MARIGOT–Showing favouritism and not complying with public procurement rules in awarding contracts after Hurricane Irma are the main charges facing President Daniel Gibbs and Vice-Presidents Valérie Damaseau and Annick Pétrus when the criminal court examines this case on December 19. The Prosecutor in Basse-Terre decided to prosecute following the elected officials’ 48-hour detention on October 10.
There are seven files to be examined by the court. Two concern roof repairs, four for specific service contracts and one involving Gibbs regarding insurance for public buildings. As the President he is responsible for all seven cases. In the latter insurance case, Gibbs is being charged with misuse of public funds, not following the public procurement rules and favouritism.
Despite the Collectivité receiving the maximum 15-million-euro claim for damage to public buildings as it was insured, Gibbs is alleged to have paid 250,000 euros to a broker in France for an independent expert assessment without following bidding procedures.
The broker is also being prosecuted for possession of funds, knowing that the money came from favouritism and misuse of public money. Aside from exchange of emails, no reports were issued by the said broker, reportedly.
For the roof repairs the Collectivité intended to repair the roofs of private citizens for five million euros although there was a larger project to repair 400 roofs at an estimated 12,500 euros per roof. The Préfecture blocked this plan, as it is prohibited to use public funds to repair roofs for private citizens, but not before 360,000 euros was spent to the benefit of seven companies.
First Vice-President Damaseau was implicated in one instance for signing off on repair of a roof for a 100-year-old lady in French Quarter. Both Gibbs and Damaseau are accused of the offence of favouritism.
With regard to the service contracts, Vice-President Pétrus is implicated in giving a contract verbally to a car rental company to deliver water and supplies made available by Frigodom to individuals and associations during the period January 1, 2008, to February 28, 2019. The bill for this contract was 147,000 euros. Both Gibbs and Pétrus are accused of favouritism, and misuse of public funds for Gibbs.
In the second case, a travel agency was selected to organise the travel for elected officials between January 1 and December 21, 2018, without invitation to tender a bid. The bill for this was 148,000 euros. In addition, a local sound and visual company was selected without a bidding process to provide equipment for events between January 1, 2018, and May 24, 2019, for a cost of 139,000 euros. In this case only the President is accused of favouritism.
In the last case, a gasoline supplier was selected without a bidding process to provide the fuel for the Collectivité vehicles for a cost of 105,000 euros between January 2018 and March 2019.
The Prosecutor’s Office noted that the Collectivité’s Director of Public Finances refused to pay the majority of the bills due to the irregularities, but the President had recourse to “transactional protocols” which permitted the President and Executive Council to vote on a deliberation. A favourable vote then led to a written authorisation obliging the Director of Public Finance to pay the bills.