Shoul was asked to prepare himself by bringing certain relevant documents and to be ready to answer questions from the chairman of the committee. The PAC had invited Shoul to provide answers regarding the US$52.5 million Chinese power plant recently constructed at Crabbs Peninsula.
The PAC is established by Section 98 of the Constitution, which mandates a review of all government spending by examining and considering government accounts. The chairman of that committee is always the leader of the parliamentary opposition.
Former prime minister and current leader of the opposition, Lester Bird, as chairman, wrote to Shoul one week earlier, seeking to question him on the Chinese power plant, since the ambassador has been credited by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer with playing a pivotal role in the negotiations for the plant.
Shoul had a letter delivered to the office of the leader of the opposition on Monday, indicating only that he had received the former prime minister’s letter. On Tuesday afternoon, the PAC members waited in vain for Shoul to show up. All the written questions were instead handed to the auditor for onward transmittal to the ambassador.
Negotiations for the Chinese power plant began in 2008, when a price tag of US$18 million was initially mentioned. The amount climbed to US$30 million by the time a funding agreement was entered into with the Export/Import Bank of China in June 2008. Later adjustments took the cost to US$47 million. The total cost has now climbed to US$52.5 million.
Examination of the installed plant has shown that the engines, the alternators and other parts of the plant are not new, though both Shoul and Spencer have each claimed otherwise. In fact, they both deem questioning of the quality of the delivered plant, by the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) and thousands of Antiguans and Barbudans, as unpatriotic and diminishing of the relations between China and Antigua and Barbuda.
Bird has promised to continue to pursue answers and to seek to get to the bottom of the issue.