Farley says PM seeking to have his choice appointed to the post of Chief Administrator

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Farley says PM seeking to have his choice appointed to the post of Chief Administrator

Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said he is confident that criminal proceedings will be brought against “friends of the Prime Minister” based on the findings of a THA financial audit.

During a sitting of the THA at the Assembly Chamber in Scarborough, Augustine said, “I brought to this House an audit report and did not call the names of any contractors involved in the audit. In fact, those contractors called themselves out,” he said, revealing that the full report was now in the hands of the Commissioner of Police, Fraud Squad, Financial Intelligence Unit, Anti-Corruption Bureau and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

“They will want to warn their friends and have the report thrown out,” Augustine charged.

He said based on sound legal advice, he believes the contents of the report will lead to civil and criminal prosecution against several people.

The Chief Secretary believes the audit report is linked to the public feud he and the PM have been having over the appointment of the Chief Administrator.

In his view, the PM was deliberately seeking to have his choice appointed to the post of Chief Administrator in an attempt to cover up the findings of the report.

“I believe this is a firm plot to save the friends of the Prime Minister,” he said, adding that Dr Rowley “has been deliberately misleading the nation.”

He then referred to the PM as “the deadly deceitful leader of the Government of this country.”

According to Augustine, on April 17, the outgoing office holder, Ethleyn John, wrote to the Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Office of the Prime Minister, Maurice Suite, informing him that the vacancy was imminent as she was due to retire on May 18.

John reportedly requested an order of merit list from the PS for the Chief Administrator position to allow the Chief Secretary to view it prior to consultation with the PM.

However, Augustime claims the list was never provided.

Augustine said with the retirement of the Chief Administrator approaching, he wrote Dr Rowley on May 15 seeking a meeting and he and the PM met on May 22 for the first official consultation on the matter, which was a requirement under Section 71.4 of the THA Act.

That section states, “Prior to consultation with the Public Service Commission on the appointment of the Chief Administrator, the Prime Minister shall consult with the Chief Secretary.”

Augustine told the Assembly, “The only name discussed in that meeting was that of the recommendation made by the Chief Secretary. No other names were brought up, no bad report was given about any public servant in Tobago. I just re-proposed the name that I had written about the week before. During that meeting, no indication was given by the Prime Minister nor the Public Service Commission (PSC) that they were considering names.”

He told the THA that as a result, he was shocked when the PM returned to the country from The Bahamas “and led the country to believe through his insinuations and partly vacuous statement that we might have discussed the name of a senior public servant and that I did not inform him that there were disciplinary issues with said public servant.”

“Let me be very clear, at no point and up to this point, the Prime Minister and myself have discussed any other public servant save and except for the one I recommended,” Augustine said.

Augustine said he reached out to the PM one week later, on May 29.

“At 7.40 pm, he responded by saying, ‘Good evening, could you send me the name of the person you suggested and who we agreed upon? I was busy in Parliament today. I will direct the permanent secretary on Wednesday’,” Augustine said.

“I again reached out to the Prime Minister one week later, on June 5, 2023. The Prime Minister responded early in the morning on June 6 2023, at 12.29 am: ‘I have been begging to have the PSC make the appointment that we agreed on. Only today (Monday), I checked on it. Hopefully, very soon.”

“I was blaming the PSC. I was led to believe that the PM did what he was supposed to do and that we were waiting on the PSC.”

He said it was only when the THA’s attorneys wrote the PSC on June 9 that the director of personnel administration at the PSC responded on June 15.

Augustine said he was alarmed to learn that someone had been chosen and appointed to act without prior consultation with him.

Noting that all this transpired five days prior to his meeting with the PM, he wondered why it wasn’t raised then.

“It was the PSC’s duty to inform the PM, not mine. So, this talk about me not giving the PM a report is hogwash.”

Augustine said on the basis of the attack against him, he is left to wonder whether “the PM and his friends” wanted to have their pick installed as Chief Administrator without consulting him and if there was an agenda to “thwart” the findings of the audit report.

Augustine told the THA that regardless of efforts to “intimidate and defame my character, those responsible for stealing from the THA will be held responsible in the same way those responsible for the airport fiasco are being held accountable now.”