Howai stays clear over spat with London
Finance Minister Larry Howai said yesterday he would not be drawn into a public spat with Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Orville London.
"I will not engage London through the media," he said, adding that as Minister of Finance he can ask the THA or any Ministry for any specific information.
The Minister was responding to London's public defiance of his request to provide him, within seven days, documents on the controversial BOLT (Build-Own-Lease-Transfer) arrangement for the $143 million Milshirv office complex in Tobago.
Howai had written to London on October 23 for "details of the funding accessed by the THA for the payment of the purchase for the price of the land for $12 million; and details of and all documents relating to the proposed construction of the office complex and its financing including, without limitations, details of and documents pertaining to, any BOLT arrangement the THA has entered, or proposed to enter in respect to same."
On Wednesday, London told Howai that he would have to wait a little longer than the seven days for the documents.
London said under the laws and the Constitution, the Finance Minister had no authority to instruct him to provide information within any timeframe.
And while London had promised to send off a letter to the Minister by yesterday, explaining the position and indicating to him that the various documents were being vetted by senior counsel and the THA senior state counsel before they could be made available to the public and to him, Howai has not yet received the correspondence.
"Mr London has not officially written or spoken to me about any timeline, nor has he told me how much time he needed," the Minister told the Express at yesterday's launch of the Clico Investment Fund, at the Ministry of Finance office in Port of Spain.
"We will have to wait until we receive that correspondence," he said.
At Wednesday's media briefing in Tobago, London confirmed that he had received a request from the Integrity Commission for documents relating to the Milshirv deal and this had taken precedence since the Integrity Commission had the legal authority to instruct him to provide the information within seven days.
However, London had indicated that the decision not to submit the documents to Howai, in the period outlined by the Minister, was by no means meant to prevent the information from being made public.