Inserted at the last minute, three women who “did not receive invitations” for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Awards turned out to be the guests of honor of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs (MYSYA) at an all inclusive weekend for a party of 12 at the Magdelena Grand, costing taxpayers TT$91, 910.43.
The hotel bill for the traveling party, including Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Darryl Smith, was TT$77, 910.43 for the three night stay (May 19th -22nd ) for the Awards ceremony, which was hosted at the Ballroom of the hotel where they were staying, on Saturday evening.
The MYSA booked 11 Deluxe King Rooms and a Deluxe King One Bedroom suite, no doubt for the head honcho of the Tobago joyride, all of which came with Buffet Breakfast and all you can eat lunch and dinner as well, which this breakdown, as provided in the hotel bill, shows.
An additional TT$10, 400 was used to rent four vehicles from Rollock’s Car Rentals even though the hand written quotations, approved by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Natasha Barrow, stated categorically that the trip was to attend the THA Awards which was held in the same hotel.
Airline tickets for the traveling party cost TT$3,600, bringing the grand total to just under TT$92,000 for what was clearly more than a grand one night stand.
The event was stretched into a three nights all expenses paid trip for eight of the 12 member party whose flights left on Friday and who stayed until Monday .
Three others, including the Minister, Darryl Smith, left Trinidad on Saturday but their return, as shown on the Ministry’s travel itinerary was open ended.
On the night of the Awards, according to information released by the THA”s Information Department, it was only Minister Smith who presented Awards at the ceremony.
The THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and the Secretary for Sport and Youth Affairs Jomo Pitt presented the trophies to the Sportsman of the Year and the Male Student Athlete of the Year respectively.
Two days before the date of travel, an email was sent, on the Minister’s request, seeking the addition of Ms. Cindy Cupid , Personal Assistant to the Minister, Ms. Melissa Assam Executive Assistant to the Permanent Secretary and Ms. Kate Balthazar of the Communications Unit to the traveling party. The email stated “did not receive invitations for the Awards but will also be part of the delegation.”
The traveling party which at most could have been four persons, spread to twelve because of the preferences of the Minister.
Three representatives from the Sports Division made the trip: the Director of Sport Mr Patrice Charles, the Deputy Director Darron Charles and the man directly under Charles in the hierarchy Ronson Hackshaw who is the Minister’s riding partner.
Hackshaw was the first choice for the weekend jaunt. Charles was an afterthought when it was realized that protocol demanded that according to the hierarchy in the Ministry he should have been invited before Hacksaw.
Permanent Secretary in the MYSA, Natasha Barrow, travelled to Tobago with her executive assistant, Ms Melissa Assam. Both women are well known as friends who hit the social circuits continuously together.
The Head of the Communications Unit, Mrs Michelle Savary was sidelined for her subordinate, Kate Balthazar ,who is seen in this leaked photo with Minister Darryl Smith which was taken at the MYSA and with whom the Minister has shared a level of relate that is beyond professional.
Her addition to the delegation was justified three days later on Tuesday morning when shortly before 10 AM, the MYSA Facebook Page posted 26 photos taken at the Awards ceremony, 15 of which featured the Honorable Minister, most of which were badly focused or taken from bad angles.
Ms Cindy Cupid who is listed as a Personal Assistant to the Minister was also inserted into the delegation, “as a friend of a friend”.
The others on the Tobago joyride included MYSA attorney Tyrone Marcus, Director of Youth Affairs Earland Kent ,Youth Officer 3 Emmanuel Charles and Adviser to the Minster of Sport, Garvin Warwick of the National Basketball Federation of Trinidad and Tobago.
Why wasn’t a four member delegation, as originally suggested, not sufficient for the one night event, for which a smart businessman, in a bid to save money would have booked flights into the Sister Isle for the event leaving on the last flight of the same night or the following morning at least?
As the document shows to date, almost all of the half million dollars that was released for traveling and subsistence TT$542, 000 has been used up by the MYSA.
The evidence is here and the expose comes on the heels of the Tourism Minister’s still unexplained TT$59,059 phone bill for data used during a four day conference of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, CTO, in the Bahamas.