Political wrangling continues over Barbuda relief funds

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Almost a year-and-a-half after Hurricane Irma flattened Barbuda and rendered it uninhabitable, the government has not been able to tap funds pledged at a subsequent United Nations Donor Conference.

That’s according to Melford Nicholas, the country’s Minister for Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Information Technology.

Two billion US dollars were pledged during the Donor Conference at the UN in New York on November 21, 2017.

That money was expected to be split between the countries affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica, respectively, among several others in the Caribbean.

But Nicholas said the government is yet to receive what was pledged to the sister isle.

“Whether or not it is administrative hiccups or just the bureaucracy of the process, much of those funds – Antigua’s share of that fund – has not yet arrived,” the Minister disclosed.

Nicholas added that whatever monies government received by way of donations for Barbuda’s relief and recovery following Hurricane Irma were handed over to the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS).

He says the government had to dig into its own coffers to foot the bill for many projects on Barbuda.

“This has been an exceeding costly endeavor, especially since it was outside any budgetary controls,” he stated

But a different take on this matter is being posited by the elected Member of Parliament for Barbuda, Trevor Walker.

He says the Barbuda Council – the local government administration on the sister isle – is in the dark as to how monies donated to Barbuda have been spent.

“I know that the European Union pledged five million Euros. As a matter of fact, not only pledged now; the process of receiving that money I think is almost completed – if not completed,” Walker asserted.

He continued: “And so the question is, when will this work begin? The question is, why hasn’t it started already?”

Walker claimed to have asked these questions of the relevant authorities, including writing letters to those concerned, “And we get no answer that is satisfactory, or answers that make sense – because sometimes the clarity is [just] not there.”

NODS has throughout maintained that every cent of the money it has received and spent on the Barbuda hurricane recovery has been fully documented and accounted for without any discrepancies.

But the MP and others concerned evidently disagree.

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