Petal Ann Roberts is first female THA Secretary of Finance

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Petal-Ann Roberts –

CHARTERED accountant Petal-Ann Roberts has created history in becoming the first woman to be appointed Secretary of Finance in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

Roberts is expected to take the oath of office on Friday during a simple ceremony at President’s House, St Ann’s. She will be accompanied by Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, who gave up the finance portfolio in his THA realignment exercise last month.

Roberts was sworn in as a councillor during the debate on the THA’s budget for 2024/2025 in the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough, on June 27. Presiding Officer Abby Taylor administered the oath.

She replaced human resource professional Certica Williams-Orr, whose appointment as a councillor was revoked at midnight on June 26. Williams-Orr had last served as Assistant Secretary in the Division of Finance, Trade and the Economy.

Delivering a statement in the House, Augustine said Roberts’ appointment as a councillor was in accordance with section 21. 5 of the THA Act 40 of 1996.

“Mrs Roberts’ introduction to this House today is as a result of an answer to our ongoing call for a coalition of the competent and willing,” he said.

Augustine said Roberts had 15 years of dedicated experience in the THA’s public service. She previously served as senior financial analyst and chief management accountant under the Division of Finance for eight years and Office of the Chief Secretary for seven years, respectively.

Roberts, who was accompanied by her husband, Keron, at the sitting, also served as a director on several state companies, nationally and under the THA.

With a comprehensive background in financial management and strategic planning, Augustine said, Roberts has consistently demonstrated her expertise and leadership in various high-level roles.

“She brings a proven track record in financial reporting budgeting and public sector accounting, reinforced by international certification in public financial management and international public sector accounting standards.”

In welcoming Roberts to the THA, Augustine said, “This executive that I lead will now constitute five women and four men, making it the first time in the history of this country that an executive branch of government has more women than men, thereby making this administration, on yet another front, the most progressive executive in the country and the region.”

Augustine, in his statement, also thanked Williams-Orr for her service over the past two and a half years.

He said she was brought in at the infancy of his administration to provide “sound technical guidance and advice on the inner workings of the public service of Trinidad and Tobago.

“She delivered over the past two and half years unparalleled wisdom and direction on how to interface with and to reform the public service in Tobago.”

Augustine said through her strategic inputs as assistant secretary in the Office of the Chief Secretary dealing specifically with labour issues, the THA was able to regularise the working conditions of URP workers by firstly raising their salaries and improving the terms and conditions of their employment to include paid vacation leave, sick leave, casual leave, maternity leave, paternity leave and bereavement leave.

He added through her work in 2022, salaries were raised for workers at the bottom of the social ladder, such as in CEPEP and the Reforestation programme in the Division of Food Security.

“At that time, CEPEP and URP workers in Tobago, for the first time, were higher paid than their counterparts in Trinidad with an additional $29.3 million in their pockets.”

Augustine said Williams-Orr was also instrumental in ensuring that in under two years in government, the Divisions of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development and Health, Wellness and Social Protection, employed on their respective daily rated cadres a total of 527 Tobagonians.

“For that to happen, Mrs Williams-Orr spent invaluable woman hours with senior public servants in both divisions working to clean up the processes and ensure adherence to long held traditions and legal requirements for such hirings.”

He said she also assisted with the regularisation of the ECCE teacher establishment at the Division of Education to the extent that those teachers now have legitimate contracts.

“Before the revocation of her appointment at 11.59 pm on June 26, Williams-Orr had already set in train similar regularisation activities that would be completed in fiscal 2025, namely for the Divisions of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport, Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation and Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development.”