THA’s spending continues unabated

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Dear Sir

In the 2019/2020 budget, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) was allocated $2.283 billion. In the 2020/2021 budget, the THA was allocated $2.134 billion.

Yet in May 2020, finance minister Colm Imbert authorised the use of bond financing of $300 million to fund critical development projects in Tobago based on the creditworthiness of THA.

Has either the finance minister or the THA chief secretary revealed just what are these critical development projects?

In March 2021, less than ten months later, the THA announced that it has secured a loan of US$15million  or TT$102 million through the division of infrastructure, quarries and the environment’s coastal zone management unit, for three critical coastal projects on the island.

When was this US$15 million loan negotiated?

Was it after the January 2021 election for control over the Assembly which ended in a deadlock with the The People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) both winning six seats in the 12-seat Assembly.

This impasse is far from being resolved despite on-going talks on a power-sharing agreement between both parties and while the administration and governance of the THA remains with the PNM until this impasse is resolved.

The question that the PNM needs to answer is did they “consult” with the PDP on this loan?

The PNM controlled THA’s spending continues unabated; it has never demonstrated any type of fiscal responsibility with regards to managing the allocations from the central government.

Another classic example of this out-of-control spending was the $2 million spent last month for a “virtual” carnival when the country was in the midst of a lock-down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Assembly has a long history of failure to account including recent questions about a zip line project for which millions were extended with nothing to show for it.

With the THA, there appears to be no control and no system for accountability for taxpayers’ money. More importantly, it has been proven that it cannot account for previous expenditures; when was the last time that the Assembly submitted its audited accounts for Parliamentary scrutiny?

As with every loan taken, the mechanism for repayment must be identified.

In May 2020, finance minister Imbert said that he authorised the use of bond financing based on the creditworthiness of the Tobago House of Assembly.

What exactly does the finance minister mean by “creditworthiness of the Tobago House of Assembly?”  

Any borrowing from external sources remains the responsibility of the central government, which is the THA’s only source of revenue. Not because the Assembly is controlled by the PNM gives the party the right to be extravagant with the public purse.

Capil Bissoon 

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