Bacchanal in the Ministry of Sport …TOBAGO TRIP – VALUE FOR $$

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Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport, Natasha Barrow, told a Parliamentary Committee on Monday that the controversial $92,000 trip to Tobago by Minister of Sport Darryl Smith and members of staff, represented value for the taxpayer, and that persons included in the 12-member delegation were all necessary.

But in a response to further questioning from committee members, Barrow said the Ministry could have been more prudent in handling the trip and people coming and going from Tobago, especially regarding transportation as two flights were cancelled. Smith and 11 staff members of the Ministry and the Sports Company visited Tobago on May 20 to attend a THA Sports Awards.

They ran up a bill of $91,910.43 for a three-night stay at the Magdalena Grand where the awards were held. This included an all-inclusive stay at the resort.

Following a public outcry over the huge sum, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley requested and received a report on the trip from the minister which he says he is studying before deciding what action to take. But sources say Rowley will not be taking any action against Smith, just as he did nothing to Shamfa Cudjoe who racked up a $50,000 phone bill on a trip to the Bahamas in February.

Nine persons were originally invited to make the Tobago trip but three staffers, were later added.

Barrow said although the Ministry paid the bill she didn’t see it as additional expenditure because the three persons had been previously scheduled to go to Tobago to tour the Dwight Yorke Stadium but their trips had been postponed.

She said the Ministry took the opportunity to reschedule their trip and asked the THA to facilitate their attendance at the awards. In addition to the original nine persons invited to travel to Tobago, the delegation included the minister’s personal assistant, the personal assistant to the Permanent Secretary and a staff member from the ministry’s Communications Department.

Barrow said the Minister would have requested his assistant and when the ministry does something it is usually covered by the Communications Department. Anthony Blake, the Head of Facilities Management for the Sports Company said he did not have the cost of travel for the three officials from the company but promised to provide the figure to the committee in writing. Barrow denied newspaper reports that one of the persons who made the trip had been transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister.

Barrow said the size of the delegation was the cost of doing business. 
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