Minister of Finance Larry Howai admits that his Ministry has not addressed the $102 million shortfall in the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) allocation for the current fiscal quarter.
It took a question from Opposition Senator Shamfa Cudjoe during her contribution in the Senate on the Variation of Appropriation Bill to get a firm answer from the Finance Minister.
THA Chief Secretary Orville London and Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development Joel Jack had made several attempts to get an answer from Central Government on why the Assembly was short paid, but got no response.
Howai admitted that his Ministry had been slow in dealing with the matter.
“The issue here for us is that the Ministry of Finance should have been more proactive with the THA to have this matter sorted out,” he said.
Howai noted that the THA has been very proactive in reaching out to the Ministry to resolve the issue. This included e-mails from the Assembly and telephone calls from London and Jack.
“It is not that they have not reached out, it is that we have not been proactive in getting out the information then and we did not reach out and we take responsibility for that,” the Finance Minister stated in response to Senator Cudjoe..
The Finance Minister also said some work had to be done to determine the actual sum of the shortfall.
Howai said: “The assumptions being made are reasonable and it is working it out with the THA so I do not think that it is an issue that cannot be sorted out between the THA and us.”
He added that the THA should had been allocated $546.3M for this quarter. The Ministry of Finance, though, made two adjustments: one for actual revenue for the first quarter to the tune of $68M and transfers in the second quarter from the development programme.