Imbert says Kamla’s claims of revenue probe being a “sham” is “nonsense”

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Imbert says Kamla’s claims of revenue probe being a “sham” is “nonsense”

Finance Minister Colm Imbert has rejected the claim by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that the independent probe into the understatement of revenue for the financial year 2023 and related matters was an “illegal sham”.

On Tuesday, Persad-Bissessar said the team, headed by retired High Court judge Richard Harris, could not legally conduct such a probe, and suggested the Public Service Commission was the better body to do so since it had the power to reprimand public servants if they were found to be negligent in the court of their duties.

During the post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday, Imbert said: “It is nonsense because in the Senate, I said that I am going to conduct an internal investigation to investigate the facts within the Ministry of Finance. So who is supposed to pick the team? Should I ask the Leader of the Opposition to pick the team, it is nonsense,” Imbert said.

He said that the probe was not a commission of enquiry and while Cabinet was at liberty to appoint members, the objectivity of the team, which also includes former audit director at the Auditor General’s Department, David Benjamin, had to be defended.

Imbert argued that the independent probe was necessary and also an internal one.

“There are two different things here you know, as Minister of Finance I have to find out what happened.”

The Cabinet-appointed team has been given two months to conduct its probe.

Its terms of reference include determining the circumstances that led to the understatement of revenue in the public accounts for the financial year 2023 and what should be done to avoid a recurrence of the same, as well as the efficacy of the new Electronic Cheque-Clearing System introduced by the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago in February 2023.