Former prime minister, now Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, says payments made to her by her former special advisor Barry Padarath were for official business transacted during an official trip in 2014. Guardian Media sent the following questions regarding the cheque payments issued to Persad-Bissessar. Following are the questions and responses.
MB: Can you say what was the payment of these monies for?
KPB: These monies were reimbursements to my personal VISA credit card for expenses properly incurred on official travel out of the country while I was Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. The cheques were manager’s cheques and a total of $135,800.00. On December 4, 2014, those cheques were deposited directly as reimbursements to my personal VISA credit card.
MB: Why was your special aide at that time paying you money?
KPB: At the time Mr Padarath was an Advisor to the Prime Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister. His responsibilities included protocol services to the Prime Minister’s official overseas delegations and also handling the logistical details of these trips, including accommodation and incidental expenses.
Mr Padarath was issued with a government-issued credit card with him as the signatory, for use on official overseas travel to pay for accommodation and incidental expenses. He would be given what is known as a “contingency” sum by the Accounting Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister to cover those expenses. He would place that “contingency” sum in a special bank account in his name at the First Citizens Bank, and established and used for that purpose only for the sake of accountability. He would have to account to the Accounting Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister for every single expense, and always did so.
During the period in question, on an official visit to North America, the official government-issued credit card was not working. I, therefore, had to use my personal credit card to pay for accommodation and incidentals. Details and proof of all of those expenses charged to my personal credit card were provided to the Accounting Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Mr Padarath issued the Manager’s Cheques to me from his said account, into which would have been paid the “contingency” sum for that overseas trip paid to him by the Office of the Prime Minister. He accounted for the Accounting Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister for those cheques and provided all supporting documentation.
The Permanent Secretary and Accounts Department in the Office of the Prime Minister would be aware of and be in possession of these documents and would have audited and approved these transactions many years ago.
MB: And what did you do with that money?
KPB: The cheques in question were deposited directly into my said personal VISA credit card account on December 4, 2014 as reimbursement for what I had to charge on that card for official accommodation and incidental expenses, since the official government-issued credit card was not working. All documentation in that regard was provided to the Accounting Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister for the financial records.