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Thursday 21 November 2019
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Devant: Let police probe ASTT

Former government minister Devant Maharaj.
Former government minister Devant Maharaj.

FORMER agriculture minister Devant Maharaj yesterday called for the police to investigate the Agriculture Society of TT (ASTT), in light of questions raised by a recent audit by the Ministry of Finance.

“I am calling for an immediate investigation to hold people accountable,” he told Newsday.

Maharaj lamented that while complaints had been made to the Fraud Squad since 2013, the matter had languished since then.

“Now it is before Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, I hope he will ask his officers to bring it to closure.”

Maharaj urged the dissolution of the ASTT, which he said has no place in a modern society with various niches of agricultural activity.

He wondered if ASTT officials had filed declarations to the Integrity Commission.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Maharaj alleged the ASTT was using a Prado SUV without any proper renewal of previous approval.

He cited a letter from September 2018 from the ministry’s PS Lydia Jacobs to the ASTT reminding them to request a renewal of this vehicular facility, which was due to expire that month. Maharaj’s post suggested such a renewal was never requested by the ASTT, in what he dubbed a lack of accountability and “a pattern of contempt for the ministry.”

While the ministry had taken back the Prado under his tenure, it had been given back to the ASTT under this Government, Maharaj said.

“Despite being written to to account for the use of the Prado which was loaned to the ASTT by the Ministry of Agriculture, the ASTT ignored the request without any consequence.

“Over one year after the September 2018 letter to the ASTT regarding the Prado, the ASTT continues to use the Prado without any requisite approvals from the ministry.”

He alleged the ASTT was a runaway agency with no regard for the ministry except for the millions of dollars the ASTT was allocated.

Maharaj said at least one executive member of the ASTT had complained about the society.

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