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Saturday 19 October 2019
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Tobago

Jack: We have nothing to hide

Augustine: Tobago not getting value for money

THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, centre, Finance and Economy Secretary Joel Jack, right, and Assemblyman Kwesi Des Vignes speak to the media at the Parliament Chamber, Tower D, Waterfront, Port of Spain, Monday.
THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, centre, Finance and Economy Secretary Joel Jack, right, and Assemblyman Kwesi Des Vignes speak to the media at the Parliament Chamber, Tower D, Waterfront, Port of Spain, Monday.

The Tobago House of Assembly has nothing to hide when coming to its financial affairs, Finance and Economy Secretary Joel Jack said during this week’s post-Executive Council briefing.“I am willing to have reviews, to have audits – I welcome it. So to say that we have anything to hide or there’s malfeasance, it will not be tolerated in the assembly...When the opposition talk it seems as there is malfeasance taking place in the assembly, there is a great deal of corruption but that is far from it.” He said the assembly is working with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to have all accounts computerised and has proposed to engage a private accounting firm to bring all outstanding reports up-to-date.“We move to ensure the assembly financial report and architecture were modernised...When I came in we had a no-corruption stand in the assembly under Mr (Orville) London, former chief secretary, and it continues under the current chief secretary.Jack said the THA’s account is public and the division will work diligently with the auditor general department.

“We intend to meet with the new auditor general and her team in July to clear up the backlogs of the audit.”At the Progressive Democratic Patriots weekly media briefing on Wednesday, Minority Councillor Farley Augustine said the THA has been “chaotic on how we have been managing our money.”

He called for an audit to be done to ensure “Tobago has been getting value for money.”He said in the absence of proper accounting, “mass corruption and theft is happening.” Augustine said the THA must pay attention to where the money allocated is spent and should use the money for what it was budgeted for.“We have mismanaged almost every project on the island; we have overspent on almost every project. We are still paying for Milshirv building by millions, for years, and will do so through this generation, and the building is still underutilised.”He said the THA has not had audited accounts in a long time and called on the present administration to get its act together and properly account for public funds. “If we have little we have to manage it well until we are able to acquire more, and at this present time we are not managing our resource well and the responsibility lies with the executive council. They are the ones with the purse and have been mismanaging the financial resources of the island.”Farley said the THA uses its allocation to finish projects that money was already allocated for in its first year. In November the THA will announce what projects will be a priority from the $2.23 billion budget allocation made by Finance Minister Colm Imbert, on Monday.

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