The Integrity Commission published a list in today’s newspaper of Government Ministers, members of the Opposition and several members of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) who have not declared their income, assets and liabilities for 2020. The deadline was in May 2021.
But while several of the high-profile people listed said that they are in the process of updating their documents, others are blaming the Commission’s poor online service for the delays and several others are confused as to why their names are on the list at all.
Deputy Political Leader of Tobago’s Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) Farley Augustine yesterday said that he has been trying to get in touch with the Integrity Commission for weeks.
“I have been trying to get on to a compliance officer at the IC for a while now. I used their website and sent a query. I called and no response. I tried calling up to two weeks ago and they were still unresponsive,” Augustine said.
“The good thing is that I don’t have much to declare,” he said.
Augustine said he has a vehicle that he took “on loan from the THA in accordance with provisions of the THA Act”.
“I have no other income but the salary of the THA. I own no homes nowhere. And my bank account shows that I owe the bank more than I have on a fixed deposit,” Augustine said.
Augustine said the Integrity Commission needed to update its online service.
“My simple query to the IC is whether given the pandemic they will now accept the filing electronically as opposed to me having to take it to Trinidad myself,” he said
He said other options are unreliable.
“TTPost is very unreliable here. Their trackpak system takes weeks to deliver packages that suppose to go in 24 hours. The most reliable option for us is to take it physically into Trinidad,” he said.
“I don’t understand why in this pandemic they can’t accept it electronically and just to get a response from them on that matter is difficult,” he said.
“I will call and they will try to patch me through to a compliance officer and no one ever picks up the line,” he said.
Meanwhile, Augustine’s colleague Watson Duke’s name also appears on the list.
Duke was yesterday confused that his name appeared on the list as he said that he has already “declared everything”.
Member of Parliament for Laventille East/ Morvant Adrian Leonce also said that he believed his name was listed in error as his file is properly updated. When told that his name does appear on the list, Leonce said that was “probably in error”.
“I have everything up to date. I just confirmed with my accountant,” he said.
Energy Minister Stuart Young yesterday confirmed that he was working on updating the necessary documents for the Integrity Commission.
“There have been delays in obtaining the info from third parties and also an unintentional oversight on my part,” Young said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne produced evidence of attempts to submit his documents and was told that they could not be submitted electronically.
He said he spoke to the IC last week and established a meeting for Wednesday and was not told of pending publication.
Communication Minister Symon De Nobriga yesterday said that he too was in the process of updating his documents.
Minister in the Ministry of Finance and MP for San Fernando East, Brian Manning is also on the list and yesterday said that he was sworn into office in August 2020 and said it was an “oversight on his part”.
“The official forms are currently being completed and would be submitted soon,” he said.
“I also never received any notice of non-compliance from the Integrity Commission,” Manning said.
United National Congress MP for Tabaquite Anita Haynes is also named in the listing and yesterday said she usually provides backup information along with her forms from the bank.
“There has been a delay with the lockdowns but I will be filing before the middle of November”
Her colleague, MP for Oropouche East Dr Roodal Moonilal said he asked for an extension due to the Covid-19 lockdowns and will be getting the information to the Integrity Commission by November 14.
Ministry of Health representatives on the Regional Health Authority (RHA) board Principal Medical Officer (PMO) Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards and her colleague Dr Michelle Trotman both appeared on the list. Yesterday Adbool-Richards said that the RHA sought an extension based on extenuating circumstances.
Abdool-Richards said that the deadline was in May when there was a spike in Covid-19 numbers and the medical fraternity was extremely busy.
She said that she was in the process of updating her documents for submission. Trotman, who has become a mainstay at the Prime Minister’s Saturday Covid-19 update yesterday said that she was in the process of providing the necessary data.
Housing Minister Penelope Beckles’ name also appear on the list but there was no response from her as to why.
La Horquetta/Talparo MP and Minister Foster Cummings also did not respond to questions about the delay.