The Central Government owes the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) approximately $662 million, according to Finance and Enterprise Development Secretary, Assemblyman Joel Jack.
That sum includes the Assembly’s fourth quarter parliamentary allocation of $450 million for Fiscal 2015, plus a further $110 million approved by Parliament one month ago to pay salary arrears to daily paid workers, teachers, and other monthly paid public officers following successful negotiations. Also remaining unsettled is the $102 million shortfall for the previous quarter.
Jack said cheques for Tobago’s teachers have already been prepared and payments will be made once the Assembly receives funds from the Central Government. Audits are currently ongoing for payments due from other Divisions. The THA’s fourth quarter appropriations, which are due at the start of every quarter according to the THA Act No 40 of 1996, should have been provided “en bloc” (in full) at the beginning of July.
The Secretary said because the 4th quarter funds are late and also the shortfall in the 3rd quarter from the Central Government, the Assembly was been forced to use its overdraft facility, which has so far cost $650,000.
During the last meeting with Finance Secretary Larry Howai, Jack revealed, a request was made to find a better process for disbursing funds quickly once the warrant is signed by the Minister. Currently, the cheque goes from the Finance Ministry to the Ministry of Tobago Development, which prepares another cheque for the Assembly.
“This delay in getting the funds from the Ministry of Finance through the Ministry of Tobago Development to the Assembly is posing a serious challenge. If you look at the cost to the Tobago House of Assembly of receiving the funding through the Ministry of Tobago Development, it is in excess of $2 million from 2010 to date,” the Secretary stated.
Jack also lauded his Division’s Business Development Unit for facilitating the island’s participation in three recent international exhibitions, which he said yielded “tremendous results”. Seven designers featured at the Caribbean Fashion Week in Jamaica, five Tobagonians displayed their products at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York and nine entrepreneurs went to the recent Trade Investment Convention in Trinidad.
The Secretary announced that the Tobago Venture Capital Equity Fund Limited helped create opportunities for two local businesses at the Cove Eco Business and Industrial Park last week through funding totalling $2 million. The businesses were Andy’s Cherry Nectar and the Quiet River Corporation, a woodworking company.