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Ex-HDC director owes over $.5m

Moonilal: Others indebted to Govt through credit cards...

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

As he conceded that Tobago Development Minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin contravened the conditions for use of her Government-issued credit card, Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal also revealed that former Housing Development Corporation managing director Noel Garcia is still owing over $500,000 drawn on a government credit card while Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley was Housing Minister.

Moonilal provoked laughter in the House of Representatives yesterday at Tower D, Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain when he further told Rowley that this matter would be before the court shortly "to which you (Rowley) may well be named".

Rowley, in a telephone interview last night, said Garcia (who is working in Ghana) has categorically denied he owes Government any money. Rowley, who said he had no involvement in the matter, said Garcia told him he had approached the HDC board for assistance for a medical emergency, but all the money was repaid and that it was never to the order of $500,000.

Moonilal was answering a question in the House of Representatives. He said while the balance was zero on Alleyne-Toppin's card, the situation was different with other office holders, such as Garcia, who were still indebted to the Government.

Moonilal who had stated earlier that Alleyne-Toppin did not use her card in accordance with the agreed terms and conditions, said she made local cash advances which totalled $18,040.

"These withdrawals were made for the purpose of local entertainment in conditions where such purchases were not possible using a credit card or any other type of card," Moonilal said.

When Rowley asked for "every instance" for which there was a local transaction, Moonilal said: "The Opposition Leader knows that you cannot buy ten crab and dumpling using a credit card."

Rowley countered, "Is it that the Minister is telling us that the Minister for Tobago Development brought $18,000 of crab and dumpling?" Rowley asked, noting that the cash advances ranged from $200 to $3,500.

Moonilal said if Rowley wanted him to come back and say "crab and dumpling, mauby, doubles, ten coconut," he would return with a shopping list.

Moonilal said Alleyne-Toppin applied for the credit card in May 2011 and used it for the first time on June 13, 2011.

He said local cash advances were made during the period June to September 2011. He said local transactions totalled $68,048.16, of which $46,940.64 related to "authorised expenditure of local entertainment".

Moonilal stressed that at no time did the Comptroller of Accounts issue instructions to have monies deducted from the Minister's salary to pay for any credit card debt, nor was the card ever cancelled as a result of unpaid balances.

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