Finance Minister not faulted by the court for beginning to staff controversial TTRA

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Finance Minister not faulted by the court for beginning to staff controversial TTRA

The Public Services Association (PSA) has been placed in a position, where it has no choice but to approach the Privy Council in a bid to temporarily stop a move by Finance Minister Colm Imbert from staffing the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority (TTRA).

This after Appellate Judges Mark Mohammed, Charmaine Pemberton, and Mira Dean-Armorer, yesterday refused to reopen the case to clarify a stay granted earlier this month, which was believed to have stopped operationalisation of the TTRA.

The stay was granted on June 4, as the panel gave the PSA leave to pursue a final appeal over the dismissal of its lawsuit over the constitutionality of the T&T Revenue Authority Act.

State attorneys and those for the PSA sought clarification from the Supreme Court Registrar, as while they believed that the panel had stayed operationalisation, the written order subsequently provided appeared to convey a different position.

The PSA made an official application for clarification from the panel last week after the Ministry of Finance issued correspondence to all staff at the Inland Revenue Division (IRD) and the Customs and Excise Division (CED), giving them until July 31 to decide whether they are willing to join the TTRA.

The appeal panel pointed out that the stay granted was based on a draft provided by the PSA’s lawyers in their stay application.

Noting that the PSA had a duty to clearly articulate the order being sought in its court filings and that neither of the parties took issue with their order when it was initially granted, the judges pointed out that the stay was to preserve the “status quo” when they rejected the PSA’s appeal over the dismissal of its lawsuit.

“The status quo was that the TTRA Act was declared to be constitutional. Accordingly, there was no impediment to implementation,” Justice Mohammed said.

The position adopted by the Appeal Court on the issue means that Finance Minister Colm Imbert cannot be faulted for going ahead with implementation while the case is awaiting a hearing and determination by the Privy Council.

Mohammed, who delivered the oral decision on July 4, said the judges considered the submissions made at the conditional leave hearing and the court’s comments. He said the only “insertion” they could “possibly make” would be “an interim order preserving the status quo as it obtained on May 28.”

He said the PSA’s draft order – which is required by the CPR in any application – did not specifically ask for a stay of section 18 of the TTRA Act.

The Privy Council will hear the PSA’s substantive appeal on July 18.