Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Minority Leader Kelvon Morris has raised queries and slammed the PDP-run THA over a trip to Grenada’s Carnival for a 10-member group allegedly costing approximately $291,094.
“Why is it necessary to send ten people, including personal assistant, on any such mission–and worse, not inform the public until after? PDP told Tobagonians they were coming to fix things, but the only things they seem to be fixing is themselves,” Morris said in a statement yesterday.
Morris spoke after THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine on Wednesday said a 10-member delegation from its Tourism Division is currently in Grenada participating in that Carnival and discussing furthering twinning of Grenada’s Carnival with Tobago’s.
Augustine said Tobago has historical ties with Grenada and some Tobagonians have relatives there.
But Morris yesterday said, “Yet again, this PDP administration’s embarked on a joyride using scarce taxpayers’ money, failing to inform Tobagonians despite Farley’s promise that ‘smartman’ behaviour won’t be repeated after Watson (Duke’s) embarrassing trip to Dubai.
“Contempt for accounting to the public on use of their monies has been repeated. Almost $300,000 spent is a lot of money in the context of Tobago. But at no time in our meetings or press briefings was this trip announced. We only heard on TV after they left.”
Morris cited documents showing expense amounts for the 10 to attend Grenada’s Carnival, over August 2-12. They included an Assemblyman who is the Tourism Division’s assistant secretary, her personal assistant, the chairman and deputy chairman of Tobago’s October Carnival Committee, a videographer, three artistes, a pannist and Ms Tobago Heritage 2022.
Morris submitted cost listings for each stay, ranging from $10,721 to $44, 843.
Also cited was a letter to Megan Morrison from Spicemas Corporation in Grenada which proposed a “Carnival exchange,” inviting the Tobago Carnival Committee members to Spicemas and proposing giving Tobago artistes guest appearances at events.
Morrison is a THA Assemblyman and Assistant Secretary in the Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transport.
Morris said, “The Chief Secretary must explain on what basis did the Executive Council approve an unsigned letter that was poorly written and suspiciously addressed to an individual, rather the official title holder?
“The Chief Administrator of the Division also must explain how such a document was certified and processed as acceptable and whether the Tourism Division would have breached financial rules of the Exchequer Act by processing the payment using an unofficial, unsigned invitation letter.”
Augustine didn’t reply to calls yesterday nor did Tourism Secretary Tashia Burris.
However, Tourism Division sources said Augustine apologised on TV on the island for late notice of the trip, adding it wasn’t the division’s fault.
Tobago October Carnival Committee head Mesha Trim yesterday referred queries to the Tourism Division.
Trim is among those listed for the Grenada trip but said due to her schedule, she couldn’t go for the entire period.