So much was expected of the President…”CARMONA – A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT”

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President Anthony Carmona rides out into the sunset on Monday after one term as Head of State.

He will hand over the baton to incoming President, Paula Mae Weeks, at the Queen’s Park Savannah at 10 am.

When Carmona was proposed in 2013 to be the new President, the Government and the Opposition voted unanimously for this former High Court Judge, saying there was hope for the country.

Carmona went to his inauguration and among the things he said, were “The powers you think I have, I do not” and, “The powers you think I do not have, I do.”

That bought hope, but after five years in office, and the many blunders, those who will be reviewing his tenure, may not be so kind.

Last Thursday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was asked the question about Carmona’s stint in office. He responded, “We survived
. I wouldn’t want to be the person marking the paper on that. I don’t think it is something I would want to engage in.”

There are several matters which brought the office of the Presidency into disrepute.

* On September 9, 2015, at the swearing in of Rowley as the new Prime Minister, there was a faux pas which caused the entire swearing in to be done over hours later. Carmona swore in to the first three in this order – Edmund Dillon, Faris Al Rawi, and Keith Rowley.

When he realized his blunder, Carmona directed a second swearing in and the same three persons were correctly sworn in in the order – Rowley, Al Rawi, and Dillon.

* On July 2, 2017, bacchanal erupted at the office of the President which caused Marlene Mc Donald to be fired a second time from the Rowley Government. On that day, Mc Donald turned up at President’s House to be sworn in as the Minister of Public Utilities. But she turned up with two uninvited guests, one of them being community leader, Cedric “Burkie” Burke. Apart from being not invited, Burke was inappropriately dressed and found his way in a photo session with Carmona. That incident amounted to a breach of security at President’s House, and although Carmona asked for an investigation, not one staff member was scolded. Rowley fired Mc Donald over that incident.

* In September 2016, social media has been abuzz following blogs by political commentator, Rhoda Bharath, that millions of dollars have allegedly been spent on wine and jewellery at President’s House.

Bharath posted the blog in which she spoke of wine being bought in Italy and relabelled with the official seal of the President’s House and labelled Presidential House sparkling wine.

In her blog, Bharath pointed to a $2 million discrepancy in spending at President’s House contained in the Auditor General’s report.

The report, which is available online under the heading Individual Areas of Concern, speaks to expenditure control at President’s House.

It said, “There were 85 instances of incorrect classification of expenditure totalling $2,685,236.90 in contravention of financial regulation 65 which stipulates that a vote may not be applied to a purpose for which it was not intended.”

A memorandum was subsequently sent to the Head of Expenditure at President’s House on March 15, 2016, with a request for a response to the matters raised to be submitted within three weeks of the date of issue of the memorandum. But up to April 15 of this year when the report was laid in Parliament, there was no indication that a response had been forthcoming.

The Auditor General’s report said that “meaningful response to audit issues raised is a crucial step towards resolving irregularities and internal control weaknesses. It also reflects management’s commitment to improving fiscal responsibility and achieving good governance.”

The report further stated that “accounting officers are required by financial regulation 8 (l) to “reply promptly and fully to any queries…” of the Auditor General.

Memoranda outlining findings and recommendations have been issued to the ministries and departments audited.

* On September 5, 2016, Carmona met with Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon, who was accompanied by acting Commissioner of Police Harold Phillip, and then Chief of Defence Staff, Rodney Smart.

Rowley was out of the county at that time. When Dillon informed Rowley of the proposed meeting with the President, the Prime Minister “hit the roof”.

So, it has come as no surprise that Rowley has responded to the legal opinion of Martin Daly SC.

According to the legal opinion given by Daly, the President has no power to invite a Minister for the purpose of discussing matters within his portfolio without reference to the Prime Minister or to seek information directly from a minister.

The opinion noted that the Prime Minister is also chairman of the National Security Council which includes the Chief of Defence Staff and Commissioner of Police and concluded: “it may be considered inappropriate for the President to interact with the Minister of National Security without reference to the Prime Minister and without respect for the Prime Minister’s position as head of the National Security Council”.

The Prime Minister’s letter was in response to the President’s letter to him which outlined the purpose of his meeting with the National Security Minister.

* Maybe, the biggest issue of his tenure was the granting of sabbatical leave to Chief Justice Ivor Archie, when no such leave exists. And when questioned by Rowley as to how that leave was granted, Carmona stood by his decision to grant the sabbatical leave. Archie, realizing there was no such leave for the judges, changed his tune and said he was going on 35 weeks’ vacation to the United States. But that too is unlawful, as under the Judges term of condition,  judges cannot carry over annual leave to another year, and worse, accumulate that leave over years. Rowley is seeking an interpretation from the court.

The Chief Justice had sought a six-month sabbatical to “rest, reflect and study” at the institution – a move sanctioned by Carmona, reportedly based on the provisions of the 98th Report of the Salaries Review Commission.

* Carmona had brought the Office of President into disrepute by the manner in which he handled the $28,000 monthly housing allowance budget, while he was staying in a State house at Flag Staff, St James.

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