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‘Skippy’ on allegations of irregularities in ministry: It may be difficult to get documents
Social Development adviser Barrington “Skippy” Thomas (community relations and public outreach) says it may be difficult to get documents to support his recent claim of alleged irregularities in the ministry—but if necessary he would seek the information under the Freedom of Information Act. Thomas was asked yesterday about the situation after claiming at a public meeting last week there were alleged irregularities in billing by a company which assisted the Ministry for Tobago elections.
He named an official of the company, alleging a $4.3 million dollar payment was sought from the ministry to provide tents, and other items though he said he didn’t want to be part of that. He claimed he’d photopcopied “every stub” the person had sent for.
Thomas also attacked Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar—now in charge of the ministry—claiming she sent or endorsed the presence of protestors at his public meeting. Several protestors denied this and the PM distanced herself from the action, saying she hadn’t sent protestors. UNC general secretary Dave Tancoo said the party as well as leadership distanced itself from the situation. On UNC members’ participation, he said the party hadn’t sanctioned protests and it was private action by persons.
Tancoo also said Thomas had made several allegations which he hadn’t substantiated. Tancoo added: “Since Skippy’s an adviser in the ministry and was an adviser at the time he claimed this happened, he should be mature enough to provide evidence to substantiate the claims via which he’s scandalised peoples’ character and the whole ministry. “It’s logical some investigation of allegations would proceed, so if he has the information he should be able to assist and provide evidence or do the honourable thing.”
The PM has said she would enquire into the allegations of irregularities. Yesterday Thomas said it might be difficult for him to get documents on the issue since former minister Glenn Ramadharsingh was no longer there and the co-operation he might have had, under Ramadharsingh’s tenure might no longer apply. He also cited “the political climate”. Thomas added, “But I’ll still try. If necessary I’ll get it via the Freedom of Information act,”
Thomas said questions on the ministry’s total spending on the Tobago issue had been asked in Parliament and were answered. Thomas claimed people in the ministry as well as himself had been concerned about the billing issue and might have leaked this to PNM MPs to ask in Parliament. He claimed Ramadharsingh had also told him not to certify what was being sought from the company.
He also named other ministry officials yesterday, whom he said were disturbed by the billing. He claimed a meeting was held in the Ministry and it was agreed what the agency was prepared to pay as opposed to what was billed. Ramadharsingh didn’t respond to calls yesterday.