Augustine assures Tobago contractors will receive outstanding payments soon

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Augustine assures Tobago contractors will receive outstanding payments soon

Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Farley Augustine, has given the assurance that contractors on the sister isle, who are owed by the assembly, should expect to receive their money soon.

At Friday’s post-Executive Council media briefing, Augustine said the contractors will be contacted and will individually meet with an independent team from next week to discuss the way forward to receive their money.

Augustine has blamed the previous administration’s pre-election spending for the debts, but said: “Early next week, the affected contractors would be written to, and they would be asked to come individually to the division where they would meet with an independent team. That independent team would do a rapid assessment to initiate payments. Definitely, the contractors would not be able to get all of their monies one time, but they would get some initial payments.”

Previously, Augustine said that the contractors would have started receiving their money by June 23, the day after the presentation of the THA budget estimates for fiscal 2022-2023.

“The sole reason for not being able to honour the promise immediately as within the month of June of paying the contractors was because due diligence needed to be followed. I am very, very certain in my mind that there would not be a single payment unless such due diligence was met.

“Having had a preliminary report from the forensic auditors (into the THA spending), I could tell you that that decision was the right decision and still is the right decision.”

Augustine said a preliminary report pointed to “some extremely troubling signs.”

But, he said notwithstanding the troubling signs, the assembly would find a way to make minimal payments to assist those who have challenges with their banks. He said after they meet with this independent team, they will be not just issued verbal promises but they would be given written commitments as to what they would receive up front while the auditing is completed.

“I am certain that those written commitments can be taken to their banks to alleviate the challenges there. When these contractors were getting – in the dead of night – these letters of awards without any tendering process, when somebody was calling them and saying do this for $15 million, do this for $9 million, I am certain that members of the media nor the public was told about it.

“I am certain that the contractors that were left out and never given a time of day were not even considered in the moment. With every business there is a risk and I’m saying that the risk that they took was to engage improperly with the THA and I’m saying notwithstanding that, I have a commitment that I wish to pay them something.”

He said that he was being extremely benevolent in a situation that really does not call for benevolence.

“Now, I am communicating with the public and I am communicating with the contractors; I don’t know that specifically I am in bed with individual contractors that require me to sit down and lime with individual contractors to communicate such. I came and through this avenue I have chosen to communicate with contractors and people in general.”

He could not say how much money contractors would get, as each had different volumes of work.