Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vernella says sorry to TOP while 'Express' confirms...

By Ria Taitt and Elizabeth Williams Story Created: Mar 19, 2012 at 11:56 PM ECT (Story Updated: Mar 19, 2012 at 11:56 PM ECT)

 The Government-issued credit card of Tobago Development Minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin has been cancelled.

 And yesterday the Minister apologised to her party, the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), for her misuse of the Government-issued credit card.

 TOP had "categorically condemned" her misuse of the card and had called on her to make a "full and unconditional apology to her constituents and the people of Trinidad and Tobago".

 In a letter addressed to chairman of TOP, Stanley Beard, Alleyne-Toppin stated she "unreservedly apologises for the issues that arose surrounding the use of the State-issued credit card". She further stated that: 

1) All balances drawn on the account have been repaid in full

 2) Use of the card has been discontinued 

3) The actual card has been returned to First Citizens.

 Sources confirmed to the Express the card was cancelled by the bank.

 Yesterday, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who made the revelations about the misuse of the card in the debate on the no-confidence motion in the House of Representatives two weeks ago, called for her resignation.

 "The Minister is playing games with her feigned apology. She resolutely refuses to accept that she did anything wrong. The apology is only for the embarrassment and not for the act," he said.

 Rowley said Alleyne-Toppin had not come clean on the nature and extent of the "abuse" of the card and the role which the Ministry of Finance played in treating with her "abuse". 

"After her bombastic response and her childish attempts to gain sympathy and steer the public away from viewing her unacceptable conduct, which includes breach of trust in dealing with public money, she cannot simply excuse herself by continuing to attempt to mislead the public," Rowley stated.

 Alleyne-Toppin's credit card had a balance as of December 2011, of $68,048.16. 

Former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas welcomed the apology but noted it should have come sooner.

 "I hope Minister Alleyne-Toppin exercises due vigilance in her ministerial functions in the future," Dumas said.

 However, he stressed, the question now should be asked, how was the $68,048.16 sourced, and the fact the monies were already paid back, proves the government was aware of the matter in the first instance.

 "Such a large amount of funds used in such a short period of time, I am hopeful this does not reoccur. This kind of behaviour is not expected of a Cabinet minister," Dumas said.

 Dumas insisted Alleyne-Toppin should not be blamed for the use of the card since she claims she did not know how it should be used, but she should be held accountable for the fact the card was not properly used by her

. Alleyne-Toppin's apology comes on the heels of a more comprehensive and unsolicited apology which was given by her colleague, Health Minister Fuad Khan.

 Alleyne-Toppin stated in her letter to Beard she had also taken steps to personally review and address any areas of breakdown in the administrative process in the Ministry of Tobago Development to ensure matters of this nature do not occur in the future in keeping with her commitment to transparency, integrity and accountability in all operations.

 She thanked her constituents, the TOP, the People's Partnership and the national community for their continued support and reaffirmed her pledge to the service of the people of Tobago and Trinidad and Tobago.