Getting serious with errant MPs

Express Editorial
March 20, 2016, 9:49 pm AST –

ParliamentIT is disingenuous for Members of Parliament to be offering to refund salaries paid to relatives in breach of parliamentary rules, to quibble over definitions of employment, to suggest that new rules should not affect old behaviour or to dismiss them as mere guidelines. The fact that one of those MPs is Wade Mark, former speaker of the House under whom the parliamentary rules regarding employment at MPs constituency offices were reviewed and changed before being implemented in the current term, is scandalous.

The public expects a higher standard from the people to whom it has charged the responsibility for making laws. The very least expected of them is to observe the rules of Parliament and the laws of the land, both of which prevent members of Parliament from using public funds to provide employment for defined categories of relatives.

It is patent nonsense for any MP to argue that the new parliamentary rules should not apply to relatives not previously included in the category of relatives that MPs cannot employ. When the rules change, behaviour is expected to change. Once they were given the new rule book, it was the responsibility of all MPs to ensure that their actions were compliant.

It is not only the rules of Parliament that forbid incestuous employment. Under the heading of “Code of Conduct”, the Integrity in Public Life Act is clear in stating that public officials covered by that law shall not use their office for the “improper advancement” of their family’s personal or financial interests.

The principle contained in the parliamentary rule is sound and consistent with parliamentary best practice in saying that when it comes to the use of public funds, those who hold high public office must avoid conflicts between their private and public interests.

As it stands now, every MP in breach of the rules must be brought to account. This means that Parliament itself must take action by first determining which MPs have flouted the new rules. What precisely is the penalty for this is to be determined but, at the very least, one expects that all persons whose employment runs afoul of the new rules will be terminated as a result of Parliament refusing to disburse payments to them. Presumably, if an MP wants to keep such person in employment, they would have to be paid either by the political party or out of the MPs personal finances., not from public funds.

The Integrity in Public Life Act should be invoked in this issue if only to bring legal clarity to the issue. Procurement legislation, which is expected to come into effect later this year, will offer further protection to the public purse from the conflict of interest that has been presented in this case.

Our MPS need to recognise that the people of Trinidad and Tobago are subscribing to a new order of transparency in the use of public funds. No amount of politicking will change this fact.


10 thoughts on “Getting serious with errant MPs”

  1. Why does Paradath have to repay $60,000? Didn’t the person work for that money. Rules sometimes could be broken, it was an honest mistake besides I think the rules should allow for at least 1 relative to work in the Constituency office.

    Where were the rule makers when Patrick hired his wife as Minister of Education, or when Keith Rowley ran CEPEP from his Constituency office. He also directed $3 million in materials for Landate. Can you see him repaying the $3 million. Shouldn’t the PM be held to a higher standard. Barry should not have to repay anything.

  2. When the government give you public funds to spend on the people’s business, then you must follow the law in spending that money. Remember, the MPs are now sub contractors on behalf of the government, he or she can hire and fire the employee.
    For example in CEPEP, the government tells the contractor that no director of the company must be employed in any of the labour teams.
    If MPs are so stupid as to hire persons as office staff without reading the rules for hiring, then they are inefficient and cannot represent their constituents.
    If these erring MPs go free and there are no consequences for breaking the law, then we may as well have a free-for-all society.
    I call on the political parties who are not in parliament; Independent Liberal Party, Alliance of Independents,
    New National Vision and Movement for Social Justice to lead a march on parliament. If we drop the ball again, we can all go to sleep feeling insecure.

    1. “If MPs are so stupid…… This is just the point ….they are stupid and should be made to feel stupid. They used our tax payers monies in a fraudulent manner and should have jail time to make. Yes we need to keep the demos going to ensure the police now do their do. BUT WE ALL KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN T&T. DO NOT FORGET THE DAY AFTER PANDAY DID HIS VERY SHORT JAIL TIME HE WAS ENJOYING A WORLD CUP MATCH IN GERMANY. WE WERE THE ONES THAT LOOKED STUPID THEN.

  3. Mamoo, firstly, no one asked Mr. Padarath to repay anything. He volunteered.
    When it comes to your beloved UNC, you have a way of putting your foot in your mouth.

    “Rules sometimes could be broken.” Then why have a rule in the first place. Does that apply to only members of the UNC? It can not be an honest mistake, if there was a rule. You seem to know everything Rowley or the PNM does wrong, but where were the rule makers when Kamla hired her sister off the books and still paying her with taxpayers money? Shouldn’t the PM be held to a higher standard?

    1. Fronts welcome back would your Prime Minister volunteer to pay back $3 million Landate money.

  4. Mamoo, I don’t know if “my” Prime Minister would volunteer to pay back anything. On the other hand, don’t let us start to talk payback. Two words, “Life Sport.”

  5. IT IS NOT ONLY ERRANT MPs ……IT IS ALL PARTY HACKS AS WELL…CHECK THIS…Petrotrin must explain $billion waste
    Tuesday, April 5 2016

    A PARLIAMENT committee has invoked its powers to call for Petrotrin officials to provide more evidence about its operations amid concerns that the company’s beleaguered ultra low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) plant project could amount to a $4 billion waste.

    Questions surrounding the project emerged last month at a hearing of the Joint Select Committee on State Enterprises, chaired by Independent Senator David Small, which saw several Petrotrin officials give evidence on the project as well as the State-owned firm’s operations.

    “We have requested a report on the ultra low sulfur diesel project,” Small told Newsday on Friday. “The committee has issued a detailed request for information.

    We have only touched the surface.” The committee – which has powers to summon officials and materials – is due to hold a meeting in coming days, the chairman said.

    Last month, the committee heard that the ULSD facility – which is meant to handle highly toxic materials such as hydrogen sulphur – was built with 200 design flaws, did not comply with required earthquake specifications and featured a beam which had bent out of shape. As in the case of the litigious World GTL project, the ULSD project was entered into during the tenure of the Malcolm Jones-led board, back in 2009.

    In 2013, Government officials said the project manager, SNC Lavalin – a Canadian firm currently facing fraud and corruption proceedings in that country – had a $102 million contract to manage the project. The initial SNC contract had been $42 million.

    Small said Petrotrin was going to pursue arbitration proceedings with the USD project’s contractor – identified at the committee hearing last month as Samsung Engineering and Construction Limited.

    “They are going to arbitration with Samsung,” Small said. “They are going to be spending millions more in court action. When is the bleeding going to stop? If when you started the build the project at one cost you have a project model and, years later, with the budget tripled, the obvious question is if that model is still relevant.

    A lot of people are to be blamed. We are looking at all aspects to this.” Small said the project may not work, even if completed by a new completion date of December 17.

    “The cost may end up being about $4 billion and still there remains a huge question mark over whether this facility will work,” Small said.

    “If you have a facility meant to handle extremly high temperatures and pressures being built below the require earthquake specifications and on a fault zone, how are you going to fix that and at what cost? This is an ongoing story.” Minister of Energy Nicole Olivierre has said the Petrotrin board is in the process of determining the way forward.

    Former Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine has called on the State to complete the project, saying the market for low-sulfur diesel remains on the ascendant.

    The Committee also intends to ask Petrotrin officials questions about health and safety issues and the problem of oil spills, Small said.

    1. Enough of this crap reporting.

      Why is only Malcolm Jones mentioned, when he demitted office in 2010, before any work was done on the contract?

      Who had detailed design responsibility? Until that question is answered, don’t insinuate that Malcolm Jones was responsible for “200 design flaws”.

      And don’t insinuate that Malcolm Jones was responsible for a bent beam that he obviously would have had no hand in establishing design specs for, nor procurement specs. He is the one person who cannot be held responsible for a bent beam. Why is Hassanali not mentioned? He was the responsible CEO when this happened.

      The earthquake spec is a red herring. An inadequacy as to earthquake spec cannot keep the plant from functioning. It merely means that there is an environmental hazard… should there be an earthquake of magnitude exceeding the specs to which the plant was designed and built, there is the risk of plant collapse or other failure, leading to potential loss of life and other environmental hazard. Faced with such risk, a policy decision must be made: either (i) scrap the project and absorb the loss, (ii) retrofit the plant up to minimum acceptable earthquake spec, or (iii) operate the plant as built and accept exposure to earthquake risk above x on the Richter scale where x is the (inadequate) level of earthquake resistance to which the plant was designed and built.

      Btw, Malcolm Jones cannot be held responsible for the choice of x. Environmental clearance is not up to Petrotrin, it is up to the appropriate arm of the Government. WHo signed off on x, when it should have been y? For sure that was not Malcolm Jones. WHo was it?

      And why is yet another biased report calling the name of Malcolm Jones in this fiasco, when he is the one guy we can be certain was not responsible?

      This is scurrilous and irresponsible reporting. That may explain why the reporter’s name is nowhere to be found.

      It is a sad reflection on the mass media that they may be so obviously bought to cater to a certain sectarian interest of the real miscreants in this matter. It is a sadder reflection when someone who claims to be an engineer peddles this c-r-a-p while adopting the pose of patriot.

      If you have facts and evidence that would implicate Malcolm Jones, bring it. But please… enough of this already…

      I withhold my peace from you, but others I say


  6. MInus the 2 million from the 4 billion Malcolm Jones needs to pay back T&T.

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