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Tobago Business Chamber calls for greater fiscal accountability from THA

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Tobago Business Chamber calls for greater fiscal accountability from THA

Tobago Business Chamber calls for greater fiscal accountability from THA

THE Tobago Business Chamber is calling for greater fiscal responsibility and accountability from the THA.

“The Tobago Business Chamber says that while we understand the need for greater capital investment in Tobago and greater fiscal injection into Tobago, we are also saying with that must come greater financial responsibility and accountability. We have not yet seen the level of accountability that we would like to see from the THA,” the chamber’s chairman Martin George said on Tuesday in a WhatsApp voice note.

He was responding to the Farley Augustine administration’s budget presentation on Monday in the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough.

Noting that every year, the auditor general complains about the lack of accountability and record-keeping in the THA, George said he hopes this assembly, under Augustine’s leadership, would set a different tone.

George recalled the Chief Secretary’s announcement that he had ordered an audit into projects commissioned by the former PNM administration.

“He indicated at the start that he was having an audit. Months went by. The audit is supposedly completed and now we are hearing that he is not willing to release the results of the audit to the public.

“These things we find mildly disturbing and in fact, quite troubling because if it is you are talking about accountability and transparency, then we think that those audit results ought to be released so that the public can see and, therefore, the public can get an understanding of where the money is being spent.”

George said the issue becomes even more critical when one considers the fact that the THA is calling for its allocation to be increased to seven per cent.

“When you are asking that the allocation for Tobago be increased to seven percent, you are therefore saying, ‘Give me a greater share of the national pie.’”

He said while the Tobago Business Chamber welcomes such initiatives, “we are also responsible, mature and respectful enough to say that we recognise that along with that must come with a greater sense of accountability and fiscal responsibility in terms of your stewardship over these monies.”

George continued, “It cannot be a situation where you are saying just give me more money and you can’t ask me how I am spending it or what I am going to do with it. You must have no say whatsoever over how it is disbursed utilised. that is not a practical scenario. It is not a realistic scenario and it is not something that we think is going to augur well for the future of Tobago or even for Trinidad and Tobago as a whole.”

George also noted the THA’s call for amendments in the law to facilitate a more robust governance framework as Tobago pushes for internal self-government.

“We observe that there was mention as to constitutional reform, which, in the broader context of Trinidad and Tobago, is certainly something that is necessary.

“But the narrow context within which it was framed yesterday, one is not sure how realistic or practical, the expectations and anticipations of the chief secretary are in this regard because if you were talking about the responsibilities and duties of the THA as set out under the Fifth Schedule of the THA Act, it is clear that these duties are circumscribed by any overarching national policy or national guidelines on the topic.”

He said even though the THA has responsibility for 32 areas in the Fifth Schedule, based on Section 75 of the constitution, the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago has the ultimate authority in terms of policy on these matters.

“So while it may sound good on the stage and be a good soundbite and a good political talking point on the platform, one is not sure how realistic or practical those aspirations and expectations are.”

George also called on the THA to ensure that Tobagonians make up at least ten per cent of the labour force on major THA projects.

“You must involve a local contractor and supplier in some way. That must be a mandatory stipulation in all the major contracts which the THA hands out because you came in on a campaign on putting Tobago first.”

Tobago Business Chamber calls for greater fiscal accountability from THA


Newsday newspaper Trinidad and Tobago

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