Thursday, February 22, 2018

TSTT's $225 million Massy purchase questioned

FLASHBACK: The May 2017 signing.

 THE Public Accounts (Enterprises) Committee has made “strong recommendations” to Parliament regarding the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) buyout last year of Massy Communications, which the committee noted with concern was done without the approval of Cabinet.

Presenting the PAEC's report on State agencies at the Parlaiment Building yesterday, committee chairman, Opposition Senator Wade Mark, raised the issue as one of deep concern.

Mark said the actions of TSTT in acquiring one hundred percent of Massy Communications, at a cost of $255 million, was done contrary to the State Enterprises Performance Manual and warranted attention by the Parliament and the line ministry, the Ministry of Finance.

TSTT's big purchase was touted as allowing the State company immediate access to an additional 34,000 homes in Diego Martin, Port-of-Spain, Trincity, Arima and San Fernando, which Massy Communications has already passed with fibre optic technology.

The agreement meant TSTT would have acquired these customers and been in a position to offer them additional services, including security packages and bundles of services.

Mark said it has been recommended that the Parliament again make it clear to the boards of these State agencies that there is a manual by which to operate.

He had previously stated that the committee had again noted a lack of responsibility by some agencies in reporting to the committee, having papers in order and meeting deadlines.

In the case of TSTT, Mark said the company appeared reluctant to answer questions posed by the committee, which had made it clear that clarification on that purchase was needed. The responses that eventually came were vague, Mark said.

He said it has also been recommended by the committee that the Ministry of Finance make it clear to persons appointed to State boards that they are answerable to the Parliament for the management of public funds. He had previously expounded that the committee found a need for better oversight by the Ministry of Finance.

Also hosting the press conference were PAEC members, Independent Senator David Small and Labour Minister, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus.

Small, responding to questions from the media, said accountability remained an issue and one way to begin solving the problem was to get serious about imposing penalties.

He said this could also mean recalling previous boards and management to appear before the committee, as Baptiste-Primus noted that the PAEC was, in 2018, still looking at statements from 2008-2011.