On Saturday, the Prime Minister said she will “fully operationalise” the Office of the Prime Minister at Tobago. It is understood that what is envisioned is the reactivation of an office located at the Administration Building, Jerningham Avenue which currently houses offices of the THA secretariat, Treasury and the Chamber which plays host to plenary sittings.
Persad-Bissessar will not be the first prime minister to use the offices at that location. Former prime minister Basdeo Panday used the office briefly during his tenure. It is not known whether former prime minister Patrick Manning used the office as well.
The building at Jerningham Street currently houses offices of the Central Administrative Services of Tobago (CAST) as well as offices of the Ministry of Tobago Affairs. Restoration of the office at Tobago comes amidst continued controversy over the Central Government’s public move to increase activities at Tobago. For instance, there have been objections to the opening of a CEPEP office by Persad-Bissessar last week.
Traditionally, funds for the CEPEP programme in Tobago have been allocated separately from the Tobago House of Assembly Budget. For instance, last year THA Finance Secretary Anslem London announced that the Tobago CEPEP funds for 2011 were budgeted at $35.1 million.
In his budget statement for the year 2011, THA finance secretary Anslem London told the Assembly that the funds for CEPEP were separate and apart from the recurrent and development programme drafts.
“Beyond the recurrent and development programme estimates for fiscal 2011, the overall fiscal package of the Assembly includes provisions for URP and CEPEP in the amounts of $83.2 million and $35.1 million respectively,” he said on June 21, 2010.
London continued, “Notably, included in these estimates are provisions for increases in wages for both URP and CEPEP workers consistent with the election platform pledges made by the PP nationally and by their election candidates in Tobago East and Tobago West.”
It is understood that the CEPEP funding has, for years, been determined by Central Government.
THA Chief Secretary Orville London has criticised Persad-Bissessar’s opening of a CEPEP office at Tobago arguing that to open an office requires CEPEP to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the THA.
Section 25 of the THA Act allows State enterprises to operate in Tobago as long as they comply with THA policy.
The Section gives such enterprises the option to sign MoU’s but
does not explicitly make this compulsory.