As of December 29, 2020, the People’s National Movement’s (PNM) current area representative and prospective candidate for the Canaan/Bon Accord electoral district Secretary Clarence Jacob has not answered corruption allegations levied against the Division of Settlements, Urban Renewal and Public Utilities.
He controls the division.
According to voters, his “silence” on the allegations and the Government’s handling of the acquisition of properties to expand the ANR Robinson International Airport are the two crucial issues affecting his electoral district in the lead up to January 25 2021, Tobago House of Assembly elections.
“I feel that the Secretary(Jacob) did not do enough to clear his name and to demonstrate that he is above the allegations being levied against him,” the Progressive Democratic Patriots’ (PDP) deputy political leader Farley Augustine told Guardian Media.
“Additionally, if you have these widespread allegations against him, do you then send him back as a candidate?” Augustine asked.
Copies of invoicing for an arch project in Canaan and new bus sheds, along with two voice notes, have surfaced within recent months, alleging accounting misdeeds by Jacob’s division.
His division has also received a warning from another THA division reminding it that studies must be done before projects begin.
In an October 2020 letter, the Infrastructure Division letter warned Jacob’s division of “negligence” in constructing a $400,000 layby in Jacob’s constituency.
It read: “Be forewarned that the (Infrastructure) division will not be held responsible for any fallout as it relates to traffic flows and flooding that occur as a result of your Division’s negligence and/or failure to address the above concerns as listed.”
The road is the main thoroughfare from the ANR Robinson International Airport.
Shortly after this letter, two voice notes surfaced from a contractor alleging misuse of public funds.
The day the notes went viral on social media platforms, Jacob addressed the issue using his official Facebook account.
Jacob wrote:” WAIT FOR THE AFTERSHOCK!” and accompanied the caption with photos of two persons in his constituency. Copies of his pre-action protocol letters to them made their way on social media.
Shortly after, three invoices surfaced, for refurbished bus sheds, and construction of an arch.
The bus sheds’ invoices requested final payment. However, pictures of only an incomplete bus shed at Crown Point began making the rounds.
The arch’s invoices allegedly showed two different figures for the same construction project.
We reached out to Jacob on December 29 for comment on the allegations. He promised to return our call. Up to press time, all calls to his cell phone went unanswered.
Handling of acquisition of property for airport expansion
Jacob has not said much publicly about the Government’s acquisition of properties for the expansion of Tobago’s lone airport.
Some Crown Point property owners accused the Government of high-handedness. They said the Government’s agent, the National Infrastructure Development Company(NIDCO), tried to chase them off the lands although, negotiations were incomplete. NIDCO has denied this.
So far, the Government has paid 65 property owners $104 million for 14.3 acres of the 53 acres needed for the expansion project.
Augustine felt Jacob’s “silence… and some of his responses clearly amount to mamagism.”
“What is disheartening is the approach the Government is using to acquire the properties. The evidence that we have seen show that some of the residents the State is now trying to remove, the State has not completed negotiations,” Augustine told Guardian Media.
But some of Jacob’s constituents told a different story. They said he goes out of his way to help them.
For Jacob to hold on to the Crown Point/Bon Accord district, he must beat the PDP’s prospective candidate Joel Sampson.
Sampson is new to politics.
According to the Election and Boundaries Commission, voter turnout in the Canaan/ Bon Accord district was 48 per cent.
Out of that 61 per cent voted for the PNM, and 38 per cent for the PDP and Tobago Forwards combined.
Come January 4, prospective candidates in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections will file their nomination papers.