UNITED National Congress (UNC) councillor Robin Bynoe yesterday accused Port-of-Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing of “misleading” the public with claims that Local Government Minister Suruj Rambachan was “starving” the city corporation of funding.
Speaking at the Port-of-Spain City Council’s statutory meeting at City Hall, Bynoe noted that at a meeting with Rambachan, Lee Sing requested a number of things using the corporation’s unspent balances, including conversion of latrine pits. Bynoe said the minister, “agreed to all of them.”
“The public may think that based on what they’re hearing, the minister is holding back funding. But that is very much incorrect…it is an untruth because Dr Rambachan has said that he fully supports (the latrine pit project) and all we need is the information on the roll out,” Bynoe said.
He questioned whether the administration had furnished Rambachan with that information a year later. “Because this is for east Port-of-Spain, this is PNM-area as people like to say,” Bynoe said.
He also noted that the workers who have not received back-pay have been told it is the minister holding back their money, “but that is not the case.”
Lee Sing in response said he speaks, “no untruths”, as it relates to the release of funding. He noted it was “all well and good” for Rambachan to say there is approval, “but that is talk.”
Lee Sing reported officials had submitted documentation for projects, but these were returned and the engineers had to redo the documents. He noted the latrine pit project, for example, was being done with the east Port-of-Spain Development Company.
Lee Sing also reported they have received only 35 percent of the $10 million in outstanding balances and that was after he “made noise” in the media. “So don’t come to the council chamber in defence of your minister, as nice as he is. Maybe he is suffering the same pains I and you are suffering. Maybe the people underneath him aren’t making available to him the facts at the speed at which it should come, and therefore we are having the difficulty,” Lee Sing said.
He stressed that he is prepared to work with any Government minister, “but don’t ask me to tell a lie on their behalf”.
“Don’t come here and accuse me of misleading anyone. Everyday I come here and ask ‘have you received the monies?’ And unless the administration is lying to me and I have no evidence to suggest on the matters of the release of funds…then the facts are the facts,” Lee Sing added. He noted that he has a healthy personal relationship with Rambachan “and I truly believe as the Minister of Works and Local Government Dr Rambachan may well achieve more than any other Minister of Works in the history of this country.”
On the issue of the backpay for workers Lee Sing said he has raised it repeatedly with the corporation’s CEO but the issue is not within the purview of the councillors. He noted that the corporation is not “up to speed” in the area of delivery and employees were not held to account for non-performance.
Earlier at the meeting, Port-of-Spain South Councillor Keisha Armstrong reported receiving a call from a contractor from Maloney, doing development projects on Prince and Duncan Streets. She asked why her number was given to this contractor.
“Because apparently he is a so-called gangster and he called to warn me that I can’t send any persons from Duncan Street to work on Duncan Street in that programme,” Armstrong said.
She continued, “So it is really unfair to the residents in Duncan Street not being able to (get) an opportunity to work to help build their own community.” She noted that last year people from George Street, Nelson Street, Duncan Street and Sea Lots were working on pavement projects in Woodbrook. She stressed Local Government is supposed to be about building a community and using the people within that community for this purpose.