Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Farley Augustine yesterday accused the Central Government of withholding $139 million of its budgetary allocations over the past five years.
Speaking during a THA sitting, Augustine referred to the money he said was legally allocated and approved but deliberately withheld from Tobago by the Central Government over the years.
“Just like the Prime Minister of this country, ah doh like meh money to sleep out!” Augustine told the sitting.
He said he had initiated an exercise where he asked his accounting officers to check the shortfall of allocations to the THA dating back to the 2016/2017 fiscal year.
In presenting the findings, the Chief Secretary said in the fiscal year 2016/2017, there was a shortfall of $56.57 million; in 2017/2018 $32.8m; in 2018/2019 $16.2m; in 2019/2020 $25.1 and in 2020/2021, $8m.
“Between 2016 and now, how much the Parliament have for us is $138,925,658...They have deliberately refused to give Tobago what is its money,” he said to loud desk thumping from his colleagues.
Augustine said because of this discovery, the THA was now going back into previous years to calculate to see if it even got the 4.3 per cent allocation as required by the law.
“Madam Presiding Officer, all the big chat about autonomy and not a mouse squeaked about it over the last five years,” he said, referring to the previous People’s National Movement administration in Tobago.
Augustine also zeroed in on the money that was supposed to be spent in Tobago by Government ministries.
“Can someone account for those monies that ministries are supposed to spend in Tobago on those six scheduled items?” he asked.
He said while he understood that there were things like salaries to be paid, there had been little development on the island.
He said in the last 22 years, the island had only gotten two new police stations and one fire station.
“For the last 22 years, Madam Presiding Officer, we cannot see the quantum of spend that these ministries are supposed to do in Tobago,” he said.
Augustine said the illegal withholding of Parliamentary allocations must stop and he explained that this can be achieved.
He said based on the THA Act, it was supposed to receive money in quarterly blocks and this had not been happening.
He said, “And in conversations with the Minister of Finance, he said ‘look things hard across the country if you carry it to court you eh go win but it will put pressure on the whole system’.
Madam Presiding Officer, granted that we have been robbed since 2016 to 2021, I don’t care whether is pressure on the system or not, Tobago must get its monies as allocated. Give us our monies in quarterly blocks,” he said.
In the current fiscal year, Tobago has been allocated $2.5 billion.