September 27, 2011
Minister Daniel accepts responsibility, not blame

Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel has said he will accept responsibility for the flare up in the Black Sigatoka disease affecting the banana industry, but he will not accept blame.{{more}}

“As Minister of Agriculture, with the Ministry’s responsibility for leaf spot disease control, I have to accept the responsibility, but I am not going to accept the blame. I will not take the blame.”

Daniel said the arrival of the oil for the aerial spraying of bananas had been delayed because the documents prepared for the approval of the purchase of the oil remained on the desk of a worker at the Ministry of Agriculture, instead of being forwarded to the Ministry of Finance.

“The Ministry has its officials. They have their work to do. They must do their work,” the Minister said.

Daniel, addressing a meeting of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) at Sandy Bay last Sunday evening, said that the government has a policy to support the banana industry, which they have demonstrated.

Giving a chronology of the events which led to the delay in spraying of the fruit, Daniel said that at the end of March, 2011, the Ministry of Finance released $1.5 million for the purchase of chemicals to be used in the spraying of bananas.

In April, he said, his Ministry prepared the necessary documentation, which was to be sent to the Ministry of Finance for the expenditure of the money.

He said in May he enquired of the officials in the Ministry of Agriculture what was happening. He said he was told that the documentation was complete and was lodged at the Ministry of Finance, awaiting approval.

Daniel said in the period between April and July, other chemicals needed for the spraying of bananas were bought, but the fruit cannot be sprayed without the oil.

“In June, again I questioned where we are. I was given almost the same answer. At the end of June, I myself went to the Ministry of Finance and spoke with the Budget Director. He said ‘Minister, I will try to see what I can do for you’.”

The Minister of Agriculture said two weeks later, in July, he again went to the Ministry of Finance, but this time, he spoke with Maurice Edwards, the Director General of Finance and Planning, who told him, ‘Minister, your ministry needs to do its work, because I am still awaiting the documentation’.

“I went back to the Ministry of Agriculture and I called the PS immediately. I said ‘PS, I am told by the Director of Finance that the Ministry has not submitted the documentation’. He said, ‘Minister that has been done, but I will go and check’.”

Daniel said two days later, the Permanent Secretary came to his office and apologized to him, as the documents had not been sent to the Ministry of Finance.

He said the PS told him that just that morning, he had found the documents on the desk of a worker in the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Comrades, I say the Ministry has the responsibility, and so, when I heard that, I said ‘PS, well, I need a report as to what has transpired’.”

Daniel said by the end of July, they were able to put the documentation in place, following which the Ministry of Finance approved the expenditure.

The order was placed in the first week in August, a full four months after the money was released by the Ministry of Finance.

According to the Minister, the normal shipping time for the oil, known as “Spraytex”, to get here from Miami is four to six weeks, and it should have arrived on September 20, but was delayed because of bad weather.

The shipment should have arrived yesterday, Monday, and according to Daniel, the spraying operation will begin by tomorrow.