KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – There is some discrepancy between the amount telecommunication provider LIME says it is owed by the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government and the amount the government says the company is due.
“… the sum, which has been posted on the Internet of EC$2.6 million, is wrong. It came from Cable and Wireless (LIME),” Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told reporters Monday.
He said that his government owes the company less than EC$1.1 million and that he ““silently rejoiced” when LIME last week cut “a substantial number” of the government’s telephone lines, including police station, hospitals and clinics, because of non-payment.
He said that three issues contributed to the situation, namely, the abuse of telephones by public servants, reconciling the accounts, and management by the heads of department and permanent secretaries.
“And some people feel that Cable and Wireless will never cut … I am sorry when I see they had to cut the police station and the clinics because you don’t want a problem to arise there but there is abuse there also and it is only for 24 hours and the matter was sorted out and we are moving forward,” Gonsalves said.
“But Cable and Wireless has to also get their own house in order and don’t send a bill for $2.6 million when the amount would be below $1.1 [million]. … And I am talking from what I was advised by the persons who I have asked to address this issue for me,” he further stated.
Gonsalves said that the government was being billed for telephones that are not in service and added that it is the responsibility of permanent secretaries, rather than the prime minister, to resolve these issues.
He said that while LIME says the Ministry of Education owes LIME EC$849,899 the permanent secretary says that the Ministry’s indebtedness is indicated as EC$133,236.13.
“Now … it said indicated because it is believe that it is less than that,” he said as he read from a communiqué from that Ministry.
He further said that LIME was billing the Ministry for telephone services for which the Ministry was not responsible and for amounts that were not yet due.
“So LIME is sending bills to the wrong people about things which are not yet even due. … The Ministry of Education … and other persons who have written to me, say that there are several telephones, which are not linked to the Ministry. They sending them bills. So we are not paying bills which are not properly reconciled.”
Gonsalves, however, said that he appreciated that LIME is under new management locally and “might be under a little bit of pressure from fellas from overseas” even as it receives “some competitive jamming”.
“I have no problem with that. But lets reconcile the bill properly. And there are some permanent secretaries and heads of department, … they needed a shock therapy like this … to address it,” he said.