THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris has called on Chief Secretary Farley Augustine to produce the memorandum of understanding (MOU) he said he signed with the University of Technology in Jamaica, earlier this month.
After leading a delegation to the International Tourismus-Borse (ITB) trade show in Berlin, Germany from March 7-9, Augustine stopped off in Jamaica to participate in the signing of an MOU for technical assistance with the university.
A release from his office on March 12 said the signing was in keeping with Section 25 (2) of the THA Act 40 of 1996.
“This historic partnership comes as a result of a study tour, conducted in 2022, of the Jamaican Housing Trust model and that country’s social housing programme, which inspired the recent launch of our Home Ownership Made Equal (HOME) programme,” the OCS had said.
Augustine subsequently met with officials from the Office of the Prime Minister, National Housing Trust, the Social Development Commission and UWI’s Mona Campus.
But speaking at a news conference on Wednesday at the PNM’s Tobago Council headquarters in Scarborough, Morris said Tobagonians have yet to receive evidence of the MOU.
“What is interesting about that trip to Jamaica to sign that MOU with a university is that at this point I have not seen one ounce of evidence to show that an MOU was, in fact, executed and, therefore, I am calling on the Chief Secretary, who led that delegation to produce to the people of Tobago, because it was Tobago and Trinidad and Tobago’s tax paying dollars that sponsored that trip,” he said.
“We want him to also indicate on what date that MOU was executed, who were the persons involved and what was the role of the chief administrator, who is the head of the Tobago House of Assembly administrative process.”
The Darrel Spring/Whim assemblyman raised the issue as he complained about what he considered to be the lack of transparency with respect to overseas travel by THA officials.
For example, he claimed that a “record-breaking” four secretaries were among a contingent of about 12 people who accompanied Augustine on his trip to Jamaica.
“What we are seeing in the Tobago space is a consistent sort of secret operation where persons are jetting out and about using taxpayers’ money without reporting to the taxpayers as to what were the objectives of the trip and whether those objectives were achieved.”
Morris said he has asked Augustine to reveal the cost of he trips but is yet to receive a response.
“The chief secretary has been running and ducking and hiding and dancing to produce this information.”
Morris claimed last week, at the aborted plenary sitting, he received an “incomplete document” about travelling expenses within the THA.
“Quite interestingly, the division we know for a fact that would have engaged in the most travelling over the period, their information is missing. So I am asking the Chief Secretary, ‘Was that a deliberate strategy of his administration to hide the figures and to hide the expense incurred by the Division of Tourism?’
“And is it that he hid that information understanding that none of those trips bore any real fruit for the people of Tobago?”
Morris said at present Tobago faces two major challenges: lack of international airlift and deteriorating room stock.
“I want to ask the media and all of Tobago. The Chief Secretary would have attended the two major trade shows, that being WTM (World Travel Market) and ITB. Have you heard him mention anything about new airlines or perhaps new hotels?
“And I am saying if the chief secretary, our chief salesperson, is going out there and is unable to woo hotel properties and airline operators then woe on to us in Tobago and our tourism.”