Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy political leader Farley Augustine on Monday dismissed the threat of a lawsuit and doubled down on claims of corruption in a Tobago House of Assembly (THA) zipline project.
“My house full of courthouse clothes and guess what – they done iron and hang up in the closet waiting,” a defiant Augustine said.
At a news conference at the PNM Tobago’s campaign office earlier Monday, PNM Tobago political leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine said a pre-action protocol letter would be sent to Augustine for defamation of character.
During the January 25 THA election campaign, Augustine had been calling on Davidson-Celestine to answer to taxpayers about a zipline project planned for the Main Ridge Forest Reserve.
In 2015, the 1.5-kilometre zipline project was announced by the Division of Tourism and Transportation, under its former secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine, but was never completed. A management letter from the Auditor General's Department revealed only some ropes were available to show for $2.5 million spent.
Responding to the threat in a Facebook live, Augustine said, “I am not afraid to go to court to defend the things on which I have said.
“When we look at that zipline issue, I am happy for the opportunity to go to court because when I go to court, we would finally find out where the zipline is. All the huffing and puffing and grand charging and posturing, we have been waiting for the goodly former secretary of tourism, who is now desirous of becoming chief secretary, to tell Tobagonians where the zipline is. Tobagonians have already spent $3.428 million – not $2.5 (million) – on a zipline project and we do not have a zipline to show for it.”
Augustine claimed $4 million was approved by the Executive Council for the project.
"Nobody, nowhere about, could come and convince me that that is not corruption.”
Augustine acknowledged the zipline project was a main topic on the political platform for the THA election.
He claimed his information came from a management letter and a 2016 auditor general’s report, which he allegedly received in his mailbox late December/ early January. He said one of the issues that Tobago latched on to was the issue of the zipline.
“That issue was indicative of the gross mismanagement and corruption on the island.
“I want to also know if the goodly lady would send a pre-action protocol letter to the auditor general.”
He said throughout the campaign he advocated for better management of Tobago’s resources. He said he highlighted mismanagement that had been happening across the island for the last 20 years, adding that he sought to hold every former and present PNM secretary accountable.
“When we go to section 37 (1) of the THA Act, it says where a secretary is assigned responsibility for a division of the assembly, he shall exercise general direction and control over that division. I can replace 'he' with 'she'. In other words, wherever a secretary is responsible for a division, she has general direction and control over that division.
“I want to tell you quite clearly that public servants are not the ones who decide how to spend your money, that happens from members of the Executive Council. Public servants do not determine when cheques are paid to contractors,
“I am waiting with bated breath for your pre-action protocol letter, because the law is clear. I am waiting because the law is clear that you were secretary of the division and you as secretary exercised general direction and control of the division."