PM on SSA audit: ‘We are following the evidence’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. – File photo by Ayanna Kinsale

THE Prime Minister says the audit into the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) is continuing and there is no time frame for its completion at present.

Dr Rowley made this statement in the House of Representatives on April 19.

Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh asked Rowley if there was a time frame for the audit.

Rowley said, “Given the nature of the exercise, it would be quite inappropriate to give a deadline.

“We simply have to follow the evidence and treat with it as it comes, and that’s what’s happening.”

Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George disallowed a question from Indarsingh about whether SSA director (ret) Major Roger Best is still on administrative leave.

Indarsingh also asked if Trinidad and Tobago’s ambassador to Washington, DC, Brig-Gen Anthony Phillips-Spencer, “is part of the established organisational structure of the SSA, or is he being engaged as a consultant?”

Annisette-George disallowed that question too.

A statement on March 3 from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) said, “The National Security Council (NSC) has recommended to the Cabinet that the head of the SSA be replaced immediately and that new leadership and management be installed with despatch.”

Rowley is the chairman of the NSC and head of the Cabinet.

The OPM added, “This recommendation has been effected and as of Saturday March 2 the head of the SSA has been sent on administrative leave.”

Best was appointed in July 2019 on a three-year contract. Phillips-Spencer was recalled from the US on March 2 and appointed acting SSA director by President Christine Kangaloo.

The OPM said Phillips-Spencer is initiating an extensive review and audit of all personnel, equipment and processes in the SSA.

Subsequently Rowley said, “The Government acted on information from the police. I say no more .”He was asked whether a police presence at Knowsley, the SSA’s office in Port of Spain on Sunday was related to the Government’s decision.

At a post-Cabinet news conference on April 18, Rowley said he expects to be briefed on April 22 about the ongoing investigation into the SSA.

Under the Interception of Communications Act, the SSA director, police commissioner and Defence Force chief of staff are the only three people who can legally authorise the interception of communications.