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Betrayal of trust

The revelations of irregularities within the UNC regime have now reached an unbelievable level. A series of probes, investigations and audits into operations of the previous government have produced such a record of misconduct in office that it leaves us at a loss for words to actually describe it. Indeed, what now really surprises us is not so much the extent of the wrongdoing but rather the general complacency of our society in the face of it. After all, the UNC government was elected into office by the people to take care of the people's business; but are the people not concerned, not bothered, not upset by all that we are now seeing and hearing, this betrayal of our trust?

The situation could hardly be more depressing than what the Auditor General's report has had to say about the goings on at TIDCO. The scenario as described is a graphic illustration of what we have already noted about the UNC's approach to government, that being elected into office was regarded, first and foremost, as an opportunity for self-seeking rather than an opportunity to administer the affairs of the country. The total disregard for proper procedure, the unauthorised expenditure of huge sums, the award of contracts without tender and, above all, the lack of accountability combine to create a monstrosity out of a state agency originally established to promote the country's tourism industry.

But what, we may well ask, has TIDCO done to develop tourism in TT? Conspicuously nothing! Indeed, the agency has dismally failed to fulfil its mandate since, instead of prospering, the industry has lapsed into a serious crisis with the hotels of Tobago struggling to maintain a viable occupancy.

This failure, however, did nothing to prevent TIDCO from paying its president a huge salary and its staff members "performance awards". Mr Vishnu Ramlogan, during the two years and ten months he served as TIDCO president, collected more than $3 million in salary alone. On one occasion, Mr Ramlogan was "awarded" a bonus of $124,260 but, according to the Auditor General's report, no basis for this payment was provided for audit. In fact, the Auditor General found the need to question the criteria and apparent disparity in fixing the salaries of TIDCO executives.

In light of all this, taxpayers may now want to know what is TIDCO's record of "performance", what successes has this agency achieved in advancing the interests of the country, what justification, in other words, can it offer for this kind of expenditure? Are the road paving programme and the staging of the Miss Universe Pageant for which no financial accounting has apparently been given to the Auditor General among its proud achievements?

The situation, it may well appear, could not get any worse than this. But the revelations have been coming so thick and fast that we can only wonder in our bewilderment when the next demoralising scandal will break upon us. When he took his stand against the UNC government, former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj described the corruption he saw as "rampant", and the disclosures that have followed his break with the UNC have certainly served to support his assessment.

As far as this newspaper is concerned, it grieves us to have to report and comment upon these revelations, but it is a responsibility to the country we cannot evade. Indeed, we feel an even greater sense of urgency at a time when there is no parliament to scrutinise and expose such wrongdoing.

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Betrayal of trust
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Panday got a FCB $315,000 credit card
$60,000 a month to qualify for $315,000 card
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