Basseterre, St. Kitts – The investigation into the electoral office in Basseterre is now before the director of Public Prosecution (DPP), who will determine whether charges in the matter will be laid while investigations into the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) continue.
An investigation had been launched into the operations of the electoral office and the events surrounding the 2015 election, including the supervisor of elections’ abrupt decision to halt the vote count when only two of 11 seats had been declared.
The attorney general in 2015 had advised that the office’s computer system had been accessed externally and ballot boxes with broken locks and been discovered. The Criminal Investigations Department launched an investigation, which included computer forensics specialists assisting.
During yesterday’s prime minister’s press conference, Attorney General Vincent Byron disclosed that the issue was now before the DPP.
“The matter of the electoral office investigation is before the DPP at this time,” he said. “The investigation has moved there and we wait to hear whether the DPP will be bringing charges.”
He said the police and the DPP’s office are working closely at this point in time in dealing with the matter.
In relation to the investigation of the SIDF, Prime Minster Timothy Harris said that the investigations have not been fully completed.
“I am aware that the SIDF would have received legal opinion on how it may further pursue its best interest in this particular matter, and that advice is being contemplated by the board,” he said. “As soon as they have fine tuned their particular position, we will inform the country.”
He said these types of investigations are normally quite complex, with more than $1.4 billion and multiple transactions for which the SIDF must account.
“Investigations of these nature are never easy,” Harris said. “They take time and, with respect to the SIDF and what we know of the Ernst and Young report, in many respects there was an absolute absence of normal controls operating in that entity and in that context, the investigation will be longer and more challenging to pursue.”
Harris added that in order to get good results in the matter, the investigations will have to be allowed to take its course, and individuals can’t be allowed to get too overly involved and run the risk of contamination.
“I am satisfied the personalities engaged by the SIDF are credible people. It wasn’t by chance they chose one of the most reputable entities in financial management as Ernst and Young to pursue the initial work.”
He then disclosed that the initial report is now being considered by lawyers and QCs with a view to assist the way forward.
“So, it is a work in progress and we will give a full reporting when that investigation is complete,” he said.
In December, Harris raised concerns about accountability regarding the operations of the SIDF and indicated that individuals could be held responsible for their involvement. He revealed that since its inception in 2014, the SIDF has been the beneficiary of nearly $1.5 billion and, during the same time, had spent more than $1 billion.
“Prior to the last general election two years leading up that in fact, [mire than] $500 million dollars was spent, almost doubling the normal annual expenditure of the SIDF since its inception,” Harris said. “Among those rather startling levels of expenditure was the discovery that about $150 million dollars was spent on miscellaneous grants and donations in the two years leading up to the 2015 general elections.”
He noted that with so much of the country’s funds having been spent without any proper supporting documentation has developed into “an entirely unacceptable situation.”