Thursday 23 November, 2017

Gov't must account for use of NGC dividends, Kamla says

Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she makes no apologies for using the resources of the National Gas Company (NGC) during her time in Government, which she says was used to settle wage negotiations, fund infrastructural development and social programmes.

Persad-Bissessar made the comment in response to statements made by Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young about her government’s use of NGC dividends, in replying to her contribution during the Budget debate on Friday.

The Opposition leader said Young’s erroneous statements were repeated by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Finance Minister Colm Imbert at a public meeting later that day.

“The National Gas Corporation is one of the crown jewels that belong to Trinidad and Tobago. The earnings of this State Corporation belong to the people of Trinidad and Tobago and are held on trust by the government.

I make no apologies for utilising the resources of the NGC during the period 2010 -2015. The dividends that were paid to the Government during this time were spent on the people of this country so as to ensure that while the grass was growing the horse was not starving.”

She said the dividends settled wage negotiations with public officers in every sector, to ensure that each one of them and their families benefited from what was earned from the resources of our country.

She added that schools, hospitals, health centres and roads were constructed, and laptops provided to students.

“And perhaps most importantly, it was used to invest in our people through social programs providing employment, and to look after our elderly who have retired and depend upon the State to provide them with the decent standard of living. The people of our country could see between 2010 and 2015 where their money was spent.”

Persad-Bissessar said Government has continued to make incorrect statements that the People’s Partnership government had taken NGC Dividends in the sum of $16 billion over its five-year term when the correct figure was $12.7 billion, according to official NGC financial reports.

She accused Government of spinning a web of lies in their quest to deceive the nation by telling a tale about spending, when it concealed the fact that $1.864 billion was received by NGC.

“In the NGC statement to the PAEC JSC 2016, as well as in the NGC Consolidated Financial Statement and Annual Report, this PNM Government did not account for two major items of income received by the NGC, post the elections of 2015. Both these items of income are attributable to the People’s Partnership and would have resulted in a larger profit margin than that reported.

The first is $1.514 billion being the proceeds of the TTNGL IPO paid on 29th October 2015 pursuant to a letter of request from the Minister of Finance, and approval of the newly appointed board. This was the same IPO the current Minister of Finance condemned when in Opposition.

The second item of income not accounted for is US $500m (about TT $3.5 billion) being a payment by BP due to the failure of BP to deliver gas from 2011, pursuant to its Gas Sales Contract 2000 with NGC.

Inexplicably, the new Board did not approve including this amount as income in the 2015 accounts, and it is even more disconcerting that the Board of the NGC did not bring these matters to the attention of the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee upon examination,” the Opposition leader stated.

She said Government must account for the funds used from the NGC dividends withdrawn over the past two years because the monies belong to the people of this country and they have a right to know where and how it was spent.

“This Rowley regime cannot continue to deceive by manipulating facts and figures to seek to distract from their two years of abject incompetence. The population can see and experience what was done with the NGC dividends during my administration’s term in office.”

Persad-Bissessar said Rowley, Imbert and Young must account for what they did with the monies that they have taken from the NGC.

“They cannot hide any longer and that must be made to account,” she added.