Prime Minister receives Minister Smith's report

Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 13:45

Sport Minister Darryl Smith has complied with a request to submit a detailed report on the $91,000 Tobago trip to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in less than 24 hours.

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young confirmed Smith's report had been handed in and it was now up to the Prime Minister to peruse the report and make a determination.

There have been calls for Smith to be axed as a Cabinet minister over allegations of improper use of State funds during his visit to Tobago with 11 other staff members including the Permanent Secretary Natasha Barrow.

The PM intervened following public outrage over reports that Smith was part of a 12-member delegation which spent almost $92,000 for a three-night stay at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort on the weekend.

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister on Wednesday said: “The Prime Minister, Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley, has requested a full report from the Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs, the Honourable Darryl Smith, on the recently concluded trip to Tobago by the Minister and officials from the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs and the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago.”

The contingent travelled to Tobago to attend the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) Sports Awards, which was held last Saturday at the Magdalena Grand.

Nine of the officials, including Smith, were originally invited by the THA while three others, including Smith’s personal assistant Cindy Cupid, communications officer Kate Balthazar and Melissa Assam, the executive assistant to permanent secretary Natasha Barrow, were later added at Smith’s request.

Smith also responded to questions about his relationship with the three additional officials who were added to the trip, saying: “They talk about these three ladies being guests of honour, insinuating something. One of them is my personal assistant who, wherever I go on any given weekend, either my assistant or my advisor would attend with me.

“It’s not different for Tobago, so I would have requested for my assistant to go. The other two people that they are asking about, one is the permanent secretary’s assistant, which is a norm as well, and the PS and staff at the ministry would decide on communications and other people, which I don’t have any say on.”

Sources close to the matter told the T&T Guardian that Balthazar was yesterday transferred from the Sport Ministry to the office of the Prime Minister.

However, in responding to questions from the media, he said he had asked questions about the rumored transfer and found it had no merit.