Residents are inquiring about a fire truck for which shipping was paid nearly three years ago from a Citizenship by Investment account.
Back in April 2019, the Fire Department reportedly was working with seven tenders, with two out of service, and assurances were given, then, that new trucks would be bought.
Reports show that Cabinet authorized a transfer of funds in favour of King Ocean Shipping Ltd. for freight charges on a fire truck. Accordingly, cheque No. 3061, dated May 3, 2019, was issued in the amount of US$19,040 or EC$51,183.32.
However, in December that year, the Cabinet agreed to the purchase of two fire tenders – earmarked for the Coolidge Fire Station at the V.C. Bird International Airport – which should have arrived in the country in 2020.
Previous Cabinet Notes report that the Ministry of Finance paid for the two additional engines and that the Government entered into a contract to re-supply the foam required for the engines at the airport.
“The engines and the supplies will reach Antigua in approximately six weeks, or by the end of January 2020,” the Notes said.
Questions are now being raised as to what happened to the “brand new” fire truck that was paid for in May 2019.
The Browne Administration – for years – has been promising the Fire Department a fleet of at least seven tenders.
Last week, the United Progressive Party Candidate for St. George – Algernon “Serpent” Watts – pointed out that, in the annual estimates, funds were earmarked for the purchase of fire trucks over several budget cycles.
However, at present, the entire country is being serviced by a single working tender that is assigned to the All Saints Fire Station. Repeated assurances have been given that the truck stationed at St. John’s is undergoing repairs and will be back in service shortly.
It took a major fire in his constituency, on March 10, for Prime Minister Gaston Browne to dispatch payment for a fire truck, with the promise that funds would be sent off shortly for the second of three tenders to be purchased.
Watts has since questioned the truth of Browne’s claim, since the Fire Chief subsequently said he was in negotiations with a UK company over the purchase.