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More nepotism comes to light in Trinidad and Tobago
Published on March 25, 2016 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Caribbean News Now contributor

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Following the recent dismissal of Trinidad and Tobago's minister of housing and urban development, Marlene McDonald, for misbehaviour in public office, by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, yet more questions have arisen over parliamentary oversight of MPs’ constituency offices.

Marlene McDonald
McDonald was accused not only of abusing her ministerial power to get her common-law husband a Housing Development Corporation (HDC) home, but also of employing him and other relatives at her constituency office, in flagrant disregard for the ministerial guidelines about hiring procedures.

It has since been revealed that members of the current opposition -- including opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar -- have also abused their public office by hiring relatives in their constituency offices, both while they were in government and in opposition.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Persad-Bissessar and new member of parliament Barry Padarath are reported to have hired their relatives as employees in their respective constituency offices. Similarly, MPs Rushton Paray and Dr Bhoe Tewarie are said to have hired relatives in their constituency offices.

The rules of Parliament and statute law both prevent members of Parliament from using public funds to provide employment for defined categories of relatives.

The Constituency Office and Remuneration Arrangements for Members of the House of Representatives published in 2015 and the Constituency Office Manual for Members of Parliament published in 2007 are clear on the issue of hiring relatives as constituency staff. The 2015 policy states that nieces, nephews, cousins and other relatives cannot be hired. The 2007 policy states that parents, children and spouses are not allowed. Both policies state that MPs have the authority to hire, promote and terminate constituency employees and to assign their salaries.

Barry Padarath
The Integrity in Public Life Act – Part IV prohibits the use of office by a Person in Public Life for the improper advancement of their own personal gain, that of their family or the financial interest of such persons. The Act also empowers the Integrity Commission to consider and enquire into any alleged breaches of the Act or any allegations of corrupt or dishonest conduct on the Commission’s own initiative or upon the complaint of any member of the public.
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