GISL, CNMG—‘A big waste’ of $$

By Gail Alexander
October 11,

Minister of Communications, Maxie CuffieA Government Information Services Ltd (GISL) CEO was also hired as a consultant for a state company which bought him an SUV vehicle, and a CNMG freelancer was collecting “four salaries” under the past People’s Partnership (PP) administration, Communication Minister Maxie Cuffie revealed yesterday.

Cuffie’s disclosures came in his 2016 budget debate contribution in Parliament.

Referring to “malpractices” at GISL and “PP party hacks” at CNMG, Cuffie’s revelations caused exclamations of astonishment from People’s National Movement (PNM) government MPs.

Stating there were bloated budgets at both GISL and CNMG, he said GISL was the most bloated. Cuffie noted the PP administration spent $90 million on state media at CNMG, GISL and the Parliament Channel. This was the figure up to early last week, he said. Late last week, Cuffie discovered that an additional $80 million was spent on GISL alone.

Claiming similarities to the PP’s ill-fated Life Sport programme, Cuffie said there was “sheer wastage and corruption in the PP’s communication division, whether in the prime minister’s office or Trade Ministry.” He said this involved TV programmes, billboards and other items.

Cuffie said he had been one of 2,075 public officers who lost jobs after June 2010 with the incoming of the PP administration.

The former CEO of GISL under the past PNM administration, Cuffie said GISL has spent twice its budget over the PP term than when he left it and its wage bill increased by 26 per cent annually, “…with the feeding at the trough by friends, family, boyfriends and girlfriends of PP members, and high PP officials…”

He claimed structures were lax regarding academic qualifications for recruitment, “No qualifications needed except a birth certificate.”

Cuffie said there were three GISL contracts, including for a consultant resident in T&T who had been paid US$10,000 monthly and who lived in Westmoorings. He said the person was also hired as a consultant to a state company which bought him an SUV vehicle.

“The GISL board made him acting CEO from January 2015, but it was a conflict of interest as the consultant was also at a state company…”

He said the person received US$190,000 or $1.2 million (TT) and had “threatened” the permanent secretary if the latter didn’t allow his contract to continue.

PP MP Roodal Moonilal asked Cuffie to name the person. Cuffie said he was sure Moonilal, the former prime minister, and Rodney Charles would know who the person was.

Cuffie said internal auditors expressed concern about breaches of tendering policies, procedures for election, overriding of controls, non-adherence to rules including those for advertising vacant posts, staff budgets regarding freelancers and getting value for money issues.

He told the opposition PP bench to ask Tabaquite MP Surujrattan Rambachan how many family members were employed there.

Cuffie claimed former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s speech writer was also at GISL and “his family also feasted at the trough.”

He said a former Congress of the People (COP) chairman was paid $200,000 to do a communication plan for GISL, and it was later found to have been plagiarised from the Internet from a province in Canada. It was rejected by the ministry. But the person refused to return the payment. Cuffie also claimed COP leader Prakash Ramadhar said nothing about it and he didn’t believe Ramadhar had not known.

Cuffie said he left GISL a debt-free company and now found it owing suppliers and media companies millions.

Cuffie claimed GISL’s Project Icon, comprising video clips of PP ministers speaking, cable ads and electronic billboards, was a “con job” done by a man who “had a way with words” and who was the beneficiary of $15 million.

He claimed the project was called a strategic plan but was really a costly means to “enrich a few” through which the UNC hoped to get elected via its message—“Your Government Working For You.”

The Icon programme was meant to include the use of 500 screens and the service providers were paid in full, although only 50 screens were installed, Cuffie claimed.

“The Project Icon was a web of mismanagement, vanity and waste. The new GISL board has been mandated to stop wastage and hold the executive accountable for actions—but we’re still getting to the bottom of the wastage and corruption and I intend to keep Government and Parliament apprised.”

CNMG—PP party hack haven?

Under the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration, Cuffie said, state-owned CNMG became a “UNC party organ,” lost money, and was worse off when the PP left office than when the Partnership began.

“It was a haven for PP supporters. Party hacks were also paid $1.2 million to go on air as part of the No-Rowley campaign,” he added.

Cuffie said the staff wage bill was up 26 per cent and its newsroom head count was 35 fixed employees and 50 freelancers.

“The total wage bill for fixed-term employees plus freelancers grew from $17.4 million in 2010 to $24.4 million by September 2015, an increase of 40 per cent. I understand the reasons for this increase in the headcount…, the practice of executive instructions for retaining services from freelancers and consultants, with total disregard for policy guidelines for state enterprises.

“Another reason was inconsistent requests for the outsourcing of freelance services. One consultant and freelancer earned two sets of fees amounting to $36,900 per month. Another earned four salary fees amounting to $46,000 per month.”

He added, “Additionally, freelancer services from Ground Report and FaceOff programmes were also significant cost increases to the freelance bill amounting to $793,692.44 and $427,700 respectively, in 2014, for the two programmes.

“The situation was also due to changes in the organisation structure by creating new positions, without proper approval and above standard market rates for specially selected freelance services, while dedicated and committed employees have been largely ignored and demoralised.”

Cuffie said CNMG had weak performance and low audience ratings, including its morning show. He said the former prime minister’s “debate with herself” didn’t help its rating and being a “political machine” affected its credibility.

“In the Market Facts and Opinion surveys for 2012, 2013 and 2014, none of the programmes ranked within the first 16. The performance of the morning show was dismal and was nowhere on the radar of viewers.”

He said Government was holding the station executive accountable and the CNMG board would soon be advertising for a station CEO.
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8 thoughts on “GISL, CNMG—‘A big waste’ of $$”

  1. I remember when the PP got into power in 2010 the same was said of PNM hacks in strategic positions. Now it is the PNM turn to brandish this cautionary stick on the PP regime. We Trinis know how to recycle corruption. Regardless of who is in power we all need to feel ashamed as a country who is getting closer to 2020. Kamla brandish the stick on her colleagues who were falling short on executing duties during power, to day she is facing survival within her organization. We know that Manning never brandish the stick except on Rowley. The tables are now reversed Manning was still deposed, let’s see what game plan Rowley will come up with? Maxie suddenly switch his support for the transit system after raising questions earlier on.

    1. Trinidadian? – YES! Mindset? – DIFFERENT
      Unlike our good friend TMan, no one can accuse Loyal Trini of having a comatose mindset on a topic as race, to regurgitate on Indian progress Vs African immobility every time a new article is introduced. It is also obvious that Loyal Trini is widely read and gathers information from a variety of sources, therefore, it would be safe to assume that she is sufficiently qualified to make sound and studied judgements on most matters. Politics is no different in that respect, she knows her politics academically and historically as well. I say all this as a prelude to my observations of her differentiality on matters close to her ethnic sensibilities. “Kamla brandish the stick on her colleagues who were falling short on executing duties during power, to day she is facing survival within her organization.” It is easy for her to state with conviction that Kamla was so stern in her duties, that she “got rid” of her ministers who did not perform well. “We Trinis know how to recycle corruption.” This means that corruption is endemic in our culture and it does not matter who governs, correction is the same. It also nullifies the difference between PNM corruption and UNC corruption. In other words corruption is corruption. Under Manning corruption we had Calder Hart corruption and Church on the Hill corruption. Trinidad and Tobago was mad like hell and vowed to make sure Manning was gone. Under Kamla there was Reshmigate, OPVgate, Prisongate, emailgate, Lifesportgate just to name a few. In terms of overspending, there is almost nothing to show for the reported $290B they say the spent. Under Manning there is the Financial Centre, the Waterfront Centre and more to show for much less. Although Kamla did not “brandish the stick” until the public forced her into taking such action, Manning, on learning on the behavior of his ministers forced them to give up their ministerial posts without the pressure being brought upon him to do so. Incidentally, Kamla was the one making the corruption claims which turned out to be UNTRUE and the courts had to throw out the cases against the ministers. Under Kamla, virtually hundreds of millions are yet to accounted for whilst under Manning there was no such issues. Yet Loyal Trini said “Manning never brandish the stick except on Rowley.”. Manning was never my favorite PM nor do I think that he made wise political decisions in crucial times of testing, but he was and continues to be an excellent administrator who really cared for Trinidad and Tobago and really developed the infrastructures of this country where ALL can benefit and NOT just a few. By close to 100 percent of the non-Indian population Kamla was and continues to be a FAILURE but reading Loyal Trini’s view of her stewardship she was well accomplished. When one compares the misdeeds of both characters Manning vs Kamla, it can easily be discerned that Kamla was by far the very worst in terms of accountability, administration, stewardship, and ability. Manning gave us the biggest earner of revenues for this country National Gas Company, today the only thing we hear from the detractors is that this new government got rid of the Indian managerial staff. What is seen and understood here is not an objective view of accomplishments by our government but rather who (be it Indian or African) ran the government. Objectively what is really history is that under the PNM U.W.I was built in a UNC district, PLIPDECO was built in a UNC district but when given the choice to be objective Kamla was and continues to be ethnic in terms of her choices of development. Kamla was given the best opportunity accorded to a political leader of this country in 2010, where many PNM seats was passed on for her to use as a majority. She chose to turn her back on such accomplishments and reverted to ethnic and religious kinship instead, thereby relegating the confidence placed in her (by these constituencies) to nought. As a matter, she campaigned SOLELY on her “popularity” and used every opportunity to remind the population that she was more “popular” than Rowley at every turn. Yet with all that effort and expenditure far outspending the PNM she was rejected by those outside the INDIAN community. The election results were and continues to be an indictment on her performance as Prime Minister. So Loyal Trini a Trinidadian you are but of a different mindset when you think in terms of ethnicity.

  2. Michael Harris who was often quoted by PNM supporters as an journalist who criticized the PP is proving to be just thst. here are some of his comments on the budget:
    I am afraid I cannot join the chorus of commentators who have been singing the praises of the budget presented last Monday by the Minister of Finance. As far as I am concerned, far from it being a “good budget” or “a just and courageous” budget, what the Minister presented last Monday was a smorgasbord of contradictory measures lacking in coherence and vision and serving only to make it more certain that ours shall be a painful reckoning.
    Let us cut through all the chaff and dross which the budget contained and focus on the core issues. There were two and only two questions which this new Minister of Finance was obligated to address and answer in his budget presentation. The first of these questions is immediate and urgent and is simply put. How are we going to reconcile and bring into balance $63 billion of expenditure versus $41 billion of revenue?

    Also, Who do you believe on the GISL, CNMG affair?
    The former CEO, Ken Ali has repudiated all of Cuffie’s figures, presenting his side of the story?
    Do you believe Shamfa Cudjoe or Darren Ganga? Darren has also accused Cudjoe of attempting to destroy his reputation by misrepresenting the facts in the House.

    1. Darren Ganga? The same Darren Ganga that rose to prominence after being selected to the cricket team AFTER the UNC first Wheeled & Dealed into office in 1995? Finbar Ganga who was minister of energy in that first unc government is his uncle. Darren Ganga is secon generation UNC.
      BTW Did Darren protest over his UNC party firing the only cricket royalty in trinidad when they entered office?yesss Lara was in UTT i beleive & they fired him! Why use a cricket royalty of african descent when you could get a …..what’s his name again? Oh yeah darrsn ganga to represent cricket? Who the hell is darren ganga? Ask any cricketer in the world who Brian Lara is…in fact, ask any indian or pakistani national…lol…lol…who is Darren
      who? And yet since kamla came into office thers was this massive PR campaign at UTT for Darren Ganga? Selling instructional DVD’s in cricket by Not Brian Lara,But Darren Ganga…Finbar Ganga ex-unc minister of energy’s nephew?give me a break?oh and about the Caribbean Premiere League..have you all noticed that under UNC in the last 5 years 3mths….this CPL came into fruition and T&T’s Red Steel team is owned by a bolywood actor Shah Rukh Khan who is married to a hindu, jamaica tallawahs are owner by scottish hollywood actor, Barbados tridents is owned by another owned by another hollywood actor who ade both white and other teams are owned by indians from mauritius and Fiji/india…..who decided that shah rukh khan could own T&T’s team? Who sourced him for the Idea? Remember as soon as skamliar came into office, there was a massive 200 person official plane ride to india with unknown indian trinidadia businessmen….how official visit to get indian invest8rs to buy out not just the T&T, butttt the whole Damn caribbean! By the way…Darren Ganga’s new bride is fresh from pakistan? Coincidence? Vasant Bharath’s wife Arvinder Bharath is also from india..her father was a diplomat for india…the barbados Tridents’ owner, actor Mark Wahlberg was asked to buy the team by a pakistani businessman living in barbados…if we continue like this it would truly be the West Indias team.

  3. Yesss…Darren Ganga’s wife is a pakistani who owns the “House Of Jaipur” local fashion modelling business that started after UNC wheeled & Dealed into office in 2010? Arvinder Bharath wife of vasant is now head of RBCTT.
    Question: Is it a coincidence that RBTT reverted back to RBCTT almost as soon as skamliar came into office? Coincidence? Remember before 1970 many major companies in T&T were owned by american, canadian & europeans who were very racist in their hiring practices that emulated white colonialism…they would have only foriegn and local whites working in the banks especially…unless you count the janitors and plumbers etc….
    After africans marched and protested for T&T to own these companies and have africans employed, all that changed as The PNM put political pressure for these changes….well at least for a while til decades later,the indians swooped in and took them over (look at FCB ,Republic Bank, & RBc)

  4. In viewing the debate of the 2016 budget several things appears to be evident, especially previous matters that were both controversial and manipulative. Emailgate, composition of the Integrity Commission and the criminal handling of cases in the domain of the Police as it affect members of parliament. Looking at the presidency, it does not bode well for us as citizens that we have a figurehead that has the interest of the country at heart. I have heard many conversations where people referred to him as “the UNC President”, and that does not sound well for the person sitting in that chair tone so callously labelled. It is not without evidence, that this labelling is being encouraged by the acts of the individual himself. It is generally felt that his silence on the housing allowance of $28,000 per month is a deal made with the him by the previous government for favorable certification of their deeds. In the wake of the resignation of the Venerable Justice Ventour, as a deputy Chairman is significant. Justice Ventour gave his reasons, based on the actions of the Chairman of the IC, which he found to be unconstitutional, by declaring a lack of evidence without pursuing the search for evidence. It was found that the same Chairman of the IC, was formerly using letterheads from the then Prime Minister’s lawyer to correspond matters pertaining to law. The then Leader of the Opposition asked the President to dissolve the IC and appoint a new one because of the news pertaining to the Chairman was that of disrepute but the President refused in the face of such damning evidence. Top make matters worse, after the election it was found that the same Chairman was paid a hefty sum of $250,000.00 just for giving advice to an arm of government and the President still turned a blind eye on this kind of behavior. The Presidential office is also a symbolic voice of the people, while we are not accustomed to petitioning him to act on our behalf, we are always hopeful that he would act in the best interest of the people BUTTTT………… there appears to be a lack of sensitivity on the part of this president to exercise proper morality in the exigencies of his duties. And this is bothersome. It is time that the President reallises that he is no longer sitting on the bench but in the Courtyard of Justice and FairPlay. There is this sense that when he delivers his speeches the judge almost always appear to be speaking rather than the guardian of our democracy. The morality that emanates from his speeches always leave one to wonder which president is speaking, the judge or the guardian of our democracy? His post election antics leaves a lot to be desired. It is being said that the nine members he nominated as “independents” are in fact UNC sympathizers. He deliberately left out the people of Tobago and instead appear to to fulfill a UNC policy of “equity”. Now, while most use the word equity as meaning equality of opportunity, the UNC uses the word to mean a quantitative distribution. If one looks at the personnel of his “independents” it would be noticed that the senators were “equally” racially divided and not qualitatively appointed. In summary, it is fair to say that our President is yet to show that he is his “own man”. He is yet to exercise a sense of FairPlay as that of his predecessor the late A.N.R Robinson. When all is said and done, we knew that A.N.R as he was affectionately called, had the interest of the country foremost at heart and not serving some hidden partisan agenda.
    The Integrity Commission as is now constituted is a lame and disrespected body of individuals. There is every evidence that the Chairman is partisan and collectively weak and unfair. His character is been diminished and sullied as a fair and competent person to hold that positions because of his dealings in and out of the IC Chambers. He deserves to be let go or disband the Integrity Commission. As a matter of fact many now see that body not as one seeking integrity but one that is now being called the “Instrument of Corruption”. With such a label, you would think that the President would be concerned, but he is not!
    The contributions of Roodal Moonilal brought back the need to re-visit emailgate in my opinion. The issue was manipulated by the previous government in order to execute a leglisative verdict of “fabrication” on the part of Dr. Rowley. Moonilal’s contribution emphasized that point when he made reference to it.
    It is in the interest of the people and of democracy to have this issue settled openly and within the boundaries of proper procedural jurisdictions so that an eventual end can be achieved.
    Finally, the handling of criminal cases by the Police of members of parliament. When we elect people to serve on our behalf, we must be satisfied that those individuals so chosen, MUST be outstanding men and women. We need to know that they are people of integrity and they must operate with equanimity in the pursuit of their duties as members of parliament. In the past few years, there has been several cases of criminal conduct that has been reported to the Police and they (the police) have remained mum in every instance. The Police owe us a duty to be diligent and speedy in resolving these investigations, that would either convict or absolve these people. By so doing, our democracy is protected, the individuals are relieved of accusations and the public is allowed to have a clear conscience in the support of or bedeviling of the undividuals concerned. There are cases of the former AG whose behavior in prison gate, the letters from the former Solicitor General, the badging of David West to tell lies and other behavior reeks of criminality. If he is to be absolved of these accusations, the police must act with dispatch to release their findings, so that the country can move on. Meanwhile, this same man is practicing law and having the same privileges as lawyers who are not so accused. This is s dis-service to the profession and to all the people. Then there is the former Prime Minister. As leader of the country (at the time), we needed to know if we had a leader, consistent with her oath of office or a criminal running our country. In any true democracy this is of utmost importance to be deliberated and investigated to either absolve the PM or let the country know what kind of character she is/was. These duties fall fair and square on the Police to be of service to this country and up to this point they have failed miserably.

  5. I have also heard of him as the unc president. Question: His wife is a hidu correct? Is her parents’ & their business major supporters of The UNC? Did you see her face during the swearing ceremony, especially just as Dr. Rowley’s name was called? Check it…I thought she may have sipped some unsweetened sour lemonade just then!
    I can’t say definitively if he is a UNC president but i can analyse his actions..out of the 9 independent senators that he appointed recently
    (1) at least 7 are known UNC affiliates
    (2) more that half are indian
    (3) Two of them are 2/3 of the infamous Trio that voted for the runoff bill & made it possible to be passe (David Small &
    Dhansyar Mahabir)
    (4) 1 is a political appointee on a state board in the last 5 years by the unc up until elections(White)
    (5) No Tobago represenative
    (6) His speech at the ceremonial opening was what you would expect of a UNC propagandist…all of a sudden he is hurrying to appoint someone to be in charge of procurement…all of a sudden he has all these lofty goals for T&T…all of a sudden ethnic fairness & cohesiveness is needed….
    Give Me A Break

  6. Correction…AT LEAST one was a political appointee by kamla’s cabinet…and as for the final two? Who knows? Did you notice how loud & obnoxious mahabir seemed during the press conference? Did you hear him say that the government has to appease the senators if they want support? Or something to that effect of appease..? Remember how as soon as he (carmona) got in office he revoked the senatorial appointments of his pre-decessor max richards? remember how he BARKED at Marlene McDonald in Parliament? He knowingly embarassed her!

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