By Latrishka Thomas
“He can investigate all he want. There’s nothing to investigate. It wasn’t a secret,” said Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Jamale Pringle in response to Prime Minister Gaston Browne who last week ordered an investigation into an alleged contract between Pringle and the Solid Waste Management Authority to pick up dead dogs.
In Parliament on Friday, Browne responded to statements made by the Parliamentary Representative for the All Saints East and St. Luke constituency sometime prior, concerning disparities of wealth in the twin-island state.
The Prime Minister said that after the Minister of Health did his own investigation into the ‘dead dog contract’ they found a few discrepancies.
“How could a man be paid $1.4 million to collect dead dogs – to quote him – in this country, during a seven-year period? How could that happen? There are times when he said that he added some debris, but we do not know that to be the case,” Browne said.
He also revealed that “when you look at the bill, or bills rather, and you see that every week, every month, every year, a truck, one single truck is able to work without any breakdown. And that that truck was picking up of dogs . . .”
“We think that, you know, there is something wrong, and I don’t want to go into anything here; we have to have an investigation, we have called for an investigation,” the Finance Minister continued.
He said that they also noticed that public servants at the Solid Waste Management Authority “perhaps have not been paying attention.”
“You just have to look at the bills and see that somebody’s sitting down in a house, literally writing up these bills with the same information every week. So that every week you’ll see for example, that at the market there are dead dogs, and we know that you don’t have many dead dogs around the market, or anywhere in the country for that matter. So, the narrative does not change week after week, month after month, year after year, the actual description of the work that was done remains the same. And we know that that amount of work would not have been available, especially when it comes to picking up these dead dogs,” the representative for the St. John’s City West constituency said.
He added that, “We happen to believe; we have strong reason to believe that those invoices were inaccurate; that they were padded. And we’re going to deal with that issue. And I don’t believe that Mr. Pringle is the only one who may be, or may have – and let me make it abundantly clear – I’m not necessarily saying he did anything illegal, cause you know they love to sue – that he is the only one who may have padded his invoices.”
But Pringle is adamant that the contract was legitimate, explaining that he received about $500 daily for the services rendered.
He said that since 2009, he was contracted to collect the dead animals around Antigua and Barbuda.
In addition, he said “there’s some areas that the compactor truck could not access. So, with picking up dead dogs and covering a vast amount of Antigua and Barbuda, some other places were added so that when there is no dog to pick up, you still actually have literally, I work to do for the day. So, every time when we are in parliament, they continuously raise issue about I having contracts within the government, and how much I’m doing, like they issue these contracts. It’s one contract basically. And it’s to pick up dead animals and clean up around the public markets in the morning before St. John’s open.”
He also insisted that the authority would have terminated the contract if they found something was wrong with the arrangement.