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«47 Leave of Absence Friday, July 13, 2001 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Friday, July 13, 2001 The House met at 1.30 p.m. PRAYERS [MR. SPEAKER in the ...»

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47

Leave of Absence Friday, July 13, 2001

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Friday, July 13, 2001

The House met at 1.30 p.m.

PRAYERS

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

LEAVE OF ABSENCE

Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, I have received correspondence requesting

leave of absence from today’s sitting from the Member for Caroni Central (Hon.

G. Singh) and the Member for Toco/Manzanilla (Mr. R. Boynes). The leave they have requested has been granted.

PAPERS LAID

1. Report of the Auditor General on the accounts and financial statements of the Project Execution Unit of the Ministry of Housing and Settlements for the year October 01, 1998 to September 30, 1999 in respect of the National Settlements Programme as required by Loan Contract No. 584/OC-TT between the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the Inter-American Development Bank. [The Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs (Hon. Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj)]

2. Report of the Auditor General of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on the accounts and financial statements of the Basic Education Project for the year ended September 30, 2000, as required by Loan Agreement No. 3956- TR between the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. [Hon. R. L. Maharaj]

3. Report of the Auditor General on the accounts of the San Juan/Laventille Regional Corporation for the nine-month period ended September 30, 1998.

[Hon. R. L. Maharaj] Papers 1 to 3 to be referred to the Public Accounts Committee

4. The Freedom of Information (Fees and Charges) Regulations, 2001. [The Minister of Communications and Information Technology (Hon. Ralph Maraj)]

5. The Freedom of Information (Publication of Arrangements) Regulations, 2001. [Hon. Ralph Maraj]

6. The Corporation Tax (Exemption) Order, 2001. [Hon. R. L. Maharaj]

7. The Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amdt.) Regulations, 2001. [The Minister of Transport and Minister of Tourism and Tobago Affairs (Sen. The Hon. Jearlean John)] 48 Papers Laid Friday, July 13, 2001

8. Annual Audited Financial statements of the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation for the financial year ended December 31, 2000. [Hon. R. L. Maharaj] To be referred to the Public Accounts Committee

9. The Extradition (Commonwealth and Foreign Territories) (Extraditable Offences) Order, 2001. [Hon. R. L. Maharaj]

10. Report of the Technical Team to the Bipartisan Team to Seek Solutions to the Problems within the Police Service—Legislative Proposals, June 2001.

[The Prime Minister and Minister of National Security (Hon. Basdeo Panday)]

ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

Construction of Overpass— Churchill-Roosevelt and Uriah Butler Highways

21. Dr. Keith Rowley (Diego Martin West) asked the Minister of Infrastructure

Development and Local Government:

With respect to the proposed construction of the overpass at the junction of the Churchill-Roosevelt and Uriah Butler Highways, would the Minister state how much money would be saved if the structure is designed and built without the proposed arch in the super structure?

The Minister of Infrastructure Development and Local Government (Hon. Carlos John): Mr. Speaker, in response to the question raised by the Member for Diego Martin West, I wish to state that the design of the proposed interchange at the Churchill-Roosevelt and Uriah Butler Highways has not yet been finalized.

My Ministry has several options under consideration, one of which includes a proposal for an arch. Design specifications are now being prepared to be a part of a request for proposals, which are expected to be tendered shortly.

It is only after an evaluation of the bids and a firm decision is taken regarding the inclusion and/or installation of an arch would we be in a position to determine if there would be any savings.

Dr. Rowley: In the light of the fact that we are told that the design has not been completed, is the Minister aware that no less a person than the Acting Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago has instructed UDeCOTT to award the contract to Pres-T-Con?

Hon. C. John: This Minister is not aware of any such development, Mr. Speaker.

Caroni (1975) Limited (Payment of Bonuses to Contract Workers)

22. Dr. Keith Rowley (Diego Martin West) asked the Minister of Enterprise

Development and Foreign Affairs:

49 Oral Answers to Questions Friday, July 13, 2001 (a) Does any employee at Caroni (1975) Limited have any clause in his or her contract or other terms of employment requiring the consideration or payment of any bonus?

(b) If so, could the Minister identify the category of officers so affected and the terms of any such bonus payment?

(c) Has any bonus been paid to any contracted employee of Caroni (1975) Limited since 1995? If so, how much and for what consideration?

The Minister of Enterprise Development and Foreign Affairs (Hon.

Mervyn Assam): Mr. Speaker, as at May 31, 2001, five employees of Caroni (1975) Limited had clauses in their contract requiring the consideration of the payment of bonus. This includes an employee whose employment has since been terminated.





The categories of officers and the terms of the bonus payments, which were

written contracts, are as follows:

(1) Former Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Sharma Lalla—an annual performance bonus of between zero and six months’ salary on the successful attainment of annual performance criteria, which were outlined.

(2) Financial Comptroller, Mr. Krishendath Ramlogan—an annual performance based incentive of up to the equivalent of six months’ salary. The quantum of the incentive payable would be based on the attainment of pre-established performance targets. Mr. Ramlogan was given the option to receive an advance of up to 50 per cent of the incentive, which would be paid in equivalent amounts on a monthly basis.

(3) Manager, Environmental Systems, Mr. Rahaz Rajab—an annual performance based incentive of a maximum of three months’ basic salary. The quantum of the incentive payable at the end of each year will be based on the attainment of the same kind of pre-established performance targets.

(4) Manager, Property Development, Mrs. Marian Mohammed—an annual performance based incentive of a maximum of three months’ basic salary. The quantum of the incentive payable at the end of each year will be based on the attainment of pre-established performance targets.

(5) General Manager, Business Development, Mr. Zamir Mohammed—an annual performance based incentive of a maximum of six months’ salary.

50 Oral Answers to Questions Friday, July 13, 2001 [HON. M. ASSAM] Mr. Speaker, during the years 1995 to 1999 no bonuses were paid. In the years 2000 and 2001, the following bonuses were paid:

(a) Mr. Krishendath Ramlogan, Financial Comptroller, an advance of $3,500 per month over the period October 2000 to May 2001, a total of $28,000.

(b) Mr. Raiaz Rajab, Manager, Environmental Systems, a bonus of $20,125 over the period June 2000 to December 2000.

The rationale for the payments has been given as achievement of preestablished targets. However there is no evidence to support the achievements of the targets. In the case of the financial comptroller, his letter of appointment provided for the option of an advance made even before the targets were established or achieved. The letter of approval of this advance for the comptroller does not indicate, however, that all or any of this advance is repayable dependent on performance and final appraisal.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

1.45 p.m.

Dr. Rowley: Mr. Speaker, I have a supplemental question please. In view of the fact that these are, in fact, public moneys, because the Treasury is supporting Caroni to the tune of billions of dollars, and officers are receiving bonuses where their targets are not met, could the Minister tell this House whether those bonuses would be recovered?

Hon. M. Assam: We are in the process, Mr. Speaker, of doing an audit of all the financial affairs of Caroni (1975) Limited and when that audit is completed, and the report is submitted to the Minister, at that time I would be able to indicate to the Member for Diego Martin West what appropriate action may be necessary to recover moneys that may have been paid without proper attainment of objectives.

Dr. Rowley: Would the Minister tell this House whether it is proper for public moneys to be spent as the bonus before the evaluation could have been done?

Hon. M. Assam: I think I have answered the Member already, that at the end of the audit and the report being submitted to the Minister, I will then determine whether moneys were paid that should not have been paid and how they could be recovered. I agree with him that they are public funds.

Dr. Rowley: Mr. Speaker, finally, is the Minister prepared to prevent Caroni (1975) Limited from paying bonuses to any of its officers in advance or 51 Oral Answers to Questions Friday, July 13, 2001 otherwise, in light of the fact that Caroni (1975) Limited’s overall performance has been declining precipitously in recent years?

Hon. M. Assam: I am surprised that the Member would ask that question because he was the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources responsible for Caroni. (1975) Limited. No Minister is responsible for paying bonuses or withholding bonuses from officers; that is the responsibility of the board and the internal auditor of Caroni (1975) Limited, not the responsibility of the Minister.

Dr. Rowley: Finally, Mr. Speaker, is the Minister aware that as Minister responsible he has the authority to give specific directions to Caroni (1975) Limited on matters of operation—to the board?

Hon. M. Assam: Clearly the Minister has responsibility to give directions based on a policy that has been enunciated by the Cabinet.

Mr. Speaker: Let us move on to question 23 on the Supplemental Order Paper.

Dr. Rowley: Mr. Speaker, I have one final question.

Mr. Speaker: I heard two final questions before.

Dr. Rowley: Based on the answers, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: Okay, one more question.

Dr. Rowley: Thank you. Based on the answers, Mr. Speaker; I did not intend to ask, but based on the answers.

Mr. Speaker: Okay.

Dr. Rowley: Is it the Government’s policy to have bonuses paid at Caroni (1975) Limited when the company, in fact, is a ward of the Treasury?

Hon. M. Assam: Clearly, it cannot be.

Mr. Valley: Mr. Speaker, I really find it amazing. I wonder whether the hon.

Minister can inform this House whether he is prepared to instruct the board of Caroni (1975) Limited that no bonuses should be paid in advance of performance, whether the Minister sees that as his responsibility and obligation.

Hon. M. Assam: Mr. Speaker, I have already said that we are initiating an audit and if it turns out to be so, of course, the Minister will take appropriate action.

Mr. Valley: Please. Please, Mr. Speaker, you see my difficulty is that I think the Minister in answering his question—[Interruption] Yes, but in view of the fact 52 Oral Answers to Questions Friday, July 13, 2001 [MR. VALLEY] that in answering the question he said quite clearly that bonuses were paid in advance of performance, I am asking whether he is prepared to instruct Caroni (1975) Limited that there should be no recurrence of such an action. That is what I am asking him. I am saying that in view of the fact the Minister stated categorically in his response that, in fact, Caroni (1975) Limited paid bonuses in advance, whether—given that admission—he is now prepared to instruct the board of Caroni (1975) Limited to cease pursuing such action.

Hon. M. Assam: I repeat, Mr. Speaker, when I am in possession of the report of the audit that is now under way, I will determine whether someone or some officers have been paid bonuses in advance that they did not deserve. If they were paid and they did not deserve them we would have to seek to recover them. As a result of that, the Minister can now advise the board that because of this particular flaw no bonus should be paid in advance.

Mr. Speaker: A final question from the Leader of the Opposition on this question.

Mr. Manning: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Would the hon. Minister agree that in light of the fact that Caroni (1975) Limited’s liability to the State now stands at $1.7 billion, and that every year the State makes a subvention to Caroni (1975) Limited, that effectively these bonuses are being paid out of the Treasury?

Hon. M. Assam: I do not know about the $1.7 billion because I cannot verify your figures, but in fact, everything that is paid by Caroni (1975) Limited to its employees, essentially, is paid from the Treasury.

Government As Guarantor (Borrowed Money)

23. Dr. Keith Rowley (Diego Martin West) asked the Minister of Finance:

(a) Could the Minister identify every instance since January 1996 where the Government has provided a guarantee or letter of comfort, resulting in the State or any of its agencies or state enterprises borrowing money with the Government as guarantor?

(b) Could the Minister state how much money was borrowed in each instance and what is the Government’s total exposure as at May 01, 2001?

The Minister of Enterprise Development and Foreign Affairs (Hon.

Mervyn Assam): Mr. Speaker, I am not the Minister of Finance; I am merely 53 Oral Answers to Questions Friday, July 13, 2001 answering on behalf of the Minister of Finance, who unfortunately cannot be here this afternoon.

The question is:

(a) Could the Minister identify every instance since January 1996 where the Government has provided a guarantee or letter of comfort, resulting in the State or any of its agencies or state enterprises borrowing money with the Government as guarantor?

(b) Could the Minister state how much money was borrowed in each instance and what is the Government’s total exposure as at May 01, 2001?

Statements of debt secured by Government guarantee and by letters of comfort over the period January 1996 to May 01, 2001, have been prepared and are available to the Members. It is a long list and it will be circulated.



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