Philmore Mullin, the Director of the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS), has rejected allegations of lack of accountability or transparency by his office as it relates to donations received from overseas to help with the rebuilding of Barbuda after Hurricane Irma.
According to reports, Polish Ambassador to Antigua and Barbuda Przemyslaw Hauser had personally requested an accounting of the delivery and distribution of the 20-foot container of supplies, which were presented to NODS exactly one year ago.
Ambassador Hauser is said to have met with Mullin to request accountability, as he had to report accordingly to the European donors.
At the time, according to the reports, Mullin gave assurances that the Barbudans would receive all the goods and even promised to send video clips of the deliveries. But, according to the circulated claims, this promise has not been fulfilled.
Ambassador Hauser reportedly travelled to Barbuda, where he met with the Barbuda Council to inform them of the donated supplies, and provided a list which outlined the contents of the donated container.
Mullin said the allegations appeared to have been due to a misguided expectation that NODS would turn over relief supplies to the Barbuda Council, but said it was a principle of disaster management policy that donations must not be put in the hands of elected officials.
“I’m very familiar with the container in question. The ambassador, at the time, made a special request for my office to consider the Sir McChesney George Secondary School and one other [institution], which was honored the next day,” he said.
He added, “Here is the problem: my office is responsible for disaster management and, by extension, management of relief supplies. We do not, as a matter of policy, issue relief supplies to third parties… especially government officials, whether government or council.”
He also stated that it would be impossible to itemize every single article in the donated container to indicate what each individual received.
“We honoured the request from the ambassador. The other items were issued upon signatures. The beds were given out primarily to the majority of Barbudans who moved back home first. The other items were issued directly to victims,” he said, adding that he had nothing to hide but was not surprised that these allegations were being made.
He further explained that clothing and items with an approaching expiry date were given away without the need for recipients to sign for them, as the paperwork would have been tedious in the face of urgent need.
Mullin suggested that it would be distasteful and demeaning to publicize the names of donation recipients and the particulars of what they received.