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PM: I have no knowledge of that matter

By Sue-Ann Wayow sue-ann.wayow@trinidadexpress.com

No one in Government knew anything about the $900,000 contract being negotiated by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service for the use of an aircraft for crime surveillance, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday.

She said National Security Minister John Sandy has been asked to get a report on the purchase, which Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs has the power to make, without consultation.

Speaking with reporters after the sod- turning ceremony for the construction of the University of the West Indies South Campus in Debe, Persad-Bissessar said, "I have absolutely no knowledge of that matter. It was never a matter that came to the Government or to the Cabinet."

She said the best person to ask any questions about the aircraft would be Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs himself.

She said, "We have no knowledge of the purchase or of seeking approval or disapproval for that particular project. As you know the Commissioner of Police is now what you call an accounting officer, and my advice is like any other permanent secretary who is an accounting officer. He has the jurisdiction to make certain expenditures without seeking the approval of the National Security Council or of the Cabinet. I have asked Minister (John) Sandy to obtain a report. Only then I can comment on the matter. I know nothing of it until reports came out in Parliament and on the papers."

Persad-Bissessar also responded to criticism that Government politicians were using helicopters assigned to law enforcement, to travel, and outfitting the crafts with luxuries.

She said "Totally not true. The choppers are there. They are being used as they always have been used from time to time. Myself and other government ministers may access the chopper. Secondly, there was no work being done as alleged to upgrade this helicopter in any way. There was mention of an ice box. I am now advised that ice box came with the chopper when it was purchased in 2004".

Persad-Bissessar said comments concerning the helicopters were" totally false, misleading and very mischievous" and she had opposed the purchase of a jet plane by former prime minister Patrick Manning.

"A $300 million jet plane cannot be compared to everything that is happening at this point in time," she said.

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