“PDP (Progressive Democratic Patriots) should zipline their lip.”
That’s how the Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement’s (PNM) political leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine responded to queries about the Auditor General’s 2016 report on a zip line canopy project under her tenure as the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) Tourism Secretary.
She is the party’s candidate for the Lambeau/Signal Hill electoral district in the January 25 THA elections.
One of the PDP’s deputy political leaders Farley Augustine drew the public’s attention to the project’s details on Sunday at the PDP’s Garden Side drive-in meeting.
Quoting from the report, he said: “A service agreement that was dated the 12th of June, 2015, showed that the Division of Tourism and Transportation contracted a British Virgin Islands corporation located at Tortola to design, develop and construct a ‘High Angle ‘ Canopy Tour Course in the Main Ridge Forest at an initial cost of US$531,610. The Executive Council’s approval for the establishment of this facility, however, was not available for audit.”
He continued: “ The sum of $2,511,210.20 was paid to the Corporation up to the 30th September 2016 for materials and equipment; however, the existence of these assets was not verified. A visit to the store’s section of the division revealed only some ropes on hand,” Farley read to laughter from the crowd.
The PDP candidate for Parlatuvier/ L’Anse Fourmi/ Speyside said the PNM had previously indicated that “85 per cent of the equipment was in Tobago.”
He said he investigated the Tortola company and discovered it went bankrupt.
“ I discovered they (Tourism Division) were taking the material and storing them in a company in Miami…the storage company went bankrupt …It means our equipment are racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in storage fees and will now be subject to auction. We might be looking for a zip line in our rainforest, but we will never get as much as a piece of a nylon string.”
On January 11, in a press release from the PNM’s island council, it was indicated that:..” Although that project was commissioned when Davidson-Celestine was Secretary for Tourism and Transportation, work had barely started when she left office.”
The release quoted the former secretary as saying: “Starting something and not completing it under your term of office cannot be tantamount to mismanagement.”
The release said the zipline project is ongoing.
“I am very results-oriented … and my administration will ensure that we deliver on those facilities promised. Investment in sites and attractions are critical in expanding eco and adventure tourism. So delivering at least two ziplines is a priority for us going forward,” Davidson- Celestine was quoted as saying.
The release took a swipe at PDP’s leader Watson Duke.
“… I am not surprised that the PDP doesn’t understand that you can’t be in charge of something when you’re not in the office, given that the party’s founder has been more missing than found in Tobago.”