Thursday, November 23, 2017

FIASCO FALLOUT

MSYA employee in $92,000 Tobago trip controversy resigns

Flash Back :Sport and Youth Affairs Minister Darryl Smith and Kate Balthazar of the ministry's Communications Unit in a recent photo. Balthazar was among 12 people from the ministry who attended the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) sports awards ceremony at The Magdalena Grand Beach Resort in Tobago over the weekend.


KATE BALTHAZAR, one of the persons whose invitation to the controversial $92,000 Tobago trip with Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs (MSYA) Darryl Smith came under public scrutiny, has resigned from that Ministry.

Balthazar was among 12 MSYA personnel who attended the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) sports awards ceremony in May and actually submitted her resignation on June 20. However, she proceeded on 76 days' vacation leave from July 3-October 23. Her resignation takes effect from October 24.

On June 20, Balthazar wrote the MSYA human resources department to advise of her resignation as Public Relations Officer II in the ministry. She also requested that her pension benefits be preserved until she turns 60.

“I appreciate your support during my tenure and will take with me the valuable experiences I have gained over the last year and four months,” Balthazar wrote.

On July 12, The MSYA replied to Balthazar informing her that covering approval had been granted for her leave.

In another letter of the same date, copied to the comptroller of accounts, the auditor general and director of personnel administration, the MSYA noted her resignation.

And in a memo dated August 2 from the MSYA to the director of personnel administration, Balthazar's leave and resignation were accepted.

Balthazar was one of three sports ministry employees who the THA did not originally invite to the May event but who was included following a request from Smith's personal secretary, Maria Elena Phillips. Smith's personal assistant Cindy Cupid and Melissa Assam, the executive to the then Permanent Secretary Natasha Barrow, were the other additions to the original nine invitees who participated in a four-day, all-inclusive stay at the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort.

After the fallout from the trip, Barrow was returned to the Ministry of the People and Social Development where she previously worked and where the State employs more than one permanent secretary.

The day prior to her return to that Ministry, Barrow had been grilled about the costly trip to Tobago by the Public Accounts (Enterprises) Committee (PAEC) of the Parliament.

“I don't have any comment on this. You all already printed a story which you all did not investigate properly and I don't have any further comment,” Balthazar told the Daily Express on May 24.

Earlier this year, Balthazar also appeared in a picture, circulated on social media platforms like Facebook, with Minister Smith depicting the two embracing. Smith denied having a personal relationship with any member of the delegation to Tobago.

In the days following the revelation of details of the trip, Prime Minister Keith Rowley requested and received a report about the trip but defended the minister's Tobago outing and judgement as a mistake but not indicative of rampant corruption in his administration.