THA Chief Secretary: Contractors should be paid by this week

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine. – File Photo

THA CHIEF SECRETARY Farley Augustine is hoping that all of the outstanding money owed to Tobago contractors will be paid by this week.

On February 21, Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce vice-chairman Demi John Cruickshank said funds were transferred to the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development to pay some contractors, several of whom were owed millions of dollars by the THA.

During a news conference on March 8, at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, Augustine was asked to give an update on the payments.

He told reporters, “I did my part, which was to make the allocation available and make the releases available to the Division of Infrastructure. The execution of the instruction, that’s on the public servants.”

Augustine, who is also the Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy, said he has been pushing for the money to be paid.

“I don’t want to use this (news conference) as the platform for which to treat with the lethargic response to the matter but I had some conversations with some accountants in the space and I am pushing them as I can legally push them to ensure that the necessary payments are made very early next week (this week).

“But true to my promise, I made available the funds on the date and time that I said I would make it available and it is unfortunate that that matter has not been closed as yet. But I hope that it can be rectified early next week (this week).”

At the briefing, Augustine said a tier three response to the oil spill was still in effect in Tobago.

“We are at that very same tier three level because we have to continue working with international partners to treat with this matter. We have TT Salvage here. That is an American company. We have Kaizen here. Kaizen is a Canadian-based company. We still have expert help from OSRL (Oil Spill Response Ltd) here.

“We are working with the recommendations of Petrobras here. That’s out of Brazil. And we have the United Nations and other agencies who are here and who are also contributing to the efforts. So we continue to operate at the same tier level at this point.”

Approximately 15 km along Tobago’s south-western coast was polluted by bunker fuel from an overturned barge – the Gulfstream – which was found lodged on a reef near the Cove Eco Industrial Park on February 7. The barge was being towed from Panama to Guyana by a tugboat, the Solo Creed. The owners of both vessels have yet to be identified.

Although various teams have cleaned significant portions of the coastline, the bunker fuel continues to pose a threat to the mangroves, fishing zone and shoreline along the coast. There are reports that the spill has also reached the waters in Bonaire and Grenada.