FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert says he does not know if new voter registration and election management systems being considered by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) could be used for any future Tobago House of Assembly election.
He was responding to a question from Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein during the first-ever virtual meeting of the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives to discuss the budget estimates for fiscal 2021.
Imbert said, "I am not a psychic."
He said the commission has been communicating with the British company De La Rue about upgrading its identification card system, voter and election management.
"There is a a contract already in force and this is simply to provide it with supplementary funds."
He added that this company is currently involved in printing local banknotes.
Responding to questions from Hosein and Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee for details, Imbert promised to give provide detailed responses to them before the House next sits at 1.30 pm on Wednesday. Imbert is scheduled to deliver the Mid-Year Review in the House on that day.
While some questions can be answered immediately, Imbert explained, others require in-depth research before answers could be provided.
He also said possible upgrades of the EBC's voter registration and election management system would not be just for any one of Trinidad and Tobago's 41 parliamentary constituencies but for the entire country
Asked by Hosein whether such systems could be operational for any future Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, Imbert replied, "I am not exactly certain what their rollout is."
After the six-six THA electoral deadlock on January 25, the Government succeeded in passing the THA (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in the House and Senate on February 19 and March 2 respectively. The act was assented to by President Paula-Mae Weekes on March 16 and is awaiting proclamation.
It proposes the creation of three additional seats to the existing 12 in the assembly to break the deadlock in a future election.
The EBC has said it cannot proceed with its work to propose boundaries for the three new seats and submit a report for Parliament's approval, until the act is proclaimed.
Imbert also said De La Rue has been "working for the EBC for a very long time, through successive administrations." He reminded Opposition MPs that the EBC is a fully autonomous and independent organisation under the Constitution.
The committee later approved a supplementation of $4,196,500 for the EBC. Normally the committee, which consists of Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George and all 41 MPs, would have met in the Parliament Chamber at the northern end of the Red House. Owing to covid19 protocols, Annisette-George chaired the meeting virtually from one of the Parliament's committee rooms. Imbert and the other participating government and opposition MPs, interacted either from their offices or homes.
At the start of the virtual meeting, Annisette-George said the 12 MPs needed to establish a quorum for the committee to meet were in place.