Political leader of the Tobago Council of the PNM Tracy Davidson-Celestine has called on the PDP’s deputy political leader Farley Augustine to bring forward any information that he has linking her to any direct involvement in the controversial zipline project.
“Clear my name – let him bring it to the police,” she said.
Davidson-Celestine initiated the zipline project in Tobago's Main Ridge Forest Reserve in 2015 while she served as the THA's tourism secretary, but it has yet to get off the ground. A 2016 management letter from the Auditor General revealed the THA has little to show for the project so far other than a piece of rope, after $2.5 million had been spent.
Davidson-Celestine has refused to accept blame, saying the project had barely started when she left office in 2017.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday at her party’s campaign office in Scarborough, Davidson-Celestine said: “I am calling on the deputy political leader of the PDP to clear my name, and if it is that he has any information linking me to anything untoward, let him bring it to the police so that they can investigate it.”
She said she had no direct involvement in the project, nor was there corruption in the arrangement.
She acknowledged that the project, "as I indicated many times before, started when I was the person responsible for direct control of the Division of Tourism and Transportation. We were well intentioned to ensure that Tobago can have some of the best, in terms of sights and attractions, as we move forward to expanding our tourism product.”
She said all the information would reveal a particular process, “one that can stand up to scrutiny, as it had to do with any project under my care and under the direction of me in the Division of Tourism and Transportation.”
She added that there was executive council approval, which would have given the authority to the division and to any other agency to move forward with the project.
In addition, she said, "The project was tendered for, whether it be through sole selective tendering or whatever it is – the important point is that it was tendered for by an arm of the assembly. Monies were assigned.
"Perhaps, maybe there were some issues with late payment, etc, but I am in no way directly involved in any mismanagement of any funding."
She said the vision was to ensure that Tobago had a world-class facility, repeating that “the approval process and procurement and everything was above board. I think that is the important thing in this particular situation that we’re facing.
“I was accused of treating with or misappropriating $2.5 or $3 million, as the case might be. What I am saying to the members of the public and to you, the members of the media: I had no direct involvement in any misappropriation of funds and there is not even that particular situation in the division at this point in time, because everything was above board in terms of the process.
She said it was immaterial whether she issued information at the start of construction.
"It is the process that has been called into question, and my involvement as an individual in that particular process,” she said.