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Manning critical of John's explanation

By Charleen Thomas, Newsday

Prime Minister Patrick Manning yesterday lambasted Carlos John for his "unrepentant" behaviour, saying John demonstrated he was prepared to bring the Ministry of Works and Transport (MOWT) and the profession of politics into "great disrepute".

Speaking at yesterday's post Cabinet news conference at White Hall, Manning said the management letters of the auditor general dealing with financial irresponsibilities in the National Road Enhancement Programme (NREP), was not discussed at length by Cabinet. He said the queries of the auditor general were directed to the Permanent Secretary in the MOWT and TIDCO, who were required to respond within a three-week period. Manning said if those replies are given, a report will then be sent to the Finance Minister, and the matter will then be discussed at Cabinet. He said the Attorney General will then advise government if any legal steps can be taken against anyone. Manning said if that was the case, he would not be afraid to act. However on John's statements on Wednesday, Manning said as a former minister, John's statement was "extremely damaging and dangerous."

"He made it quite clear. He acknowledged he violated the rules and regulations and procedures established in the Public Service for good order and good financial integrity.

"I condemn the action and statement in the strongest possible terms. One of the things we put a high priority on in our conduct, is integrity in public life, and for a former minister not only to acknowledge that he has erred, but to be unrepentant to indicate he will do it again, it suggests he is quite prepared to bring the office he held and the profession of politics into great disrepute, without any regard for the way it might affect others."

About John's comment that he had Cabinet approval to do some things, Manning said, "no matter how powerful the Cabinet might consider itself, it does not have the authority to break the law, therefore even if he had Cabinet approval to do some things that was contrary to law, it is entirely out of order.

"Cabinet does have the authority to authorise anyone to break the law," Manning emphasised. He said the former UNC government had no "proper concept of right and wrong".

Manning distanced the PNM from "that attitude", saying "we are determined to stick to our regulations and procedures, because we know these are the parameters within which we have to operate". He assured that every step would be taken to "ensure these regulations are adhered to."

Manning answering queries as to why NIPDEC was given a contract for the Diego Martin Highway extension, explained that each State enterprise had its own interim procedures which were more expeditious. But he warned NIPDEC that it "knows they must adhere to their internal procedures, or face the wrath of the authorities.

"There is a system in place and ministers involved know you do not violate the systems, because they won't have the support of the Cabinet like my colleague." He said he did not encourage his ministers to break the law and if they did, "everybody knows there will be consequences". On another matter relating to the UNC, Manning said he received a document detailing the schedule for last night's meeting of that party in Princes Town. He said he heard the party would have been on "nastiness", and would have talked about his children getting scholarships. Manning took in front and denied the allegation.

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