Opposition leader Kamla Persad Bissessar asks a question during yesterday’s sitting of Parliament in the Red House.

Gail Alexander

Did Government seek to write-off money matters – totalling almost $94,000 – concerning Rajcoomar Bhagaloo because he was a defeated PNM candidate for Sangre Grande in recent elections?

That’s the concern Opposition Leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar yesterday grilled Government about in Parliament.

This was during discussion on aspects concerning variation in the sum of $255.3 million made to the 2019 Budget. Discussions were aimed at closing off 2019 accounts. The $255.3m sum didn’t increase that $51B Budget.

The Opposition took issue with an aspect involving $93,536. 18 cents and write-off of the overpayment of salary/cost of living allowance in this sum to Bhagaloo over October 1986 to December 2011 . He was described in documents as a retired Revenue Officer II, Inland Revenue (Finance Ministry.)

Persad- Bissessar asked if Bhagaloo was the PNM candidate who was defeated in Sangre Grande (in recent Local Government polls). PNM had a candidate of the same name in Cumuto-Tamana. Imbert said he had “no idea’ but could check. Persad- Bissessar said she was advised Bhagaloo was the PNM candidate.

Imbert who said Bhagaloo was paid at an incorrect stage-point in the salary scale replied he was ” happy to assist” him and others in similar situations. Persad- Bissessar asked how many others were similarly circumstanced. Imbert couldn’t say but added there would be others in and as they arise, the tradition is to deal with them. He added the matter didn’t “have anything to do with his Government” since it happened over 1986/2011.

Persad-Bissessar insisted on knowing the process and if matters “arose” if a person became a PNM candidate .

Imbert said the “fact that this may be the same person who contested in Sanger Grande” was irrelevant as far as he was concerned,

“But I’ll be happy to assist him and in other such matters. This matter arose from the Auditor General’s work when it was determined an overpayment was made,” Imbert added.

After UNC’s Rudy Indarsingh pressed on the issue, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said it was “highly incredulous and pretentious” that Persad- Bissessar would query the issue and “behave as though Bhagaloo was plucked out of nowhere when we have over 1,000 teachers who were in similar circumstances.”

“Is it that if Bhagaloo was a PNM person, (UNC’d) have said ‘no’ to payment?This shouldn’t be occurring – it looks like UNC is targetting,” she added.

Persad- Bissessar replied, “I find it highly incredulous and pretentious the Minister would say I’m being pretentious. While the Auditor General would have brought this forward, the process would have come to Cabinet for approval and this is approved by the PNM Cabinet for Mr Bhagaloo to get his payment.”

Robinson-Regis asked if the UNC was “vex” with Bhagaloo after 2011 and didn’t “give him his due.” Imbert said the situation would affected Bhagaloo’s termination benefits, “That’s why we’re dealing with it. He retired in 2011. I’m happy to assist him and all others in similar circumstances, it doesn’t matter if the person is UNC, ONR, NAR, once they’re a public servant and TT citizen- we’ll deal with it. What’s before us is what was sent to is.”

He said the situation which affected Bhagaloo happens from time to time, but not frequently. On another matter Imbert couldnt give the central Bank’s currnt overdraft figure. He said it was about 80 percent last Friday but would increase by next week due to salaries.