Government has turned down a request from the Office of the President for four additional houses at Flagstaff Hill, Long Circular, Port of Spain, to accommodate some 45 members of staff, including security personnel, of incoming President of Trinidad and Tobago Anthony Carmona.
Instead, approval has been given for only two units for president-elect Carmona, which the Office of the President claims are woefully inadequate.
The Sunday Express has learned that because of Government's decision, the staff, which includes his aide-de-camp (ADC), Lt Commander Don R Polo—who has not yet been assigned adequate facilities—will be operating in tight conditions, which could create a strain on their ability to carry out their functions for the President.
This as Carmona, a former High Court judge, takes his oath of office as Head of State tomorrow at a public ceremony at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
President-elect Carmona and his wife, Reema Harrysingh-Carmona, and their two children, Christian, 11, and Anura, ten, are currently housed at Flagstaff Hill and are expected to stay there for the next three months until arrangements are made for more permanent accommodation at the Cottage, near to President's House, St Ann's.
The groups of personnel who are affected by inadequate housing facilities include drivers, security officers, men and women cooks, butlers, cleaners, pantrymen, maids, laundresses and the aide-de-camp.
Government's decision not to grant the four units for the President's security and support staff has raised concerns since it is felt that the security around the Head of State could be compromised.
In fact, ten key members of the 15-member-strong presidential security detail cannot fit into the allocated single-family dwelling, comprising three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms, according to correspondence signed by Polo.
The lone woman officer on the team will require her own bedroom and bathroom, leaving two bedrooms and one and a half baths for the remaining four Special Branch officers, Lt Commander Polo explained in his correspondence to the Ministry of Public Administration.
He also raised concerns about a lack of accommodation for the drivers of the three presidential vehicles which, he said, "must be present at all times, in case Their Excellencies and family need to be evacuated".
Additionally, the aide-de-camp pointed to an absence of adequate accommodation for the police escort which precedes the President's vehicle and for members of the Guard and Emergency Branch (GEB) who form the Tactical Support Team for the President.
"As such, it is advisable that at least one more quarters be assigned to cater for the additional ten members of the security team," he cautioned.
Shockingly, there is also no room for even the ADC, who is the military officer and right-hand man assigned to president-elect Carmona and is expected to accompany him to all functions, both official and private, day and night.
The ADC also conducts security briefings for the President's movements and handles all administrative matters for the Head of State.
"No facilities currently exist for the ADC at the President's House, and even if they did, the ADC would be too far away from the President," explained Polo, as he sought to get accommodation.
Already, the current number of staff allocated to president-elect Carmona at his quarters at Flagstaff Hill does not comprise the full President's staff.
The request for "suitable accommodation for the security and support staff" was made by the Office of the President, signed by Polo, to the Ministry of Public Administration earlier last week when it was pointed out that insufficient accommodation for the four groups of personnel "will place unnecessary hardship on the members of staff who will have to be close to Their Excellencies on a 24-hour basis".
A strong case was made out for two three-bedroom quarters for the male cooks, butlers, cleaners and pantrymen, as well as the female cooks, maids and laundresses, who because of their tight schedules are expected to work round-the-clock and would require "shower and toilet facilities".
The Office of the President went one step further and identified four unoccupied units at Flagstaff Hill which it suggested to be converted for use by the President's staff.