Eight days after admitting that former public officials are still in possession of government assigned cellphone numbers, and the holders are raking up bills in the thousands, government has announced that these persons have been removed from the system and they will have to repay government.
“Government will continue to look into the situation. I will say that we have already taken action to remove persons,” Press Secretary Philomena Robertson told journalists during the weekly post-cabinet briefing on Tuesday.
Some of them, Robertson said, have opted to keep their numbers and have assumed immediate responsibility for their bill payment. She also confirmed that government has agreed that the money paid on the bill will have to be repaid to the state.
“Government is willing to work with them on the details for that,” she said, disclosing that government is currently reviewing its draft cellphone policy to ensure that it adequately addresses cellphone usage and the responsibilities of persons who are authorised for cellphones.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell said that he is embarrassed to learn and must accept the fact that former parliamentarians who had government assigned telephone numbers have been using the phones without making the necessary transfer for invoice payment to their names after leaving the system.
“If somebody leaves the system, it cannot be the politician to find out if the phone is no longer available. Automatically that should be a given,” Dr Mitchell told reporters.
One of the cellphone holders was a member of the Upper House from 2013 to 2016, while another was in service in the Lower House from 2013 to 2018. One of the invoices was for approximately EC$8,000 while the other was for approximately EC$70,000 for the period April, May and June 2019.
“I think there is a lot of breakdown in the system and that’s one of the fundamental problems,” he said. “I feel embarrassed by it and certainly we moving to aggressively do something about it,” Dr Mitchell added.
The cellphone scandal was first discussed by the host of an opposition political talk show who is known to be an activist for the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
In a news release, the National Democratic Congress said that it is dismayed at the level of corruption by the current administration exposed this week when evidence surfaced that taxpayers’ money is being used to pay the monthly telephone bills of known NNP political activists.
“The NDC calls on the NNP Administration to ensure that the relevant authorities investigate and where necessary, fearlessly prosecute these criminal acts. Using government resources in this manner constitutes a serious fraud against the people of Grenada,” said the NDC.
Tillman Thomas, former leader of the NDC has called for an in-depth investigation in the scandal.