Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 10th 2013 Contents A7
November 10, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
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Questions are being asked about
a $57,200 cheque which president
of the Agricultural Society of T&T
(ASTT) Dhano Sookoo collected in
2012 in lieu of vacation leave, to
which she was not entitled.
Food Production Minister Devant
Maharaj on Friday confirmed that
Sookoo should not have been paid
the money which was sanctioned
by the ASTT s committee of man-
agement last June. Maharaj said he
intends to deal with the matter.
"As far as I am aware, she is not
entitled to vacation. None of my
chairmen of boards is entitled vaca-
tion or leave."
Maharaj said the situation was
"comical as well as tragic."
He said he has since spoken to
Minister of Finance Larry Howai on
"I have written him (Howai) via
my permanent secretary to seek the
minister s intervention on a forensic
audit on the many transgressions of
the ASTT which have come to my
Asked if the ministry will go after
Sookoo to repay the money, Maharaj
said "we are looking into it."
Maharaj said such a payment was
not the first for Sookoo, who also
collected a monthly $6,500 duty
allowance which should not have
been paid without the prior approval
of the minister.
A copy of a ASTT payment
voucher, dated December 19, 2012,
which was leaked to the Sunday
Guardian showed that Sookoo
received "retroactive payment in lieu
of vacation leave, as approved by
the committee of management on
June 4, 2012, for the years 2008 to
The voucher gave a breakdown of
how much money Sookoo was enti-
tled to for the five-year period.
Sookoo has served as ASTT pres-
ident for the past six years.
Under the headline "particulars
of service" on the voucher it showed
that Sookoo collected $1,500 for half
of one month s remuneration in
From 2009 to 2011 Sookoo was
paid $10,000 for each year.
Sookoo also received $25,700 for
2012, bringing the total figure she
collected to $57,200.
Sunday Guardian also obtained a
copy of the $57,200 cheque the
ASTT wrote out for Sookoo on
December 19, 2012, as final pay-
The questions were raised weeks
after internal auditors of the ministry
conducted a probe into the ASTT
over a 20-month period. The audit
unearthed financial irregularities in
The audit showed poor accounting
practices, weak internal control,
inconsistencies, breach of financial
regulations and misappropriation of
funds into the ASTT, "which exposed
the society to the likelihood of erro-
neous decision and the possibility
of monies being manipulated for
Sookoo who takes home a month-
ly salary of $20,500 was elected in
January of 2013 for one year.
should have sought advice
Jenson Alexander who served as
vice president of ASTT from 2009
to 2012 said none of its 26 directors,
including the president and vice
president, are entitled to vacation
"When I served as vice president
I was not entitled to vacation or paid
for vacation and I think the same
applied for Sookoo, as far as I am
Alexander said, "We are elected
to serve for one year and that posi-
tion does not entitle you to no other
renumeration except a stipend that
is granted by the State."
Alexander said if someone is elect-
ed on the ASTT board and expects
a gratuity "then you are in the wrong
He feels Sookoo should pay back
the money even though the com-
mittee of management sanctioned
Former ASTT director Elizabeth
Mohammed-Ali, also said as far as
she knows no member is entitled to
Though a bit feeble, former prime
minister Patrick Manning starred in
yesterday s motorcade through the
streets of San Fernando, thanking res-
idents for voting the People s National
Movement back into office in the recent
local government elections.
Manning, the MP for San Fernando
East, along with his wife Hazel and
councillor for Mon Repos/ Navet Shaka
Joseph were greeted by scores of people
who ventured out of their homes and
business places to shake his hands.
Manning, who has been out of Par-
liament since January 2012 after suf-
fering a stroke, has recently engaged
in a series of motorcades with coun-
cillors in his constituency.
Joseph said, "We are embarking on a
thank you motorcade, basically it s myself
and Mr Manning saying thanks to the
residents who came out and voted for
us in the last local government elec-
"It was proposed that every electoral
district have one and today is the day
for Mon Repos/Navet. There will also
be one for Cocoyea/Tarouba as well."
Despite his frail condition, Joseph said
Manning had been working with the
four councillors within his constituency
throughout the local elections campaign.
"He came out to show his support,
that he had confidence in us, and that
he had endorsed the campaign. Now he
is coming out and thanking people for
Although he said Manning had not
met with them to share his views on
the election results, Joseph said it was
no shock to the PNM as they did all the
groundwork that was necessary in the
run up to the October 21 elections.
Manning continued to walk without
his cane but had to be helped out of his
car and onto the van.
In recent times, his health and ability
to represent the people of San Fernando
East has come into question.
Last week, interim leader of the Inde-
pendent Liberal Party Jack Warner called
for Manning s resignation and for a by-
election to be called.
However, on October 21, Manning had
already announced his intention to retire
from politics after the 2015 general elec-
Manning stars in PNM 'thank you' motorcade
Former prime minister Patrick Manning and councillor for Mon
Repos/ Navet Shaka Joseph during yesterday's motorcade
through the streets of San Fernando, thanking residents for
voting the PNM back into office in the recent local government
elections. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
Devant to take action as...
ASTT chairman collects $57,000
in lieu of 'vacation leave' Sookoo: I never
asked anyone to
pay me anything
Sookoo defended her position
via e-mail on Thursday.
"I have never asked anyone to
pay me for anything. I abide and
uphold all decisions of the com-
mittee of management. What-
ever decisions was taken in
reference to me, I was asked to
remove myself from the meet-
ing. I was not part of any such
decision," she wrote.
With regards to the figure
paid, Sookoo said she was never
involved in calculating any quan-
tum for anyone.
"I do not ask for vacations nor
do I take vacations. I work every
day, a minimum 15 hours per
day," she stated.
In a follow-up e-mail minutes
later, Sookoo advised that she
will take legal action if any
"defamatory remarks" are pub-
lished by the Sunday Guardian.
She also added, "As you know,
the public officers at the ASTT
is responsible for all accounting,
not the president."
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