had been housed in Antigua since 2018.
Walker joined with Nedd in sharing his displeasure over the actions of the NODS director – along with PM Browne who he accused of trying to discredit the Barbuda Council.
According to the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) leader, Barbudans reached out to NODS in 2018 to acquire the items for the Hanna Thomas Hospital but to no avail. Instead, they were shipped two years later on July 2.
Walker accused the parties of not storing the items correctly while they were in Antigua, based on their condition. Walker noted that all 10 beds had to be repaired by the Barbudan people themselves, but two could not be salvaged.
He said although he is appreciative of these items, especially from the British High Commissioner and other donors, the actions of the PM and NODS director are unacceptable.
“I am extremely disappointed with Philmore Mullin and more so the Prime Minister Gaston Browne for putting this out there like if it’s a situation where the Barbuda Council should be blamed for what I saw on social media,” he told the Observer AM show.
“They sent these beds and wheelchairs, everything was used. They also sent some office chairs, hospital scales, tables, they also sent special beds for the elderly, vital signs machine, ultra-sound and X-ray machines.
“All of these came on the barge and have been stored away. It is very unfortunate that this thing was hyped up in a particular way. Everything to make the Barbuda Council look bad, perpetuated by the Prime Minister in my view who has no clue about anything in Barbuda,” Walker said.
Despite these actions Walker says he is open to rebuilding a relationship with Mullin as it is imperative that all parties work together as the hurricane season nears its peak.
“In the past the relationship was different but clearly it has deteriorated and it’s something I hope Mr Mullin recognises, because I keep telling people it’s easy when you have a situation in Antigua you can go and fix it and dispatch help but Barbuda is 25 miles away and so clearly there has to be that synergy where persons understand their roles properly and there is proper coordination. “If you don’t have proper coordination and communication and a good working relationship, then you are going to have issues. For the relationship to improve, NODS needs to do what they have done in the past which is to recognise the function of the Council and the people of Barbuda as being an integral part of the decision-making process,” Walker added.