Kamla's sister 'free' to take state trips

PORT OF SPAIN — Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar can take her sister Vidwatie Newton on any overseas trip she wishes at State expense as the Integrity Commission has found there was no breach of the Public Life Act when the PM did so in the past.

By letter dated September 12, the Integrity Commission wrote to Reynold Cooper, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, stating that investigations found there was no wrongdoing.

The letter, which was signed by the Commission’s registrar, Martin Farrell, was released by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) yesterday.

It stated: “Pursuant to Section 33 of the Integrity in Public Life Act, Chapter 22:01, ‘the Act’, the Integrity Commission has conducted an investigation into an alleged breach of the Act, to wit: Ms Vidwatie Newton, a non-employee of the State, travels on overseas trips which were financed by the Office of the Prime Minister.

“Kindly be advised that the Commission has found no breach of the Integrity in Public Life Act, Chapter 22:01 by anyone at the Office of the Prime Minister.”

Contacted yesterday, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said if this was the decision of the Integrity Commission, “I have no additional basis to comment on the Commission’s position”.

In April, the Opposition had written to the Integrity Commission requesting an investigation into whether there was a breach in the Integrity in Public Life Act with the Prime Minister utilising State funds for Newton to accompany her on overseas trips.

This was done after it was disclosed in Parliament, in response to a question from the Opposition, that some $868,268.11 was spent on Newton’s travel and other associated costs between June 1, 2010 and March 31, 2012.

In March, in response to another question from Opposition MP Donna Cox, Leader of Government Business Roodal Moonilal disclosed that some $4.6 million was spent for the Prime Minister and her official delegation to go to India in January this year.

Newton’s total expenditure for the India trip was $233,600. (Express)

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