Ramlogan said the directive was issued “soon after we assumed office.”
“The Ministry of Finance in its capacity as corporation sole has in fact issued a letter to all State enterprises indicating that no significant expenditure should be incurred,” Ramlogan said at the post-Cabinet press briefing, Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.
“Of course you have the guidance of your line minister in appropriate cases when emergency cases arise....that is the general framework within which State enterprises have been asked to operate during the interregnum (gap) until a new board is in place.”
He added, “I can’t recall the exact date but a letter was in fact issued to that effect but it has been quite some time now that was soon after we assumed office.”
On the issue of whether ministers have powers to approve contracts in the absence of boards, Ramlogan said each case is different.
“It is an area in which you may not be able to get a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answer because each State body may be governed by a different act of Parliament and the provisions of those various acts of Parliament may be quite different so that it would be wrong to answer in black and white,” he said. “One would have to study the legislation and the relevant bylaws that apply for that particular entity.”
Works Minister Jack Warner has been criticised for the approval of emergency contracts in the absence of a board at the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (AATT) to improve airport runway lighting.
Checks by Newsday yesterday revealed that under Section 12(a)(2) of the AATT Act, the Authority — which is separate from the board — is to act in accordance with the directions of the minister.
The section reads: “in the performance of its functions and in the exercise of its powers the Authority shall act in accordance with any specific or general written directions given by the minister.” Further, the Authority has wide functions, including the provision of safe aviation functions, and under Section 12(3)(e) has wide powers to act in accordance with these functions.”
In relation to the appointment of boards, the Attorney General said this is an ongoing process and noted that further appointments are pending but will have to await the return of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar who is on official business in London.
“The appointment of State boards is an ongoing process. It’s a situation where you don’t want to act pre-emptively and prematurely. We have to take our time to make sure we get the right mix and balance,” Ramlogan said. “The Honourable Prime Minister is in London as you know and upon her return the process will continue and in the meantime, I can say for the record that a number of ministers have submitted notes to Cabinet and they have been referred to the boards committee so that that exercise will continue on the return of the Prime Minister.”
“That is our expectation that it would not take too long. We would expect that this exercise would be treated with the urgency it deserves and it is being given the priority it warrants,” he said. He would not say if the issue of the AATT board’s appointment was discussed in Cabinet.