Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi vowed on Monday to probe reports in the British media that US$10 million was paid to pollster Sir Robert Worcester, founder of MORI Polls by the former People’s Partnership (PP) Government between 2013 and 2015. Worcester was initially hired by the Patrick Manning government and then by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar government.
Asked if Government would probe whether this sum was value for money, Al-Rawi told Newsday, “It’s noteworthy that this story has appeared in the international press.”
A prominent December 3 article in the UK Observer said that on June 11, 2013, then permanent secretary Reynold Cooper wrote to Sir Robert. In that letter, Cooper said, “Please be informed that Cabinet has approved the fees and expenses for the core consultancy, 13 sets of surveys and seven sets of focus groups totalling US$9,793,475, plus your estimated expenses of US$160,000 giving a total sum of US$9,953,475.”
The article said Sir Robert said he was approached shortly after Persad-Bissessar was elected prime minister on May 24, 2010 for Mori Caribbean to continue the work it had been doing for her predecessor, Patrick Manning. The article also said a there was a contract between Government Information Services Ltd (GISL) and Mori Caribbean (a separate firm that Worcester retained after selling Mori), for a two year project to improve the delivery of public services.
The article also claimed Mori Caribbean was offered a separate contract to help the PP develop its strategic communications plan. Al-Rawi said Government intends to determine the facts of the case. “What was the product? What were the terms and conditions? Whether it was delivered? If so, in what fashion?” Al-Rawi asked. He said, “Then one would turn to the value-for-money consideration.”
Al-Rawi accused the Opposition of inconsistency in its attitudes to hiring foreign firms, saying the Oppositions had criticised him for hiring US lobbyists to represent TT in the US Congress with respect to this country’s compliance with the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
“When we investigate this (MORI) matter, as will now happen, it’ll be interesting to line up those two things. They (Opposition) are basically saying to the country, ‘Do as we say but not as we do.’”
Al-Rawi said a lobbyist is a far more vital expense than a pollster. The AG also said, “What is interesting in the Observer article is that it seems to suggest there was some degree of corruption in the matter,” but said he could not comment on this because it “would be irresponsible in the absence of a confirmation of the facts to venture too far into this.” Both Persad-Bissessar and Cooper could not be reached for comment.