Mark accuses Govt of $18m voter-padding scheme

The Op­po­si­tion has ac­cused the PNM Gov­ern­ment of us­ing tax­pay­ers’ mon­ey to build hous­es in four mar­gin­al con­stituen­cies held by PNM MPs to “vot­er pad” for elec­tions.

“We have a lot of in­for­ma­tion on this and a lot to say on it ahead,” UNC Sen­a­tor Wade Mark told the Sen­ate yes­ter­day.

Mark re­ferred to Gov­ern­ment’s Mid-Year Bud­get Re­view an­nounce­ment which al­lo­cat­ed $18 mil­lion for the Hous­ing Min­istry for works un­der the Hous­ing and Vil­lage Im­prove­ment Pro­gramme. Mark ques­tioned the in­tent of that pro­gramme.

“Is Gov­ern­ment us­ing tax­pay­ers’ mon­ey to build hous­es iden­ti­fied by PNM MPs in mar­gin­al con­stituen­cies to vot­er/house pad? That’s crim­i­nal—the equiv­a­lent of mis­be­hav­iour in pub­lic of­fice.”

He claimed Gov­ern­ment has ear­marked Moru­ga, St Joseph, To­co/San­gre Grande and San Fer­nan­do West to ben­e­fit. He al­so claimed that a so­cial sur­vey was done and con­ver­sa­tions had been held with MPs of those ar­eas to iden­ti­fy needy peo­ple in their ar­eas.

Mark chal­lenged the Hous­ing Min­istry to dis­pute his claims.

“They’ve asked MPs to iden­ti­fy needy peo­ple to build homes for…you refuse to build hous­es in Na­pari­ma and Princes Town, yet you have $18 mil­lion in four PNM mar­gin­al seats (for hous­es). They are us­ing tax­pay­ers’ mon­ey to get votes and house-pad in these mar­gin­als, how are these con­stituen­cies se­lect­ed?” he asked.

Mark al­so called for an­swers on how NCB Glob­al Fi­nance which he said start­ed as a “fly-by-night” firm in 2012 with $115 mil­lion in as­sets now has $350 mil­lion in as­sets and a cus­tomer base worth $268 mil­lion.

He claimed the com­pa­ny’s CEO is the broth­er of a se­nior PNM of­fi­cial.

Mark ques­tioned why a loan of $150 mil­lion was made by the firm to Ude­cott soon af­ter the State com­pa­ny was moved to the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter.

“Squat­ters, se­cu­ri­ty guards and or­di­nary peo­ple don’t ben­e­fit from PNM Gov­ern­ment, it’s a clique, an eco­nom­ic elite who ben­e­fit,” he added.

Mark al­so called on the Gov­ern­ment to clear the air on At­lantic’s Train 1 project af­ter BPTT said it would not have suf­fi­cient nat­ur­al gas to sup­ply it.

“Will this cre­ate un­em­ploy­ment and af­fect eco­nom­ic ac­tiv­i­ty in Pt Fortin?” he asked not­ing Petrotrin’s clo­sure has al­ready neg­a­tive­ly im­pact­ed South Trinidad.

Reporter: Gail Alexander

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