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Secretaries Answers to Questions

Roxborough folk performers

THE MINORITY LEADER: asked the Honourable Chief Secretary and Secretary of Trade Finance and Economy the following question; 

“As it relates to the   provision of assistance, both financial and otherwise, to the Roxborough Folk   Performers, between late August and early September, for their recent trip to   New York, United States, to participate in the ‘Tobago Day’ celebrations, can   the Chief Secretary indicate the following:

a. What was the process used for granting assistance to the group?

b. What was the value of the assistance agreed on and approved

for the group by the Executive Council?

c. What was the total   assistance to the group, either directly or to other entities on behalf of the group, by the Tobago House of Assembly?

Secretary Augustine.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

The process used for granting assistance to the group and that is the Roxborough Folk Performers, involved:

  1. A request by a letter from the said group for assistance;

  2. Meeting held with the group whereby it was agreed that funding to be granted to the group will be for airline travel; subject to persons acquiring visas for the trip.

The funding for the tickets was made directly to the travel agency. The value of the assistance agreed on and approved for the group are as follows.

Initially, airline   tickets for thirty (30) persons - three hundred and thirty-seven thousand,   four hundred and seventeen dollars and fifty cents, ($337,417.50).Subsequently, the Executive Council had to amend and provide additional   support and this including local accommodation and breakfast for thirty-six  (36) persons - sixty thousand, five hundred and fifty dollars ($60,550.00); foreign accommodation and meals for thirty (30) persons - eighty-one   thousand, seven hundred and fifty-two dollars and seventy-eight cents   ($81,752.78) The total assistance to the group either directly or to other   entities on behalf of the group by the Tobago House of Assembly - four   hundred and seventy-nine thousand, seven hundred and twenty dollars and   twenty-eight cents ($479,720.28).

Madam Presiding Officer, the first question I would like to   find out from the Chief Secretary, is having indicated that this trip that   was approved by the Executive Council, was for travel to the ‘Tobago Day’,   and having the ‘Tobago Day’ already passed, what would have been the   motivation for this Executive Council to take almost a half a million dollars   ($500,000.00) and give it to thirty (30) persons when we are seeing Tobagonians   crying for food?

Is that the question, Minority Leader? Minority Leader,   question please.

The question is, what was the motivation having already approved that the date would have passed, another alternative event, and why?

Repeat the question please, because I do not understand it.Can you repeat, please?

Sure. I am saying, Madam Presiding Officer, the original approval as   mentioned by the Chief Secretary, was for this group to attend the ‘Tobago Day’ which was in and around August 26th.   The ‘Tobago Day’ came and passed. I want to understand, and the people of   Tobago want to understand, what would have been the premise upon which   funding was given for them to go to another event. Was it that they sent in a   new application? What was the premise upon which approximately half a million   dollars ($500,000.00) was given to this group to go and drive strollers... [Interruption]

Secretary Augustine.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

Madam Presiding   Officer, the Roxborough Folk Performers from their initial request, requested   not just for ‘Tobago Day,’ but their engagements went beyond ‘Tobago Day.’   Their engagements also included performing at internationally held events -   events held by other Caribbean diaspora communities, such as the Guyanese   diaspora community being hosted by the Guyanese Ambassador there, among   others. So, the Executive Council   took the decision, that while they missed the first date on their agenda, which   was the ‘Tobago Day’, that we could facilitate them for the other engagements.

2:40 P.M

Madam Presiding Officer, I have information of the original   invoice that came from the travel agent, and the return date was before   Labour Day. I do not know why the Chief Secretary ...

What is the question, Minority Leader?

I am asking the Chief Secretary, if the return date was   before Labour Day, why is he telling us that they had other engagements, but   Labour Day was never part of it? What was the justification to now fund a   Labour Day arrangement?

Hon. Chief Secretary.

The Roxborough Folk performers is a stellar cultural performing group on the island of Tobago. The Tobago House of Assembly (THA), for many years, have funded several cultural exchanges from fashion designers; to choirs; to dancers; to drummers and Madam Presiding Officer, I find the question offensive, especially to the people of Tobago East, that it will appear as if the Roxborough Folk Performers is not good enough to attract the support of the THA. [Desk thumping] Equity for everybody! They went to legitimate activities - whether they did so before Labour Day or after Labour Day, they went to   legitimate activities to which they performed and represented the island of   Tobago.

Is there an amendment to this Note that would have approved this additional participation? What is the legal authority that guided the approval?

Secretary Augustine.

The legal authority for all spending in the Tobago House of   Assembly (THA) comes from the Executive Council via Executive Council   Minutes. That is standard. Yes, this engagement as all other engagements will   require, and this one had Executive Council approval.

Thank You.

Members, in  accordance with Standing Order 27, this House will now engage in the Chief Secretary’s question.

Minority Leader.

The Minority Leader asked the Hon. Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance, Trade the Economy   asked the following question:

As it relates to issues of conflict of interest, can the Hon.   Chief confirm whether his Executive Council subscribes to recusals and   whether any Member had to recuse him or herself from any decision made by the   Executive Council?

Hon. Chief Secretary.

Madam Presiding Officer, with regard to Standing Order 27 (3)   in particular, the questions that all came in for the Hon. Chief Secretary’s   response, came in more than twenty-four hours after the Order Paper was   completed. Notwithstanding the lateness of the questions and my desire to   answer the questions, some of the questions therein would require getting   information that the timeframe was just too short for, given the Standing   Orders of the THA Legislature that indicates that the nature and frame of   these questions must be in keeping with a 24/3.

Madam Presiding   Officer, I wish to give a commitment that all questions under Chief Secretary answer, we will wave the   Standing Orders as is required, but we will make room for them at the next   Sitting.

Can we as a House agree - because this is unprecedented especially for me - that the submission of Chief Secretary’s questions would be submitted at the next Sitting?

Madam Presiding Officer, let me put it in a Motion because it will have to be voted upon.

I hereby beg to move   that the Chief Secretary questions be taken at

the next Sitting which is outside of the statutory four month   period.

Madam Presiding Officer, can I say something?


Madam Presiding   Officer, the questions for Chief Secretaries and

Prime Ministers are not answered in the ordinary fashion of   parliamentary procedure and it is on that basis this process is taking place.

Madam Presiding Officer, can you show where, in our Standing Orders, says anything about a Prime Minster?

Yes,Chief Secretary I can more than respond to the Minority Leader.

     As much as many other   jurisdictions within the Commonwealth practise Prime Minister’s questions,   (something that we have adopted as Chief Secretary’s questions) to be very   short notice and does not require very intensive answers, our Standing Orders   are very clear, unless we convene the Standing Orders Committee which we   would do in January.

      I am asking as a   House, can we decide that the Chief Secretary’s questions that are tabled on   this Order Paper, be deferred for a response to the next Sitting which is, in   fact, outside of the Chief Secretary’s questions, which is due every four   months? Can we as a House agree on that?

Madam Presiding Officer, there is a standing motion that I would like to have a Colleague second it.

Madam Presiding Officer, I am quite confused, because the advice I got came from your office...

Minority Leader, I just explained to you and I could put it   in writing if you are not satisfied with me saying it here and reading it   into the records of Hansard, that we as a collective, House - Members   who have been elected and selected to this House, decide that the Chief Secretary’s questions which are traditionally and statutorily due every four months - can we decide as a House that response to these questions be submitted at the next Sitting?

Madam Presiding Officer, can you allow me to repeat the Motion. Until such time as our Standing Orders are changed, that is what we go by, not by what happens   elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

    The Motion is, that this House seeks to move the Hon. Chief Secretary’s questions from the statutory day today, to the next Sitting of the House, given

Madam Presiding Officer, I want to put it on the records,   that we were advised by the Office of the Clerk...

Can I meet with the Minority Leader and Chief Secretary, outside?

[Crosstalk] This House now stands suspended for the next five (5) minutes.

Madam Presiding Officer, please let me make one statement on the matter, because I too was advised. [Crosstalk]

Can I meet with all persons who submitted questions in my   Chamber?

This House now stands suspended for five minutes

2.50 p.m.: Sitting   suspended.

3:00 p.m.: On resumption

Madam Presiding Officer, I defer all questions under this Section of the Standing Orders to the next Sitting of the House.

Okay, Members, after consulting with Members who asked the questions to the Chief Secretary, the next Sitting is carded for, not the 4th Thursday; it would be on or before the 4th Thursday in the next month. So the Chief Secretary questions - the responses to those questions, would be answered at that next Sitting

Madam Presiding Officer, the date of the Sitting?

The date of the Sitting would have to be decided   subsequently. The 4th statutory Sitting is December 22nd  2022, right? So, it is dependent on the time of the Motion and if the Executive Council wants to have an earlier Sitting, but it could definitely be before the 4th Thursday... [Interruption]

Madam Presiding Officer, on a point of clarity, if I may.

We will have to have the Sitting on December 22nd  2022, as a matter of clarity, because it is in the THA Act 40 of 1996 that   prescribes that the Sitting shall be on the 4th Thursday... [Interruption]

You could also have a special Sitting...[Crosstab] if it has   not been determined as yet, but when it is determined, these, questions would   be asked at that Sitting. It would not be carried over to the next Chief   Secretary’s question, which is, every four (4) months, right? So that is   cleared up, right? Yes. Okay. [Interruption]

Before we go forward, a question as simple as conflict of interest and if anyone recused...

Minority   Leader, come on, we made a decision.

[Madam Clerk continues.]

Leader of Assembly Business.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

Madam Presiding   Officer, I beg to move that Standing Order 91 (1) be used to suspend Standing   Order, 50 (1) to allow the mover of the Motion to present his Motion in its   entirety.

Question put and agreed   to.

Member, please, your Motion.

Madam Presiding Officer, before we proceed with the Chief   Secretary’s presentation, could the Minority Leader also have the equal time   as the Chief Secretary to present his?

Sure. Can we put it to a vote? Can you ask the question again, Minority Councillor?

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer. The question is, can the   Minority Leader have the equal speaking time as that of the Chief Secretary?

Question put and agreed to

Thank you.

Member, your Motion.

11th Plenary Sitting Tobago House of Assembly 2021 - 2025 Session


24 November 2022
Supplemental question to the main question :
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