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THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine
SHASTRI BOODAN

The Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement (PNM) is being accused once again, attempting to mislead Tobagonians.

On Monday, the PNM Tobago Council held a news conference announcing that the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) would have $1.78 Billion come 2022.

However, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said these statements by the PNM are an attempt to cover up the fact that some $163 Million was spent by the ousted PNM-controlled THA in a few months.

“That’s a classic example of playing smart with stupidness,” Augustine said.

“I spoke of three things at the press conference last week. Number 1 was unspent balances and at this point it’s just over $50 million. Number 2, the $163 million bond financing was all spent out in under six months; in fact, the majority of payments occurred between August and September.  And Number 3, our Consolidated Fund—which is the equivalent to the Heritage and Stabilization Fund—only has a little over $300,000 in it.  Those are the material facts,” Chief Secretary Augustine told Guardian Media.

He revealed that later today, he will be releasing “actual details of our accounts comparing several periods”.

He continued: “What they are saying is, ‘we spend out all the savings of the THA, but we will get some money coming in’.  That’s not the point I am making.  The monies are being allocated from the national budget.  Those come quarterly; those are allocated in majority for recurrent expenditure so people would get their salaries.  But what about the development side of things?  We need to augment that with our savings.” 

Chief Secretary Augustine said savings cannot be spent and then later declared that ‘it’s not a problem because funds will come from the Central Government’.  He told Guardian Media an audit on the THA accounts would be taking place, but he was not willing to divulge more on this process.

Speaking on the re-opening of beaches, Farley Augustine said Tobagonians are elated:

“I see the Prime Minister jumped ahead of us and did it, so I am happy that we did not have to have a fight over it, but that was a fight we were prepared to take to the Central Government in opening the beaches for Tobago.  We can’t have any form of tourism products without the beaches being open, so several groups of businesses will now benefit from that new policy.”

The Chief Secretary said issues such as the opening of beaches are dictated by the Government in Trinidad. He said all of this can be resolved if Tobago has its own federal type of government similar to what operated in several Commonwealth countries.  He intends to raise the matter in his next meeting with the Prime Minister.

“We understand that he might be very busy, his head hot right now.  My first formal sit down with anybody in the Central Government will happen tomorrow [Wednesday 22 December 2021], and that will be with the Ministry of Finance,” he confirmed.