Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is demanding that government state exactly how much money they spent and exempted for the recently concluded Caricom event.
During her response in Parliament yesterday as government debated amendments to the procurement act, Persad-Bissessar claimed that documents presented to Parliament since May showed that the Government had catered $20 million for the Caricom Summit.
She said government cannot say it needed to exempt Summit goods and services from the procurement law since it did not have time to prepare and did not know who was attending the event.
Persad-Bissessar said Minister of Finance Colm Imbert “went all around the world from the World Trade Organization to Caricom—using examples—to justify the amendments. But she said what was being done yesterday, “Is, in my respectful view, to give Government a blank cheque to exempt anything and everything, anytime they please”.
The Opposition Leader queried how much money was involved in the exemption orders that Parliament was validating yesterday and who were the suppliers of the goods and services involved in the Caricom Summit, and for judiciary items.
“What are we validating-$1, $1 million, $8 million, $9 million, $20 million? Government must come clean and tell the population,” Persad-Bissessar said, noting Imbert recently stated the summit’s cost was $9 million.
She said $20 million was listed as the cost for the hosting of the 45th Caricom summit and Caricom’s 50th anniversary celebrations from July 3 to 6.
“So Government knew since May 5 (of summit costs) and they’d have known even before they put it in the document estimates. Like they forget! So, of course, they knew before that’s why it came in the review. You knew way in advance of the mid-year review in May,” she added.
“So your excuse (on needing the exemption order for the Summit) is no excuse—it’s not true to pretend you didn’t know the meeting was coming up. So tell us how much money you spent and exempted,” she stressed.
“You don’t wait until the date of a wedding to estimate how to buy food, so don’t say you didn’t know who was coming to the summit. Poppycock! You all have been caught with your hand in the cookie jar and you’re now ashamed!”