Imbert: No $$ missing from finance ministry

Colm Imbert -
Colm Imbert -

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert has rejected claims by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that $386 million has gone missing from his ministry.

Persad-Bissessar made her allegation at a UNC public meeting in La Horquetta/Talparo on May 6.

At a virtual news conference hosted by his ministry on May 7, Imbert said Persad-Bissessar’s claim was absurd.

“That’s absolute rubbish.”

He said the UNC posted excerpts from a document on a screen at the meeting and live online to support Persad-Bissessar’s claims.

“What I am seeing, in terms of what was posted on the screen at that Monday night (UNC) forum, is that it is being alleged that documents were not provided to support payments totalling $386 million in 2023, such as expenses connected with international financial institutions, fiscal incentive programmes for farmers and so on.”

Imbert said the only thing this demonstrated was the lack of understanding the UNC has about the operations of a government and its ministries.

“The fact of the matter is that when one does not understand the language in these audit statements, you could mislead yourself and then mislead everybody else.

“When a statement is made that documents are not provided, it does not mean that evidence of the payments was not provided.”

Imbert said, “What may not have been provided are things like cabinet minutes to support authority for the payment. Sometimes, the documents have been actually provided and, therefore, there is a disagreement between the officials and the Auditor General’s department. This is all quite routine and quite standard.”

He added, “I want to say absolutely that every single cent that was spent by the ministry of finance can be accounted for.”

Imbert said Persad-Bissessar “is on a rampage together with others to try to mislead the population into believing that hundreds of millions of dollars have gone up in smoke.”

He also observed there was a lot of commentary in the public domain about the Auditor General’s report on the 2023 public financial statements, which has not been laid in Parliament.

Imbert said the UNC is making claims based on what they claim to be a copy of an unlaid parliamentary report.

The contents of such reports cannot be published and any such publications are considered a breach of parliamentary privilege. He said, “They (UNC) have been publishing extracts and misleading the population, making scandalous allegations, false allegations, ridiculous statements.”

Imbert added this showed continued irresponsibility and desperation by the UNC for political relevance.

“The opposition does not care about protocol and procedure. They don’t really care. So if they are breaching parliamentary procedure that’s par for the course for them.”

At a news conference at the UNC’s headquarters in Chaguanas on May 1, party deputy political leader Dr Roodal Moonilal made claims from a document he claimed to be the 2023 Auditor General’s report.

“I have in my possession what I verily believe to be...I verily and as we say, I honestly believe that I have in my possession excerpts of the Auditor General’s report that was sent to the Speaker, the President of the Senate and the Minister of Finance.”

Moonilal said it spoke to several irregularities, including people receiving sums of money outside of their regular stipends.

He claimed the document spoke about one official receiving rent from three different state agencies for a building at the same time. He said the report spoke of a state entity paying foreign currency to purchase equipment from a phantom company in an Asian country.


"Imbert: No $$ missing from finance ministry"

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