Al-Rawi: Sangre Grande Corporation sitting on $1m

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Faris Al-Rawi, prepares to debate in Parliament on April 23. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

RURAL Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi says the recent eviction of councillors of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation (SGRC) from their offices for non-payment of rent was the result of poor management by the SGRC, and not because his ministry did not release funding to the corporation.

Al-Rawi made this comment in the Senate at the Red House in Port of Spain, on April 22.

Earlier this month, SGRC chairman Kenwyn Phillip and two councillors, Neil Da Silva and Calvin Seecharan, claimed councillors were evicted from their offices because requests to the ministry for money to pay their rent were not actioned.

They asked for the ministry to release the appropriate funding.

Al-Rawi described the situation as unfortunate, but said the answer was management.

“The corporation sits on over $1 million of unspent balances. The corporation has received 48 per cent of its annual allocation releases and has requested its other 52 per cent.”

The SGRC, he said, “is well-stocked with money. Management is critical.”

He said the ministry had held a recent retreat with the CEOs of all 14 local government corporations.

Up to now, he said, “Not a single request or urgency flag was put up in respect of this matter.

“One could well imagine that when you’re sitting on almost $1 million of unspent monies.”

Referring to Opposition Senator Damian Lyder, who asked him about funding at the SGRC, Al-Rawi said, “Perhaps my learned friend is flagging the difficulties in the corporation as run by his own party. That’s all I can say.”

The SGRC is one of seven local government corporations controlled by the UNC.

Lyder claimed to have a letter the SGRC had sent to the ministry in January asking for releases of funding for rent.

Looking at Lyder, Al-Rawi said, “There is a word – ‘patchwork.’ When you seek to patch things together in an unspecified grounding, you end up with a submission like that.”

Referring to information he received on his cellphone, Al-Rawi told senators, “Releases were made up to the 8th of April 2024 with respect to expenditure for the month of April. It’s documented in the Standing Finance Committee (of the House of Representatives) and in the budgetary cycle that we told all corporations that we would have to apply the utilisation of virement and monies moving from head to head (of expenditure) this year.

“All other corporations have done this.”

Al-Rawi added, “If councillors have been put out of their offices by the own failings of their establishment, it really says a lot because there are a lot of methods to meet expenditure.”

He identified using unspent balances, virements and requests for urgency as some of those methods.

Al-Rawi said the Chaguanas Borough Corporation, which is also controlled by the UNC, contacted the ministry for sand and other materials, and the ministry is working on that request.

“I’m really quite surprised. In fact the only request that we received that was urgent from the SGRC was the request for a luxury vehicle for its chairman.”

Opposition senators made no response to this statement.

Senate President Nigel de Freitas stood up at this point to say the time to ask urgent questions was over.