The United National Congress is insisting Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley violated the Integrity in Public Life Act by failing to disclose his interest in a townhouse in Tobago to the Integrity Commission.
Yesterday, the PM produced a sheaf of documents, including his confidential Form A which were filed with the Integrity Commission in defence against what he called was “hogwash” by the UNC. He also queried how the UNC got access to the information, since this was a confidential document that should not have been disclosed by the commission.
Under the act, persons must complete and submit two forms – A and B. Form A details all incomes, assets and liabilities and is confidential. Form B meanwhile details all registrable interests.
While the PM yesterday maintained he revealed ownership of the property in his Form A declaration, the UNC says he should have done so on both forms.
San Juan/Barataria MP Saddam Hosein and Senator Wade Mark maintained their stance during a media conference at the Office of the Opposition in Port-of-Spain moments after the PM held a media briefing to produce evidence he declared the $1.2 million townhouse.
“You have to give the location, description and what is your beneficial interests. Whether you’re a co-owner, full owner of the land. So this goes on Form B,” Hosein said.
He said Form A needed more details and more personal information with respect to the value of the property.
“The both forms must correspond because Form A is secret, form B is public,” he said.
Hosein said Form B was used to inform the public about what is owned because a person in public life is being paid with public funds.
He said the PM’s argument that he had access to the confidential Form A was “illogical.”
“He somehow alluded that I had private information or private access to Form A, that is absolutely untrue. We only had access to his Form B through the law. If Dr Rowley is saying that I, in fact, had access to his Form A and that he did, in fact, file the house in his Form A for the period, then why would I accuse the Prime Minister of that, saying he didn’t make the proper declaration?” Hosein asked.
“It makes absolutely no sense and it is clearly an illogical argument.”
Mark said when the UNC did its checks at the commission last Thursday for 2019 declarations, other persons who purchased townhouses in the same development made it known in Form B, including Central Bank Governor Alvin Hillaire, Paria Fuelling chairman Newman George and Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance head Ingrid Lashley.
Mark questioned why those persons knew to put the information in Form B but the Prime Minister did not.
“We find it very ludicrous. We find it very suspicious, we find it very questionable,” Mark said.
Mark said he has been filing forms for the last 20 years and said the PM should know better. He said the PM questioned why the media was taking on the UNC but noted this country was not under a dictatorship.
Hosein said although the PM disclosed the information in one form and not the other, it was still an offence.
“We are assuming that he did in fact file it in Form A for 2019. None of us could see it besides the Prime Minister and the Integrity Commission,” Hosein said.
Hosein said he would wait for a response from the Integrity Commission to confirm whether the PM did in fact make the declaration.
Hosein said according to Section 21 of the Integrity in Public Life Act, a person must furnish both forms to the commission.
“The act provides that you must fill out two forms. If someone is in breach of this, or knowingly makes a false declaration, or fails without reasonable cause to give information to the commission is guilty of an offence,” he said, noting the penalty is a fine of $200,000 and imprisonment of up to 10 years.
Section 21 of the act, Hosein said, provides for both Forms A and B.
The UNC is also questioning how the Prime Minister was able to acquire the property at a significantly reduced cost from Tobago businessman Allan Warner, whom they claim is close friends with the PM. They noted the PM’s daughter also acquired a townhouse at a reduced price.
“You and your daughter was so lucky?” Mark asked.
Mark said he was not casting aspersions on Warner but was just putting those questions out in the public domain.
“We are happy that you bought two townhouses and we are happy that you got a major discount. I hope that when I approach Allan Warner to buy an Inezgate property, he would be so kind as to give me a discount as well,” Mark said.
Mark called on the PM to be transparent and accountable to the people of the country.
Mark called on the Integrity Commission to continue its investigation into whether the PM filed the ownership documents with them.