‘The Upholder is worse than the Thief’
—from the defunct Trinidad & Tobago value system, decades ago…
The previous article outlined the issue of the form of information and examined the claims by the Ministry of Finance that the CL Financial accounts were somehow misplaced. This article will return to the question of form and then examine the issue of the publication of the names of the persons/entities who benefited from the CLF bailout.
The Ministry’s PS is now taking the position that only hard copy correspondence will be recognised and apart from the absurdity of that position, one needs to examine that claim seriously. That PS actually confirmed his email address to me before I started this series of exchanges, yet he is now taking the position that my emails do not exist. As I showed last week, it is clear that my emailed message on the Ministry’s pattern of delivering letters to my office, even when those were addressed to my home, was received and understood. Yet even that letter of 31st July 2018 did not acknowledge the other contents of my emails.
It is simply incredible that the PS at the Ministry of Finance, in 2018, is prepared to persist with this pattern of communications. This, at a point when we are supposedly reaching for ttconnect, e-commerce, a Single Electronic Window and who knows what else. Well I tell you.
This all resembles an attempt to exert some kind of control in a situation in which the Ministry has lost the Freedom of Information litigation.
Readers need to know that the Ministry’s lead legal representative at all times was Russell Martineau SC and at the Appeal stage, the Chief State Solicitor (CSS) was the junior attorney in the team. The junior attorney has steadily corresponded with my attorneys via email and FAX since January 2018. In fact the only hard-copy letter which I can remember from the CSS is the 23rd March 2018 letter which enclosed the CD with the EFPA details. I will get to those soon.
But the Ministry is not the only public institution which is restricting communications in this matter, not at all. In September 2010 I made a formal complaint to the Integrity Commission that CL Financial was a company under State control, which meant that the Directors of that company and its subsidiaries are required to file declarations under the Integrity in Public Life Act. My research showed that no such filings had been made and, what is worse, the Commission had not issued any of the routine reminders to those Directors.
After years of correspondence and delay, the Integrity Commission finally delivered its reply to me on Friday 10th August 2018 – almost 8 years late! The delaying tactics adopted by the Commission in this matter were perturbing – claiming in March 2014 to have sent a reply; claiming to be awaiting legal advice; then claiming to not have a copy of the CL Financial Shareholders’ Agreement of June 2009, therefore begging the question as to what was the legal adviser considering; claiming that I had not made a complaint; claiming that they were inquorate (not having enough members).
After further legal advice and having had email exchanges with me since December 2017, the Commission’s Registrar (CEO) emailed on 8th August 2018 claiming that “…the building address you gave at Dere Street is abandoned…”. In one of my emailed replies, I had to put the point – “…Given that there are no abandoned buildings on Dere Street and that Highsquare Condominiums carries its street number clearly displayed, one can only wonder at your prior impressions as to this building being abandoned…”. I tell you. Despite my two invitations to just email the reply, the Commission’s hard-copy reply was delivered to my office on Friday 10th August 2018 and will be dealt with in a later part of this series.
Cocoa in the Sun
It is a difficult subject to tackle, but one now has to ask just what is going on with the bailout details. You see, when the then PM, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, spoke in Parliament on 1st October 2010, she was clear that $7.3 Billion had been spent on the CLF bailout and that an estimated $7.0 Billion was need to settle all remaining claims. In that address KPB made the telling point that the bailout was originally proposed to ensure stability of the nation’s financial system and assist pensioners. Yet, when the then Finance Minister, Winston Dookeran, made his maiden budget presentation on 8th September 2010 and proposed to limit payments to $75,000 with the balance payable in 20-year bonds, there was an outcry. Groups of outraged Policyholders sprung up (some were even called Depositors in those innocent days, but not for long) to protest for their monies. KPB’s question was – So who got the $7.3 Billion paid out between February 2009 and September 2010?
The 2010 estimate was for a total of $14.3 Billion in Public Money to settle this bailout. Even more interesting are these questions – So just how did we land-up with an estimated total expenditure exceeding $23 Billion for the CLF bailout? Who got that money? On what grounds?
Having released the full details of payments of Public Money totalling $10.823 Billion to over 13,000 EFPA policyholders – including names, amounts received and dates – the Ministry of Finance is now objecting to releasing details of the other payments of Public Money in the CLF bailout. The Ministry is claiming to have confidentiality concerns, mostly related to the fear of crime. The Ministry is now seeking ‘legal and other’ advice and so on and so forth.
One can only wonder just what is the secret contained in these closely guarded payment details. What is the reluctance to give details of payouts to creditors of CIB, CLF, CMMB, BAICO and CLICO (other than the EFPA details already provided)? Cocoa in the Sun, but rain coming.
Morality in Public Affairs
The tragic, inescapable irony is that PNM originally came to power on a wildly-successful campaign for ‘Morality in Public Affairs‘, which was of course also the centre-piece of the successful 2015 campaign. After one time is two times.