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Secretaries Answers to Questions


The following question stood on the Order Paper -   deferred from April 27th, 2023.

asked the Chief   Secretary and Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy the following question:

“With respect to the non-payment of staff employed at the Office of the Minority, can the Secretary indicate the reasons why the salaries were delayed for the month of February and March?”

Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

     The answer to that question I believe, is resident with the Clerk of the House. The last time I checked, ‘Short-term employment’ requires covering approval from a line Secretary. I have not seen anything of that sort. I have also not seen at the Executive Council, any Notes for additional staffing at the office of the Minority Leader. Therefore, I will ask the Minority Leader to direct that question to the Clerk of the House.

Madam Presiding Officer, given that this matter is a long-standing issue about one year and three to four months old, and given that we met very early with the Honourable Chief Secretary on this matter and he gave us in that meeting certain assurances -

“Can the Chief Secretary kindly explain to us what are the circumstances upon whereby he is no longer interested in following up on those assurances given to the office of the Minority with respect to the formalization of the positions that were outstanding.”

Secretary of Finance.

Madam Presiding Officer, at that initial meeting, I made it clear to the Minority Leader, while I believe that there were some additional staffing needed for his office - in that said meeting, I disagreed with the then Chief Administrator and the Clerk of the House with regard to the selection of janitorial services. In fact, the desire at the time was to extend janitorial services from this office to his office, and I was of the fnm position where that was concerned, that that must be a separate entity. Since that meeting, Madam Presiding Officer, there has been no formal agreement on what the staffing will be and how many it should be - until I recognized that people were hired already and were in fact being paid. Given that they were hired and being paid without any proper Public Service Regulation processes in place, the Minority Leader should direct his question to the person who took the authority to do such employment. 

Follow-up, Minority?

Given that the Minority Leader inherited a payment regime, a structure that was also one where the Chief Secretary benefited from, (because they were in that era) they were able to get an improved arrangement where you had four (4) staff members, and as far as my information is, the four (4) staff members were paid on time and all of that, and given the assurances, can the Chief Secretary explain to us, what is the reason why there is no Note in front of the Executive Council given that his Councillor has been one of those persons treating with this matter in a direct way, that is the Councillor in the office of the Chief Secretary.

Thank you, very much. In fact, I love that question, Madam Presiding Officer.

Let me be clear, that while I was in the Minority, (and he can check in with his good friend, Minority Leader No. 2 from Roxborough/Argyle) we had never enjoyed any kind of employment at the levels that happened under our watch now. [Desk thumping]

When we were in the office of the minority, the people who were paid for us - we had a cleaner/front-of-house person, so the same person who cleaned, did the reception duties; we had a Research Officer and we also had an Office Manager... [Interruption]

Members, I would like to hear the question and the answer please?

2.05 P.M.

 ...and there were some driving services available to us. That was it. What the Minority Leader got without any proper procedure in place, we never got. Therefore, I am saying to the Minority Leader that since there are public servants here who clearly have authority, (because people voted for them and they are now the Executive and can determine how the budget should be used, they can hire as they will, without preparing Notes and without sending Notes through line Secretaries) he can proceed to ask those individuals. Leave me out of it.

Follow-up, Minority Leader?

Madam Presiding Officer, it is quite unfortunate that the   Chief Secretary would so mislead the House and throw public servants under   the bus, when we sat in a meeting in good faith and certain agreements (your   good self was there) were made in that meeting. To give the impression that   what the Minority currently inherits is something illegal and something...

Can I have your question, Minority Leader?

Madam Presiding Officer, the only additional staff different from what the former Minority had, was the fact that we separated the functions of...

Can I have your question, Minority Leader?

...cleaner. Therefore, I am asking the Chief Secretary, who gave the approval in that meeting for the persons to be paid? It was only after that meeting the approval came. Who gave the approval?

Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy. The question and answer segment is not up for debate.

Thank you.

Madam Presiding Officer, I would also love to know who gave the approval. Madam Presiding Officer, in that meeting I gave no approval ...

Members, Standing Order 44.

Further, Madam Presiding Officer, in that said meeting the Minority Leader is right about one thing, and I identified that before. I was very stern in saying that there must be separation of the duties of hospitality from that of janitorial services. Further to which in that meeting, the Minority Leader came with a sheet identifying all of the portfolios that currently exist in the office of the Opposition Leader in Trinidad. I indicated to him then, as I will now, that that is something we would have to look at and review because we may not be able to mirror position for position as exist there.

     Let me also add this, Madam Presiding Officer. It is interesting that the Member is asking about who gave authority to pay. We are seeing, Madam Presiding Officer, that there was a cleaner being paid from the isl¬and on the 13th’ December, the Office was not even handed over to the Minority yet. Who are they trying to fool? [Desk thumping] The Minority Leader, Madam Presiding Officer, picked his people. The Clerk of the House organized it without proper...

Members, Members, I would appreciate if we could all be silent when persons are making their contributions. A question was asked and an answer is being given.

Misleading the House is not a Standing Order that can be breached. It does not exist.

Member, continue.

Therefore, the person who took the authority and made arrangements for payment and all of that, let them do the necessary. Do not expect me to come and do the Note and bring it for the consideration of the Executive Council. However, no formal process was engaged for the hiring of these officers.

Those were the three (3) questions Minority Leader.

     Minority Councillor, question 65.

The following   question stood on the Order Paper — deferred from
 April 27, 2023

18th Plenary Sitting Tobago House of Assembly 2021 - 2025 Session


25 May 2023
Supplemental question to the main question :
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