Chief Sec reshuffles THA, gives up finance portfolio

Tobago



Farley Augustine -
Farley Augustine –

TWO years after promising to do so, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has made changes to his executive council, including deciding to step down as secretary of finance, trade and the economy.

In a statement on Monday morning, Augustine announced changes to his executive council, which included him stepping down as secretary of finance, trade and the economy.

Terance Baynes was demoted from secretary of community development, youth development and sport, to assistant secretary in the division of infrastructure, quarries and urban development.

Joel Sampson, who deputized in infrastructure, now leads the division of community development.

Former assistant secretary of tourism Megan Morrison is now assistant secretary in the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection with responsibility for social programs.

Niall George takes over her position in tourism, while former assistant secretary in education Orlando Kerr takes up a similar post in the division of settlement.

Councilor Certica Williams-Orr is now the assistant secretary in finance.

The statement also said Augustine would present his final THA budget in June, and by July 1, there would be a new secretary of finance, trade and the economy.

No explanation was given for Baynes’ demotion.

Last month, Baynes and Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe-Lewis clashed over the use of the Black Rock Community Centre. Baynes claims a skills training program being offered by the ministry overlapped with a similar program in his division.

He blocked the ministry from carrying out the program, saying it “was granted permission to use the facility by an entity that is not authorized so to do.”

Responding to the reshuffle, members of the PNM Tobago Council, on The Minority Report program, said the moves were disappointing, made no sense, and would not benefit the island.

THA Minority Leader Kelvin Morris slammed the fact that the announcement was made via a written statement to media instead of a media conference.

“Not even an interface with the media as to explain the rationale for the changes.

“But that is how the Chief Secretary views Tobagonians – not even to give us the respect of proper clarification, because we have questions.”

Augustine promised a reshuffle in 2022 and again 2023, but it never happened.

Terance Baynes –

“We were told by the Chief Secretary (in 2023) that we would see significant strategic alignment as to greater improve the delivery of this current THA executive. And therefore, Tobagonians began to really look forward to this reshuffle with a sense of hope, of change of behavior, because up to that time, Tobagonians had not seen the change that they voted for.”

He said given most of the changes being made to assistant secretaries, whose roles and responsibilities are not on the same level as secretaries, “Then you would understand that this reshuffle is nothing more than a sham.”

He believes Augustine is a coward, who is afraid to “make the changes where the changes are required.

“And that is quite disappointing…I do not foresee this reshuffle having any serious impact on the current failed trajectory of this administration.

“Whether you move incompetence left, right or center, it is still incompetence.”

He also questioned if some secretaries whom he believes are underperforming, are “untouchable” and cannot be removed.He said Augustine’s stepping down as finance secretary is an admission of failure in the portfolio.

“So this is welcome news for us, but the question is who will replace the Chief Secretary, and why not indicate (who that) person (is) one time?”

Tobago PNM leader Ancil Dennis shared similar sentiments, calling the reshuffle “null, void and ineffective.

“It makes absolutely no sense.”

He, too, said Augustine dropped the ball, as he “can point to at least four secretaries who have been performing worse than Terance Baynes…

“Yet, having talked about a reshuffle for over a year, the Chief Secretary comes to hoodwink the people of Tobago to tell us he’s only going to demote Terance Baynes, to promote Joel Sampson…that he’s prepared to engage in the movement of all other assistant secretaries.”

He said shifting around assistant secretaries “will have no impact, bearing (or) effect on any division in the THA.”

Comparing the reshuffle to a football match, Dennis said it was as if a team’s manager opted to “reshuffle the substitutes (instead of) moving substitutes who may have some talent or some competence onto the field.

“So the substitute that was sitting on the far left, he moved them to the far right; the one that was sitting to the middle, he moved them to the left…while the players on the field continue to play the fool and continue to cause total embarrassment to this island, causing us to look like a big joke.”

Senator Laurence Hislop said the reshuffle was what everyone should have expected, since leadership is lacking in the THA.

“When you have a situation that requires the leader to stand up and stand out, we have not seen that since this executive took office.”

He said there has been continued deflection and an ongoing blame game “from the top, right down.”

Minority councilor Petal Daniel-Benoit believes “right-thinking Tobagonians” are disappointed.

However, she added she is pleased Augustine stepped down from his role in finance.

Tobago Business Chairman Martin George said there was “much ado for nothing” as there had been talks about this for two years.

“(He has been talking about) a shake-up and a rearrangement and reorganization. And when one looks at it, it has very little substance to what he has actually done.

“It ought not to occupy too much time in terms of this Tobago place and this Tobago space.”

He said Tobagonians need to focus on what can boost its economy, reduce crime and alleviate poverty.

Newsday tried to contact Augustine but calls went unanswered up to press time.