THA Executive accused of spending $20M in 3 years on travel; Morris wants to see the value

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THA Executive accused of spending $20M in 3 years on travel; Morris wants to see the value

It seems the Prime Minister isn’t the only one accused of racking up a hefty travelling bill.

PNM’s Minority Leader in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Kelvon Morris, said the current THA Executive Council spent almost $20 million over the past three years.

Morris is now calling on Chief Secretary Farley Augustine to show Tobago the value for the money spent.

Speaking at the PNM Tobago Council’s public meeting on Sunday night, Morris said, “You have a trip where four secretaries, which included two assistant secretaries and the Chief Secretary, went to Jamaica for 10 days to sign one MOU. That trip costs us $1 million. Up to now, nobody could see this MOU. As far as I understand, they don’t even have the MOU in hand.

“There were five secretaries along with concubines and because they know the money not coming out of their pockets, they are taking Tom, Jerry and the whole family.”

According to a GML report, eight people, including two security details, video editor, photographer and another secretary travelled to Jamaica for the MOU signing.

An additional two people travelled along with Secretary for the Division of Settlement, Public 1 and Rural Development Ian Pollard on this trip. Secretary for Community Development and Sports Terance Baynes also took one other person from his division along on the Jamaica trip. Augustine joined the team soon after on his way back from the ITB in Germany.

Augustine later explained that the MOU was signed between the THA and the University of Technology (UTech) in Jamaica. He said it is expected to provide Tobago with solutions to its infrastructural shortcomings.

“We are talking about $20 million in travel. My information is that they are now at that,” Morris claimed at Sunday’s meeting.

Last October, THA Secretary for Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development Trevor James chartered a private aircraft to return from Martinique due to an approaching Tropical Storm Tammy. He had represented the THA at the first Connectivity Conference of the Greater Caribbean in Martinique at the time.

The cost of the charter was estimated to be between US$5,000-US$9,000.

James later claimed that he privately arranged and funded the flight using his “deep and wide” connections, which included his family and friends, after he ran out of money.

Although the THA did not cover the charted jet cost, Morris said to date, Tobago still doesn’t know the benefits of that trip either.

He said, “This trip by itself, without paying for the jet, cost us $70,000 for two days. You understand the callus squander going on? Trips now have become a business.”

Morris questioned why a THA official responsible for infrastructure attended a conference dealing with transportation.

“The Secretary for Tourism, Tashia Burris, had the responsibility for transportation but we had a secretary of infrastructure jetting off to this trip and he didn’t go by himself. A trip that didn’t even concern your division, you took company.”