Kamla says investigators into understatement of public revenue “politically handpicked”

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Kamla says investigators into understatement of public revenue “politically handpicked”

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has described the upcoming probe by a Cabinet-appointed committee into the understatement of public revenue for the 2023 financial year as an “illegal sham.”

Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced on Tuesday that retired High Court judge Justice David Harris was selected by the Cabinet to lead the investigation into the understatement of revenue in the last financial year and other related matters, which has caused an impasse between Auditor General Jaiwantie Ramdass and Finance Minister Colm Imbert. 

The team also includes David Benjamin, a former audit director at the Auditor General’s Department, and will be rounded off with specialists in Information Technology.

Persad-Bissessar, in a GML report, contended that the “investigators were politically hand-picked by Minister Imbert and the Cabinet”.

She explained that, “its job is to deflect political attention away from the financial fiasco that has occurred under his watch”.

She also expressed a lack of confidence in the team’s ability to produce key findings as they investigate the current impasse.

“This sham committee was appointed to take the political heat off Minister Imbert and was designed to do political damage control. It will be a waste of taxpayers’ money and amount to nothing. The committee has no legal status, authority, or power to investigate anyone or anything.”

Persad-Bissessar suggested that instead of an independent probe by a Cabinet-appointed committee, the authorities should have considered utilising the Public Service Commission (PSC) to resolve the matter. 

“Mr Imbert should have reported this matter to the Public Service Commission (PSC) so that it could conduct an independent investigation into the facts and circumstances leading to this colossal and alarming error. The PSC has the power under the Constitution and the law, to investigate breaches by public officers and can proffer disciplinary charges after the investigation is complete if necessary.”

“The PSC regulations have spelled out a procedure for conducting such investigations to ensure that they are done in a fair and transparent manner with respect for individuals’ rights.

“Mr Imbert wants to act as judge, jury, and executioner by appointing this committee. He has usurped the role and function of the PSC, which is the only body by law that has the power to investigate disciplinary matters and misconduct in the public service.”