Using public funds to settle personal matters is an abuse of one’s position, president of the TT Transparency Institute, Dion Abdool has said.
Newsday spoke to Abdool on Friday, to get his organisation’s view on the alleged sexual harassment allegations against former Minister of Sport, Darryl Smith, brought by his former personal assistant, Carrie-Ann Moreau. Moreau was subsequently fired, and filed a wrongful termination suit against the Ministry of Sport, which was settled for $150,000 - paid for by taxpayers.
The details, however, are masked by a non-disclosure agreement, first reported by the Newsday on March 25. Smith was sacked last Tuesday by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who said he had been acting on “new information.” The Prime Minister also set up a committee to investigate the allegations against Smith. “If it was use of public funds then we are clear in our minds that this is an abuse of that position. What we are unclear about and we were trying to ascertain is if the (claim) in the Industrial Court related to a person, that is, the high ranking offical, as opposed to the organisation. But if it involves a personal offense like that, then it’s a use of public funds for the wrong purpose and we have an issue with that,” Abdool said.
An investigative committee, he added, is a good idea, but there is a process to be followed for people in public office, and referring the matter to the Integrity Commission should be an option.
Abdool was on of the guests at the Commonwealth Big Lunch, held at Roomer, one of the Magnificant Seven buildings at Queen’s Park West, and hosted by the British High Commission to celebrate the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) next week. The event, one of many aroung the world, gathered some of the country’s top activists, businessmen and diplomats to network and share ideas for community development. Eight non-governmental organisations, ranging in themes from the environment, women’s empowerment and youth advocacy, were invited to pitch their plans to hopefully inspire, gain funding or match with a mentor.