Chief Secretary: 'I've never received kickbacks'

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine  - Photo courtesy THA
THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine - Photo courtesy THA

CHIEF SECRETARY Farley Augustine has denied ever requesting or receiving kickbacks for contracts issued by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

In an interview with Tobago Updates on March 13, Augustine accused the PNM of trying to manufacture a scandal.

At a media conference on March 10, PNM Tobago Council leader Ancil Dennis called on Augustine to address the veracity of screenshots, which were posted online, showing an alleged conversation between a THA official and a contractor, with the former requesting kickbacks.

Augustine said, “Let me be very, very clear with you. And I have been purposefully quiet – because right now I could do with some money – waiting to see who I should sue, and who more than alleges but calls my name inappropriately.

“Let me be pellucidly clear with Tobagonians that this Chief Secretary, Farley Chavez Augustine, has never received and will never receive, has never requested and will never request any kickback from any contractor, any way in the space. I’m very clear on that. I live off my salary.”

He reiterated: “I am guaranteeing anybody, anywhere, any time, that Farley Chavez Augustine is not $4 million richer. If you add up all my salary from December 2001 to present – I don’t know if it reaches $4 million, but certainly it doesn’t feel that way. A certain chunk of that goes back into the work in my community.”

Augustine said people in his electoral district and elsewhere must understand and appreciate that all his social work is done out of pocket.

“As a matter of fact, you should see me at Christmas time, next time I’m going to purchase toys. You should see me go to the bank and take out $20,000-$30,000 and go through Trinidad to find the cheapest toys so I can ensure I have toys for children in my district – that’s not coming from contractors.

“You should see how we operate in the programme that we have that we treat with people in July-August vacation to get books to go to school.”

He said some suppliers are still owed.

“That is how we fund our programmes – from our pockets.”

He recalled a Tobago businessman asking him to assist in a particular matter, which he was able to do through official channels.

He said the businessman later invited him to his home for a drink and promised to provide drinks and snacks for schools in his district.

“I have not even responded to the WhatsApp message. I opened it, I read it, I did not respond, because that is in essence wrong. I am very clear to what is right and wrong.”

Asked if he could prove he had never received any kickbacks, Augustine said, “Well, just look at how I live. What am I doing with the money?

“He who alleges must prove. I don’t know that people can come up with any kind of allegation, make up things, and somehow I must step away from my busy day to prove that what you made up is wrong.”

Augustine dared any contractor to prove he had asked them for a kickback.

As Secretary of Finance, Augustine said, he makes sure to keep his hands clean in certain matters.

“I am notorious for having a very hands-off approach when it comes to the procurement of services in the THA.”

Augustine acknowledged that many people feel they should be “eating ah food” because they supported the executive members during the THA elections.

“Where I am concerned, I am very clear, very confident in my mind, that I am not involved in any of that.”

Augustine also said he received a “seemingly false” letter purporting to be from the Integrity Commission indicating Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development Trevor James was under investigation. He said there are several inconsistencies in the letter, but he has still asked the commission to verify whether the letter was genuine.

“We have asked a lawyer to write to the Integrity Commission to give verification. We have had verbal (oral) verification, and we are waiting written response,” he said.


"Chief Secretary: ‘I’ve never received kickbacks’"

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