Taxpayers have spent more on vacation travel for His Excellency, President Anthony Carmona and his family, than for official travel.
The Sunday Guardian obtained documents, detailing specific payments dating back to March 18, 2013, from the Office of the President.
These documents showed that the Office of the President and The President’s House spent $11.6 million on Official Entertainment, $2.9 million on Hosting Conferences, and approximately $3.4 million on Overseas Travel since that time.
Of the figure for overseas travel, approximately $1.2 million was spent on official travel, while approximately $2 million was spent on vacation travel for Carmona and his family.
Both figures for travel include allowances for security detail and personal assistants.
Carmona’s official travel was more frequent, with trips to Howard University, Bolivia and conferences on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the 15th conference of Presidents and Governors-General in the Caribbean.
However, vacation trips to Grand Cayman, Panama, Grenada, Scotland and the Bahamas were more costly, with a payment of $441,981.34 being made to Carmona in December 2015 for cost of vacation travel to the Cayman Islands.
Of the overseas travel expenditure incurred, Savitri Singh, who bears a similar name to President Carmona’s mother-in-law Savitri Seeteram Singh, received allowances of over $300,000 to accompany the Carmona family on several overseas trips, including $78,781.09 to accompany the family on vacation to the Bahamas.
Singh also received payment of a salary of around $14,000 monthly from the Office of the President from May 2013 to January 2014.
A payment of $13,542.54 for “domestic services” to Singh was issued in April 2013.
The Sunday Guardian was unable to confirm whether Savitri Singh and Savitri Seeteram Singh were the same person.
On September 28 Carmona responded to the public discourse during a press conference hosted at the Office of the President.
Carmona was expected to respond to questions about alleged purchases of wine, jewelry, the Auditor General’s report, the meeting with National Security Minister Edmund Dillon, and the allegation that a close relative had been hired as staff for the Office of the President.
Carmona told reporters the purchase of wine with the President’s seal on the label resulted in savings for taxpayers and said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had approved of his meeting with the minister.
Dr Rowley has since denied these claims.
The claim of $2 million in jewelry purchases were denied by Carmona and further remained unsubstantiated when compared to documents received by the Guardian, which showed payments to Anton’s Gold Rush for items such as a $3,000 baby bracelet gift for staff and a necklace.
Jewelry purchases were also made from Zina’s jewelry, including $22,927 for jewelry given as gifts.
A $4,000 payment to Wonderful World for gift cards was also recorded in the expenditure.
While Carmona claimed to have saved approximately $30 million of taxpayers dollars in the past three years, the actual expenditure for Head 01, President, in the Annual Draft Estimate of Expenditure has been steadily increasing.
In 2010, the actual expenditure was $18,235,425.
This decreased to $17.4 million in 2011, then increased to $18.8 million in 2012, with a further increase to $20.4 million in 2013.
In 2014 the actual expenditure was just over $25 million.
Attempts to question Carmona during a press conference on September 28 were futile as Carmona did not take questions.
Calls to Carmona’s communications adviser Theron Boodan went unanswered and Boodan did not respond to three voice messages left on his cell phone.
Boodan also did not respond to two emails or messages left with staff at the office of the President up to late last night.
Another attempt to ask Carmona about the expenses was made on Friday, following the funeral of former independent senator Allan Alexander SC, but Carmona was not available to answer questions.
Questions submitted to the Office of the President via email:
Is the Savitri Singh who received salary payments from the Office of the President a relative of His Excellency President Anthony Carmona?
Mrs Singh has been noted as being paid for three different services by the office of the President including Domestic Services and Personal Assistant. What is Ms Singh’s function at the Office of the President?
There are a number of entries in the accounting for President’s House relating to purchase of jewelry, eg, gifts for staff in the form of a baby bracelet? Is this normal expenditure for the Office of the President?
A look at the Overseas Travel vote for President’s House from March 18 to today shows that expenditure for vacation travel surpassed that for official travel. Please comment?
SOURCE: www.guardian.co.tt (Kalifa Clyne)
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