Sunday 20 October, 2019

Shamfa blames TSTT roaming charges for $59K bill

Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe responded to temporary Opposition senator Christlyn Moore over comments made in Parliament regarding a phone bill which exceeded $59,000 over a four-day period.

In a statement, Cudjoe said that the bill was incurred as a result of roaming charges while she was attending the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Caribbean Travel Marketplace in the Bahamas.

Cudjoe said her mobile phone was placed on roaming, hence the charges, which she said were ‘abnormally high’.

“I attended the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Caribbean Travel Marketplace in the Bahamas in my capacity as Minister of Tourism during the period January 29 to February 3, 2017.”

“At the time of the trip, the Ministry was dealing with several issues which required my attention and therefore necessitated that I remain accessible.”

“During this period, as is common while travelling on official government business, my mobile telephone was placed on roaming.”

“However, when presented with the TSTT bill which covered the period in question, I was surprised and concerned as the charges appeared to be abnormally high.”

“I requested that the Ministry launch an immediate investigation with TSTT, which is still ongoing. The charges being examined are as follows:

“Call usage - $1,111.06

“Roaming Data usage - $50,616.61 and 

“Value added tax - $6,562.13.  

 She said TSTT indicated that it had no control over the charges imposed by regional and international carriers and explained that this would apply to roaming rates incurred while in the Bahamas. 

She added that she tried to keep costs low by using Wi-Fi facilities “at every reasonable opportunity”.

Cudjoe assures that there was no abuse of the use of her mobile phone, which she used only in her capacity as Tourism Minister.

“Notwithstanding, I wish to give the assurance that there was no abuse of the telephone facility afforded to me as a Government Minister.”

“I sought then, and continue now to exercise fiscal prudence in all undertakings, especially in the conduct of affairs of the Ministry of Tourism.”

Temporary Opposition Senator Christlyn Moore raised the matter during debate on the mid-term budget review in Parliament on Monday.

Moore questioned Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat’s comments on the need to ‘cut and contrive’, saying that not all of his colleagues might share his sentiments.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley directed all Cabinet members to switch to TSTT after he was informed that a former Strategic Intelligence Agency (SIA) ­director was employed at Digicel. 

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