|Kamla Persad-Bissessar with members of her Parliamentary caucus at Friday's media conference. (Photo by Ralph Deonarine, Office of the Leader of the Opposition)|
The documents relate to a payment of nearly a half a million dollars to Kerwyn Garcia, an Attorney-at-Law. One was an invoice, the other a cheque and the third a purchase requisition approving payment to Garcia.
Persad-Bissessar was not questioning whether Garcia was entitled to the payment but the urgency in which UDeCOTT handled the matter while other people wait months and years for payment.
She suggested that the reason Garcia was paid the full invoiced sum within 24 hours of delivering his invoice is because of his connections.
"Kerwyn A. Garcia is the nephew of the Chairman of UDeCOTT, Noel Garcia. His father is the Minister of Education, Anthony Garcia and his wife is the President of the Senate," she told reporters at a news conference at her office in Port of Spain. And she posed this question: "Could there be any greater example of nepotism, favoritism and discrimination as well as inequality of treatment?"
(See documents below - click on image to read it in a larger window)
On the 2nd February 2016 Garcia submitted an invoice to UDeCOTT for the sum of $431,249.96 purportedly for the provision of legal services to UDeCOTT.
The second document shows that on the 3rd February 2016, one day after the invoice was submitted, a cheque was paid for the invoiced sum. The third document shows that purchase requisition for the payment of the sum of $431,249.96 was prepared on the 11th February 2016 and signed of on the 12th February 2016. The purchase requisition which authorizes the payment to Mr. Garcia was prepared and signed off 10 days after the payment was actually made.
Persad-Bissessar raised the issue of the payment to highlight the difference in treatment of people who did not have the kind of connections that Garcia had.
"Every day my constituency office and those of our MP’s are bombarded with persons who cannot get paid by these said state organizations," she said. "People are losing their houses and can’t pay their mortgages and their loans. Some have taken loans to buy equipment and they are now at risk of losing that as well.
"Some people have large overdrafts that they can’t finance and some are unable to pay their workers. But what you see here is that those that are well connected could get paid in one day. This is discrimination and favoritism of the worst kind. But this is what you expect under the PNM."