Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and Opposition Leader, Lennox Linton, has condemned the contents of a report recently released by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), praising Dominica for the use of the funds generated by the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme.
The report, prepared with the cooperation of the government of Dominica, contains an analysis of the expenditure supported by funds raised by the CBI and an assessment of the economic and fiscal effects generated.
Speaking on Q95’s ‘Hot Seat’, on Tuesday, Linton claimed that the report did not provide a true reflection of the CBI programme, as it did not “look at the accuracy or the integrity of the receipts” relating to the programme.
He also noted that the report did not address his concerns, raised earlier this month, that $1.2-billion was missing from the CBI income reported by Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, for 2018/2019.
“…They were just looking at how much money was spent from the CBI, but they’ve given us no indication [of] how much money was collected from the CBI over that period…” he stated. “We had a budget debate in July. One of the matters that emerged in the budget debate had to do with the under-reporting of the citizenship revenues for the very same year, 2018/2019. Does the report address that? No, it does not.”
The Opposition Leader questioned PwC’s motives as they were commissioned by CS Global Partners Ltd, an international legal consultancy firm, who he claims, has a “sweetheart deal with the Skerrit administration,” as they help the government to promote the CBI programme.
Linton alleged that the funds which he believes to be missing from the CBI revenues were purposely kept from PwC during the collection of data for their report.
“In an attempt to explain the shortage of revenues from CBI in the estimates… the Prime Minister told us there was this new entity or thing called ‘housing’ that is supposed to be like the direct cash contribution, but really is not, because it has a real estate kind of thing to it, where the money is going in escrow…” he explained. “They [PwC] still don’t know that the housing that the Prime Minister is talking about with MMCE [Montreal Management Consultants Est.] operates separate and apart from the economic diversification fund, and is an entity of its own now. It’s an event in the CBI business of Dominica that is actually cannibalizing the revenues, the direct cash contributions that were going into the Treasury before it came into existence.”
Meantime, Linton expressed disdain at the government’s cooperation with the foreign company during their inquiry into the CBI programme, while he claims to have been snubbed by them when he attempted the same feat.
This follows a request made by Linton, as earlier this month, in his capacity as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. He requested information from the Financial Secretary (FS) on the funds produced by the CBI programme for the past three years. Subsequently, he was instructed by the FS to make his request for the information through the clerk of the House of Assembly, in accordance with the standing order.
“As Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Dominica, I cannot ask a question about the same CBI numbers to any public officer, without going through the Clerk of the House [of Assembly], without having legal opinion thrown in my face…” Linton remarked. “I serve the people of the Commonwealth of Dominica. In my capacity as Leader of the Opposition and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, I cannot get information on public accounts of interest to the people from the government officials, but the government officials can fully cooperate with an accounting firm… that is doing a Public Relations job for itself, for its image, for its relationship with the Dominican government, in terms of the CBI; and the government officials can fully cooperate with that entity to give Pricewaterhouse all the information they need.”
Linton called on Dominicans to demand transparency in the CBI programme and “take our country back.”
“This report from Pricewaterhouse is more reason why we need to get to the bottom of what is going on. Dominica’s money from the sale of citizenship passports under the CBI programme needs to be resolved,” he asserted. “There is too much money that the public is being told it must not worry about, it does not need to know about because we’re building houses.”
In its report, PwC estimates that expenditure under the CBI programme could increase GDP by about EC$150 million and tax receipts by nearly EC$30 million, while significantly impacting Dominica’s long-term economic potential.