HOUSING MINISTER Camille Robinson-Regis and Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal argued over money owed to a company named in a 2019 Special Branch report on government minister Foster Cummings.
Their argument happened before the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives approved a supplementary allocation of $103,600,000 for the Housing Ministry.
Robinson-Regis said part of this allocation was a sum of $67 million to pay contractors who did work for the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for building maintenance, waste disposal and janitorial services.
Moonilal, who was housing minister in the former UNC-led People's Partnership coalition government, twice asked Robinson-Regis to read out the list of contractors owed by the HDC. She did so twice and in one of the readings mentioned Pical Services Ltd, a company formerly owned by Cummings..
Moonilal asked Robinson-Regis how much money was owed to that company. Robinson-Regis evoked shouts from Opposition MPs, when she told Moonilal he could have asked that question from the start instead of wasting everyone's time.
Moonilal said,"Accountability requires we are interested in all. I have no interest in (company's name) or the principal owner of that company."
Robinson-Regis countered, "Don't take us all for fools in here." When Moonilal asked Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George to tell Robinson-Regis to conduct herself, Robinson-Regis told Moonilal, "You conduct yourself."
She reminded MPs that the company did work for the HDC for many years, including between 2010 and 2015 when Moonilal was housing minister. The company, Robinson-Regis continued, is owed $2,400,828.75 for work that it has done.
Government MPs thumped their desks when Robinson-Regis declared, "They are not raiding the Treasury for things that they did not do." Moonilal's subsequent attempt to ask Robinson-Regis if she was confirming the contents of the report was stopped when Finance Minister Colm Imbert objected to it.
At a recent UNC meeting in San Fernando, Opposition Senator Jayanati Lutchmedial alleged that a 2019 Special Branch report made allegations of misconduct against Cummings, who is also La Horquetta/Talparo MP. Cummings has denied the allegations and initiated legal action against Lutchmedial.
At a post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's on May 12, the Prime Minister said he had to first ascertain the "quality" of the information in the report.
"If there is something for the police to act on, I'd expect the police would act. He said Special Branch reports were graded and "should be taken with some condiments or some salt."
Dr Rowley said the report was an initial alert, classed as intelligence but, by itself, had no weight in a court of law.
On May 13, the committee approved the total $3,081,703,900 supplementary allocation sought by the Government.