Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has said disorganisation on the part of Trinidad ahead of Dubai Expo 2020 led to the THA having to fork out close to $179,000 to send Deputy Chief Secretary Watson Duke, Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd CEO Louis Lewis and head of the Business Development Unit (BDU) Shelly-Ann Baptiste to the global event.
On Monday, THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris raised concerns about the expenses and planning arrangements for the Tobago team to participate in the expo, which is being held in the United Arab Emirates.
Morris also took issue with Duke’s presentation at the event, last Thursday, in which he proposed to transform Roxborough into a city by promoting investment opportunities for light manufacturing, medical tourism, housing, among other areas.
He said it was the first time he had heard of such a plan and wondered who approved the proposal.
“Most plans like that should have special development approval so that you’re prepared when you’re going to sell something,” Morris said.
At Wednesday’s post Executive Council media briefing, Augustine accused Morris of peddling misinformation about the trip. He said he needed to set the record straight.
“I don’t care too much to engage in public discourse around comess. Public policy should not be formed around comess. Public policy ought to be formed around facts and public discussion ought to be formed around facts,” Augustine said.
Saying Tobago’s display items were sent to Dubai long before the Progressive Democratic Patriots assumed office, Augustine said early in his administration’s tenure, he received a note from the secretary of community development about “a relatively long list of people” who was supposed to attend.
He said the team would have included the former secretary for community development, head of BDU, several officers from the Division of Finance, TTAL CEO Louis Lewis and representatives from the tourism sector.
“Our initial response to the matter was, ‘No,’” Augustine declared.
He said he later received a letter from Expo TT inviting him to attend the event. All expenses would have been covered by Dubai.
“When I received the invitation, I said it is way too early (in the PDP’s term), under three months.”
Augustine said he suggested that Duke, as deputy chief secretary, should represent him as well as Tobago at the expo.
He said Duke’s information was sent from the assembly’s protocol office to the organisers of the trip but several problems arose before he departed.