CHIEF Secretary Farley Augustine says a reshuffle of portfolios in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is coming in 2023.
Augustine confirmed this in an interview on December 1, at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex. He said that for some time now, he has considered some changes to the roles of his assemblymen.
His response came to a question asked on his feelings of the performance of each of the assembly's divisions over the past year. The PDP marks one year in office on December 6 and holds an enormous 14-1 advantage in the assembly.
At the swearing-in of the PDP executive in December 2021, at the Assembly Legislature, Augustine said, “This is the first time in the history of the Tobago House of Assembly that we have an executive where not one single member of the executive was ever a member of a previous executive.
"They are all new...I felt Tobago needed a fresh breath and direction. The downfall of that is that I would need my team members to come up to scratch almost immediately.”
Fast-forward to a year later and Augustine said, “I am considering it (reshuffle). There will be a need for some slight shifts knowing we also lost a deputy chief secretary, so there will be a need for some slight shifts."
Former deputy chief secretary Watson Duke resigned from that position in September, after a public falling out with Augustine. Duke remains the political leader of the PDP. In a special sitting of the assembly days after Duke's resignation, Dr Faith B Yisrael was elected as new deputy chief secretary.
“That will come early in 2023 and the shifts aren’t necessarily because I think people have done a horrible job but it’s about realigning for a greater outcome – that is the important point.”
Speaking in-depth about his first year as head of the assembly, Augustine said he had given most of his time to the job as Chief Secretary. With the birth of his first child expected soon, Augustine said he will shift more focus on supporting his wife and their new family.
There are eight secretaries appointed to lead the eight divisions in the THA.
These divisions are: Health, Wellness and Social Protection; Settlement, Public Utilities and Rural Development; Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development; Education, Research and Technology; Infrastructure, Quarries & Urban Development; Tourism, Culture, Antiquities & Transportation; Community Development, Youth Development and Sport; and, Finance, Trade and the Economy division.
The secretaries are: Augustine in the Finance division; Terrance Baynes in Community Development; Nathisha Charles-Pantin in Food Security; Dr B Yisrael in Health; Trevor James in Infrastructure; Tashia Burris in Tourism; Zorisha Hackett in Education and Ian Pollard in the Settlements division.
Seven assemblymen serve as assistant secretaries while there is also a secretary in the Office of the Chief Secretary.
Augustine said for the first month after the birth of his child, he will scale back on some of his duties.
“No, this does not mean I will not be doing work as Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance, it means some of the meetings and negotiations, I will delegate to other relevant secretaries to lead.
"I will have to use the technical staff at the division without my presence for some of these matters as well.
“I have literally thrown my life into this work. I’m acutely aware that after Christmas, I will have to do some scaling back because I will have to be of assistance to my wife and settle into my new role as a father.”
Augustine said he is working to set up the first ever nursery room in the Chief Secretary's Official Residence and is working on a strategy to balance fatherhood with the task of being the chief and finance secretaries.
“This is new to me and I welcome the challenge of fatherhood while cognisant to the fact that I also have a duty to the people of Tobago and to the Assembly which I lead."