The Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) annual budgetary allocation of $220 million for 1,827 contract employees and $2 million for non-profit organisations sparked anger among both Government and Opposition benches on Thursday.
The contract employees are more than the 1,107 public officers in the establishment. In the heat of the queries on the allocations at the meeting of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament, UNC MP Dr Suruj Rambachan told Finance Minister Colm Imbert, “I don’t trust you”, when asked by Imbert, “So you don’t believe what I am saying?”
Imbert’s question was in relation to Rambachan saying he had to ask about allocations to the non-profit organisation and whether there was accountability or not because forensic audit into the THA had not been done for years.
A bewildered Imbert’s response to Rambachan’s, “I don’t trust you”, was, “What?” Imbert said that as Finance Minister he has to provide answers with the assistance of technical staff, to the many entities that do not have a line minister.
He said that financial statements of the THA, to the end of September 30, 2016, have been submitted to the Auditor General and all statements up to 2015 have been audited. Rambachan’s rejoinder was that for years the THA did not provide audited accounts for which spending could have been verified. “One has to ask in the context of auditing statements,” he said.
Of the $4.3 million for employment salaries under the sub head personnel expenditure, contract employment accounted for $2 million. Under the sub head administration, contract employment was given $3.3 million. Contract employment figure of $1.5 million was allocated for the Financial Literacy Secretariat, the communication unit was allocated $1.4 million, and $1.6 million for a comprehensive economic plan.