Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Orville London and Minority Leader Ashworth Jack have agreed that the THA has the responsibility to make the nominations to the Board of Directors of the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) and have them sent to Cabinet for approval.
Following a 40-minute meeting with London at the Calder Hall Administrative Complex on Thursday (28th April 2011) morning Jack told a joint media conference: “I understood what the law is and this is not a new position.”
However, he added, “I am of the opinion that the conduit to Cabinet was through the Minister of Tobago Development but the Chief Secretary didn’t want to go down that road.”
For the past year there has been discussion between the THA and the Ministry of Tobago Development in relationship to the THA’s authority over the TRHA. “The Minister has indicated on many occasions that the TRHA is under her remit based on the instruments she would have received and consequently that she had authority to nominate or be involved with the appointment of the Board and the general operations of the TRHA,” London said.
The Tobago Chief Secretary said he was very heartened to report that both the Minority Leader and himself had agreed that the TRHA was under the authority of the THA and the THA only and that no Minister, whether it be the Minister of Tobago Development or Minister of Health, no Minister had the authority over the TRHA and consequently it was the THA and the THA only that had the responsibility to appoint the Board and to manage and control that Board.
London said he didn’t think that there was any hesitation on the part of the Minority Leader to agree to that and complimented him because in the final analysis it was the THA and the THA’s authority and integrity that were at stake.
He said if Cabinet had a concern over a particular nominee, then the Prime Minister should discuss that with the Chief Secretary, although Jack said it should be the Cabinet. London said the fundamental agreement however was that the TRHA appointment was a THA appointment and therefore that process has to be protected and there has to be some assurance that the views of the THA were not frustrated or undermined.
“We have been sending our Notes to the Office of the Prime Minister. How that is going to pan out I do not know but as far as I am concerned, I am not going to allow procedural issues to frustrate substantive issues. Who wants to be a conduit or a post box; that to me is not the critical issue, the critical issue is getting the information to Cabinet and having the information treated with the respect it deserves,” he said.
London said he does not intend to discuss the relationship between the THA and the Central Government with a line minister, adding that “the general relationship between the THA and the Central Government as the law and the THA Act provide is the business of the Chief Secretary and the Prime Minister.”
He said he had written the Prime Minister about a number of issues and was prepared to sit at anytime with her to discuss them because the Prime Minister controls the Cabinet, controls the Ministers and determines their areas of responsibility in the same way the Chief Secretary has control over the THA, the Secretaries and matters concerning Tobago and the THA.
“I am saying that is where the discussions should take place and I am again requesting a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss these issues because the issues between the THA and the Central Government cannot be resolved at the level of any line minister. Those issues, those generic issues must be resolved and must be discussed between the Chief Secretary and the Prime Minister.
It was the first such meeting of the two and the first visit of the Minority Leader to the Office of the Chief Secretary. London described the discussions as professional and cordial and said there was potential for them to be productive.