Opposition to file FOI queries over gov’t hiring of Obika and Smith in Trade Ministry

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Opposition to file FOI queries over gov’t hiring of Obika and Smith in Trade Ministry

Opposition MPs Bary Padarath and Saddam Hosein, are set to file Freedom of Information (FoI) queries on the hiring of former UNC official Taharqa Obika as a Trade Ministry consultant and the appointment of fired Sport Minister Darryl Smith as T&T’s Trade Attache to the US.

Padarath made the announcement during a media briefing at the Office of the Opposition leader yesterday.

Obika, a former chief economist at the Opposition Leader’s officer, left the party and joined the PNM in June.

In July, Smith was appointed as a US-based Trade Ministry commercial officer with responsibility also for Canada. In 2018, Smith was fired as Sport Minister. That followed sexual misconduct allegations and the ministry’s $150,000 payment to a former employee.

In 2020, the Prime Minister said the dismissal had nothing to do with “sexual harassment” but was because Smith interfered with the public service’s proper process, resulting in a financial cost to taxpayers.

Padarath said, “There are burning questions on Smith’s appointment … we’re seeing a pattern where state resources – whether jobs abroad or locally – are being prostituted by the Prime Minister for political expediency.”

He said he and MP Hosein are filing an FoI query on the criteria/hiring practice used for Smith’s new post; and to “hire Obika for hundreds of thousands of dollars as a senior trade consultant at the Trade Ministry.”

He queried “who called the shot for” Smith to go to the US job and on what criteria was he selected.

Padarath alleged there was a “cover-up” in the 2018 Smith issue. He also queried the whereabouts of the promised Sexual harassment in the Workplace legislation.