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Juliana on Argentina friendly: I was promoting T&T

Thursday, June 12, 2014
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Julianna Johan-Boodram, speaks to members of the media following the Tourism Development Company's official unveiling of the meeting planners’ guide at MovieTowne, Mucurapo, yesterday. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR

Embattled permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Juliana Johan-Boodram, is defending a recent four-day trip to Argentina, saying she was not absent without leave. Johan-Boodram was in Argentina as part of a local contingent in support of the national football team for an international friendly against the host country. However, the issue of whether she had followed protocol in notifying the Public Service Commission of her absence from duty was raised in a Sunday Guardian exclusive. But speaking to the media at yesterday’s launch of the Tourism Development Company Limited’s (TDC) meeting planners’ guide at MovieTowne, Mucurapo, she said: “I was on official leave. “There were approvals in place. The normal way we would normally do it is to write to the DPA to get an acting PS and write to the comptroller of accounts to get an accounting officer.”


Reynold Cooper, head of the Public Service and permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, had expressed surprise he had to learn of Johan-Boodram’s absence in the media. He has since given Johan-Boodram seven days to explain her absence from the country. In initially commenting on her absence, Johan-Boodram said she “forgot” to inform Cooper about her departure and that the trip was “not a big deal” as it had not been paid for with state funds. She added that she left this country under the delegated authority of her line minister Gerald Hadeed and therefore did not need Cabinet approval. Asked yesterday if she had met with Cooper since her return to the T&T on Monday, she replied: Yes, we met.”


Of her being required to submit a report to Cooper, Boodram said: “A report has gone to Mr Cooper and head of the public service yesterday. I have submitted my report. “I was there on official leave. I was there to promote T&T. Ninety-two countries saw the match. Besides the countries that saw the match there were 322 million people viewing the match. “We were there to promote T&T and I think we did a good job of it. All proper protocols that were supposed to be followed for my absence from this country were followed.”


Creed’s notification late

Another PS attached to the Ministry of Sport, Ashwin Creed, also was reported to be absent from the country without official leave. But Creed's attorney, former People's National Movement minister Peter Taylor, defended his client’s absence on Tuesday, saying Creed had applied for the extended time away from the job. Cooper, however, only received notification of Creed's action on Monday, one day after the issue was highlighted in the Sunday Guardian. 


He had been absent from his job since last month and his official leave ended on May 23. He has not returned to the Ministry of Sport but extended his time off until June 30. Creed is central to an audit being conducted by the Ministry of Finance's Central Audit Unit into the Life Sport programme. The investigation was announced on May 24 by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and began soon after. Creed had already been out of the country before the audit began but is a key figure to unravelling the multi-million dollar disbursements through the now controversial programme.


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