By Sue-Ann Wayow
THE report of the Auditor General for the year ended September 30, 2016 dealing with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has been misquoted and misrepresented in Tobago and the media.
This is according to Chief Secretary of the THA Ancil Dennis who said it was unfortunate that the report was being used as a political tool as the THA election draws near.
In a media release issued on Sunday, the THA stated that the document that was publicised and quoted as the Auditor’s General Report, was actually the management letter of the Audit of the THA for the year ended September 30, 2016.
The management letter was issued by the Auditor General to the Chief Administrator also the accounting officer of the THA to highlight the issues, findings and recommendations for improvement following the audit of the THA.
Dennis indicated that an Auditor General’s Report was only issued after discussion with and the submission of a response by the THA. A copy is then forwarded to Chief Administrator and the Chief Secretary , one is also laid in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
According to the THA, the report did not include the zipline project which was highlighted in the management letter.
The THA stated, “Chief Secretary Dennis says he has been pursuing the zipline project for the last seven months and investigations in the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation revealed that US$416,900 was paid to Original Canopy Tours, the company responsible for establishing the Zipline project in Tobago.
“Mr Dennis says he is disappointed that the project was not completed to date although payments were made in accordance with the service agreement established between the parties and the matter is currently engaging the attention of the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation’s legal representative.”
The report also highlighted that the Contingencies Expenditure reported in the Statement of Receipts and Payments was determined and approved by the Executive Council which has the authority to grant approval to incur urgent expenditure. The salaries of workers under the Unemployment Relief programme (URP) and Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) were deemed critical and urgent as those programmes were not sufficiently funded by the annual budgetary allocation, the THA stated.
The THA stated, “As regards, the sum of $21,569, 248 that is alleged to be unaccounted for by the THA, the report revealed that these monies were held in an Escrow account between the THA and Milshirv Properties Limited.”
Dennis said, “Nothing in the Auditor’s General’s Report ascribes malfeasance or criminality to any public official as is being propagated by those who wish to use this Report as a political tool. It is unfortunate and retrograde that some politicians would use this report in this way.”
He said on every occasion, where there was evidence of stealing of public money, it attracted the attention of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) and it was virtually impossible for any politician to steal millions from accounts of the THA as suggested by some without attracting the attention and action of the TTPS.
And he added that the THA was committed to the principles of accountability and transparency.
The THA stated, “The THA always seeks to ensure that the Assembly’s activities are reported and presented in the financial statements and are consistent with the laws, rules and regulations that govern the THA’s operations.”