Al-Rawi insists Chaguanas Corporation has money to pay workers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Rural and Local Government Faris Al-Rawi. –

CHAGUANAS mayor Faaiq Mohammed is on Monday expected to meet with the union representing Chaguanas Borough Corporation (CBC) workers “to discuss the way forward” over unpaid wages.

Mohammed told Newsday the meeting is scheduled to start at 10 am. The workers are represented by National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW).

“After meeting, we will send out a release,” he said on Sunday.

Last week, Mohammed said the CDC was short on finances and unable to pay 624 workers.

Mohammed said a depletion of funds— for which he blamed the Rural Development and Local Government Minister ministry —may force the corporation to close its doors on Monday.

In response, Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi rubbished claims the CDC had no money to pay workers.

Mohammed also promised to comment on the minister’s statement.

“I would also be responding to that point by point,” Mohammed added.

On Friday, Al-Rawi said mayor’s claims were “very unfortunate and deeply troubling.”

Al-Rawi said he was “deeply alarmed” the CBC “should dishonestly allege” it had no money to pay salaries.

Al-Rawi also said he personally convened a meeting with all mayors, chairmen, chief executive and financial officers, requesting submission of all claims for a shortfall in money as well as for arrears in payments.

He said the ministry “chased the corporations” for submissions and also embarked on an aggressive exercise to ascertain the extent of unspent balances held by each regional body.

Al-Rawi added that the ministry’s team met with the CBC and the mayor on August 15 to discuss issues, including supplementary funding required for wages and Cost of Living Allowances (COLA).

“At this meeting, we discussed the fact that the CBC had approximately $1.3million audited unspent balances available for expenditure and $7.3 million in unaudited unspent balances in its corporation account.

“It was agreed that the ministry would authorise the $1.3 million in audited unspent monies to be used for wages and COLA and that it would cause the immediate audit of the unspent balances to allow the CBC to meet the approximately $1.8 million in expenditure required for the continued employment of the workers.

“It was also agreed that the CBC would use its overdraft facilities in the event of delay and that the ministry would look at alternatives as we approached the financial year end in September 2022,” Al-Rawi said in the statement.

He added the ministry ensured that the CBC’s unspent balances were audited and the exercise was completed.

“The CBC is aware of the completion of the audit of unspent balances as the matter is on the desk of the CEO of the CBC, as the mayor is well aware.

“It is now within the remit of the CEO to sign off on the audited unspent balances statement and to request the use of the audited balances to pay outstanding wages and COLA, as agreed.

The statement also said along with an unspent balance of approximately $8.6 million, the corporation was expected to receive an additional $200,000 from the ministry to facilitate payments to personnel and repairs to key vehicular assets within the CBC.

It further noted that the CBC only requested the expedition of $150,000 out of its unspent balances in a written request on September 2, which was approved by the ministry.

“In all the circumstances it is beyond unfortunate that the CBC would choose to willfully and callously impose confusion and despair among 624 workers that they have publicly threatened to affect when they are sitting on approximately $8.6 million in unspent balances, which they can and ought to use to meet obligations.”

Al-Rawi urged the corporation to “disengage from its present course of action” as it “certainly does not redound to the benefit of its burgesses and employees.”

He also said it was reprehensible to threaten workers for alleged non-receipt of approximately $3 million when the corporation was sitting on over $8.6million.