Imbert heads to Privy Council in legal battle with Auditor General

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Finance Minister Colm Imbert. – File photo

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert intends to take the matter of Jaiwantie Ramdass (the Auditor General) vs The Minister of Finance and the Cabinet of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to the nation’s highest court for final determination.

In a release on June 21, Imbert said he took note of the Court of Appeal’s decision earlier that day to overturn the High Court judge Westmin James’ June 3 decision to refuse permission to the Auditor General to allow her to challenge the legality of Cabinet’s decision to appoint an investigation team, led by retired judge David Harris, to investigate several issues related to the Report of the Auditor General on the Public Accounts for the Financial Year 2023.

Ramdass complained that Imbert’s recommendation to Cabinet to initiate the probe, appoint an investigative team to investigate, make findings and recommendations, and report to the Finance Minister, was biased. She also complained that the Harris team was mandated to make findings on her conduct and that Imbert was responsible for their remuneration.

The Court of Appeal granted Ramdass leave, stopped the investigation of the Auditor General and ordered that her lawsuit will be heard by another judge in the High Court.

The dispute arose in April after the ministry sought to deliver amended public accounts to explain and rectify an error in which the government’s revenue was understated to the original sum of $3.4 billion and subsequently $2.9 billion.

She said her audit team could not reconcile the amended records based on documents it audited, and the amended records appeared to be backdated to the original statutory deadline date in January.

On May 7, the Ministry of Finance announced the appointment of the investigative team to probe the understatement of revenue for the 2023 financial year. On May 12, attorneys representing Ramdass issued a new pre-action protocol letter to Imbert, challenging the Cabinet-appointed team.

In the release, Imbert said, “Having read the decision of the Honourable Court of Appeal and sought advice from Senior Counsel, the Minister of Finance is the firm view that the issues and points of law in this matter are of sufficient public interest and importance that an application should be made for this matter to be taken to our highest court, the Privy Council, for final determination, without delay.

“Accordingly, the Minister of Finance has instructed the government attorneys to immediately apply for leave to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as an urgent matter.”